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#BehindSmallBusiness – Inspiring stories from business owners and Xero partners

Posted 5 months ago in Advisors by Kevin Fitzgerald

What do an event company, accounting firm, corporate services provider and freelancer engagement network have in common? The answer is that they were all prepared to take new, innovative approaches when the pandemic struck.

We spoke with six business owners and Xero partners who have pivoted their businesses to keep operating during COVID-19. They also shared how they supported their clients to do the same. Here are their stories and top tips.

You can also watch their stories here, where you can stay informed about the things we are doing at Xero to keep small businesses running now and in the future.

The Fun Empire – Singapore

Home experience kits to take the boredom out of lockdown

Natasha Toh, Events Director at The Fun Empire, witnessed an increasing number of clients cancelling or postponing events as the Singapore Circuit Breaker came into place. With no clear indication of when the events market would pick back up, she knew the business needed to take a different approach to survive. 

Natasha and her team quickly remodelled their services by packaging their signature events into affordable home experience kits. Allowing people to stay engaged and stave off the boredom of lockdown with art jamming and leather crafting workshops. Fortunately, they were already in the process of digitalisation prior to the Circuit Breaker, which made the transition easier.  

In times like these, an online presence means renewing and updating your business model can be done far more easily. Xero works with a number of ecommerce platform partners who can support your needs – check them out here. Xero integrates with these platforms, saving you time by getting a single, real-time view of sales and finances. 

Mahzan Sulaiman – Malaysia

Increasing productivity with unconventional work routines

Mahathir Mahzan, Managing Partner of Mahzan Sulaiman (Xero Accounting Partner of the Year 2019 – Malaysia), has been working from home for more than two months. He feels positive despite being separated from his team and battling the blurred lines between work and personal life.

Instead, he sees the Government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) as a silver lining. This is because it is the perfect time to experiment with working routines. Some of his team are most productive during the day, while night owls prefer to work deep into the night. It is a matter of adapting routines to the individual and delivering results. 

Here’s to creating positivity in adversity! 

Fastlane CPA Limited – Hong Kong

Crossing the peak season finish line with help from digital tools

Alex So, Group Managing Partner at FastLane CPA Limited (Xero Accounting Partner of the Year 2019 – Hong Kong), was worried. How could he keep his staff safe and fully functional during the audit and tax filing peak season without the full team in the office?

He looked to online collaboration tools to help the team beat solitude and to maintain productivity and communications. As an early adopter of Xero, Alex and his team had already laid the groundwork of working remotely. This included having access to key documents, and prepare audit reports and tax returns without physically being in the office. This has helped them to easily maintain business continuity and meet client deadlines during COVID-19.

Also, bigger and multiple screens set-up at home makes for the optimal work-from-home experience. 

In addition, Alex and his team have maintained their connection with the small business community by offering support during this challenging time. This includes giving tips on managing cash flow and hosting webinars about the government’s relief packages. 

Hawksford – Singapore

Recipe for positivity

Dario Acconci, Managing Director of Asia at Hawksford, a leading corporate services provider, noticed that foreign companies were slowing down their decision-making with regards to investments into Singapore. In addition, the limitations of face-to-face interactions during COVID-19 was affecting business operations. 

To simplify the process and speed up the pace of carrying out business operations, Dario implemented software solutions. These solutions include enabling electronic signatures. He also maintained his interaction with his team and clients through digital channels, such as Xero. 

Growing up in Italian and Chinese cultures, Dario’s secret ingredient to maintaining positivity during these challenging times –food! He has developed a passion for cooking and trying out new recipes with his family. 

InTune Outsourcing – Malaysia

Diversifying offerings and support to clients 

Lily Yong, Accountant and Co-founder of InTune Outsourcing, saw the future for finance and had a head start by embracing the cloud in 2016. Turns out, her practice reaped many benefits from being on the cloud early. These benefits proved even more prevalent during  the current COVID-19 pandemic. Lily recalls feeling lucky that her practice was already on the cloud. She believes it has been key to sustaining her practice, staff and client operations. 

In addition, Lily and team came up with further options to better serve their clients. These include:

  • Deferred payment plans to give clients more flexibility.
  • Additional services at no cost. This can include consulting clients on their eligibility for government aid and assisting them in the application process.
  • Hosting Facebook Live webinars.
  • Fast-tracked adoption of new apps such as Hubdoc, a data automation tool from Xero that enables her staff to scan accounting documents sent directly from their clients via courier. 
  • Making use of the cash flow modelling tool from Xero to help clients gain visibility on their run-rate and plan for future scenarios. 

Hire Digital – Singapore

Remote working tips from an expert team 

Alexis Chan, Co-founder at Hire Digital, says working from home is second-nature for her team, which is spread across four continents. 

However, she noticed that her clients were not as well equipped as her team when it came to working from home. Some require more talent to support their business while others need to shift their priorities. As they transitioned to working remotely, some clients faced technical issues setting up rights permissions for their applications. Others needed advice around which conferencing or project management applications they should be using.. 

Here are a few top tips for working from home:

  • Write everything down – from setting goals to developing a playbook to sending routine updates, writing things down helps everyone to stay on the same page. While verbal communications are more fleeting and open to interpretation, written communications encourage transparency and accountability between team members. This is because it requires the person to think thoroughly before publishing something. 
  • Track your time – this encourages the team to understand how they are spending their time, and helps managers draw insights into where resources are spent.
  • Use video calls – everyone is more focused during video calls and this way, meetings can be kept short and to the point.

While there are challenges, the Hire Digital team makes sure not to compromise on carving out time to continue working on long-term business plans. They also identify what the company needs to continue growing.

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