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Get ready for big ideas at Xerocon London 2015

What will it take to boost the role of small businesses in the UK? In less than a week, a line-up of influential guest speakers along with some of our very own stars will speak at this year’s Xerocon, which is now the UK’s largest fintech conference and is taking place on February 10 and 11 in London.

Xerocon Day One – Tuesday, 10 February

Our first guest speaker to the stage will be the vice-chairman of West Ham United FC, Karren Brady, who is also a peer in the House of Lords and the Small Business Ambassador to the Conservative Party, besides making regular appearances on the BBC TV show The Apprentice. After many successful years as a businesswoman, Karren is well-placed to explore the theme of this year’s Xerocon.

Karren Brady – Xerocon London speaker

Karren will be one of several influential thinkers at this year’s event, which is at Battersea Evolution in London and features talks and workshops brimming with practical advice, insider product updates and predictions about the future of technology. And of course, plenty of opportunities for networking.

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We’re putting on a real show for our first event of 2015 in Australia

Welcome to another year of doing Evolve_Twitter_Card_DH_v1beautiful business in the cloud. The new year is still young, but it’s already shaping up to be a massive one. We’ve got lots of exciting developments to share with you, and plenty of ideas to help you get inspired about smarter and more efficient ways to run your practice.

And there’s really no better way to keep you informed, and kickstart your thinking, than by coming along to a roadshow. So I’m really looking forward to hitting the road, meeting partners and doing my bit to inspire all of you.

This February we’ll be visiting 20 cities across the county to present, network, demo and chat all things cloud accounting and business evolution.

Evolve is the theme for this year’s February Roadshow. What does this mean for you as a partner?

Whether you’re starting out with cloud accounting, or are well on the way to growing your client base, this roadshow is about evolving your thinking, ideas and business processes and really taking what you do to the next level.

To help you get there, we’ll be showcasing our latest tools, a new demo stream and hands on sessions to create clear action points for the evolution of your practice. And yes, we’ll be sharing a sneak peek of upcoming Xero product features.

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All about deflation

What is deflation?

You may have noticed some news articles recently talking about deflation with some economists telling us that deflation is really bad for the economy, but others saying “Meh… it’s not so bad”. Put simply, deflation is the opposite of inflation. Deflation occurs when prices go down. Your money buys more tomorrow than it buys today.

How will deflation affect me and my business?

Most economists think that NZ will have a short period of deflation lasting from six months to a year. This is good news for kiwi small businesses as it adds some spending power to consumers in the short term, and should not be long enough to delay business investment decisions.

  • Interest rates should remain unchanged during the rest of 2015.
  • Lower oil prices will keep fuel costs down leading to lower freight and delivery charges. SMBs could achieve some windfall profits on the back of this as long as they can keep their prices up.
  • Turnover should remain stable. Households should continue to spend, although purse strings may tighten if the NZ economy seems to be heading into a prolonged period of deflation.
  • Cost management should get a little easier. Most of the overhead costs for small businesses should decline slightly over 2015, easing some cashflow pressure. However, there is unlikely to be any decline in wage costs over this year as employees will resist wage cuts, even with deflation.

Five questions to ask yourself

The main thing a business owner can do is plan. Having a plan in place before something happens will always ensure you have a better response.

Questions you should ask yourself, and plan for, include: Continue reading ›

 

What’s holding firms back from the cloud?

I recently interviewed Jason Blumer on the future of accounting and how he runs his practice. As always, Jason is a blast to chat with and he has some very interesting perspectives. One thing that comes across loud and clear with Jason is that everyone should get their data into the cloud. Anyone who isn’t seeing the light is simply missing the opportunity.

Jamie Sutherland and Jason Blumer discuss the future of accounting

The series of interviews were posted on Accounting Today. Click the image below to see the videos.

 

Streamline your sales process with Quotes

Many small businesses win work by using sales quotes. They drive sales, which, in turn, generate revenue and build relationships with customers.

Yet many businesses don’t realise that quotes can also cost them business. Revenue can be lost by not following up on a quote, or by not turning quotes around fast enough.

At the same time, many businesses are unable to forecast capacity when quotes are successfully won and they realise they don’t have the people to do the work. Like many aspects of running a small business, there are always many moving parts.

Introducing Quotes

Today, we’re releasing Quotes in Xero. It’s now easy to create, send and manage your quotes workflow all the way through to customer acceptance. By making it easy to create a quote, you can quickly respond to an opportunity, anytime anywhere, keeping your business moving forward.

Then, with a couple of clicks, Quotes can also be turned into invoices so you can be paid for all of your hard work.

You can access and create quotes from the Sales dashboard. Here you can also see a summary of your quotes in progress including draft, sent, accepted and expired quotes. This makes it easy to track the status of a quote, follow up on the ones that have been sent but not accepted, and generally keeping your business moving. Continue reading ›

 

New year, new features

After a bumper 2014, today Xero is being updated for the first time in 2015, starting off what is shaping up to be a busy year.

Today’s release includes new features that touch on reporting and a number of other things across Xero:

  • Building on the addition of text blocks a few releases ago, you can now choose to add numbered headings or even have no headings on your text blocks. This gives you more flexibility when adding additional commentary and insight to reports.
  • We’ve added a new field to the new Aged Receivables and Payables report (this was the first of the new-style reports we released last year). It will show you which invoices are overdue, but have not yet reached the first aging period.
  • Getting up and running on Xero is even easier with the addition of an inbuilt calculator on conversion balances. It’s great for things like consolidating those messy multiple sales tax accounts from your previous system. In case you didn’t know, the inbuilt calculator is available in many parts of Xero, including spend money, receive money, sales, bills and manual journals.
  • Sending customer statements can be a pain – but not in Xero. If you need to generate statements for more than 50 customers it’s now much easier with the option to show and send 100 or 200 statements at a time.

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6 Ways To Take the Pain out of US Payroll

We hear all too often that payroll is one big headache for small-business owners and their advisors.

They lose sleep and countless hours trying to get payroll right. And all too often they get it wrong – incurring costly fines. In fact, one third of US small businesses get fined for doing payroll incorrectly. When every dollar counts, this is a huge strain — $4.5 billion in fact — on US businesses yearly. They also waste 120 productive hours a year on inefficiently managing payroll rather than winning new customers and growing the business.

small business payroll tips
Most payroll services were designed for the needs and budgets of big companies. So many entrepreneurs duct tape together multiple products and services to make it work for them.  Often time is wasted re-entering data manually without an accurate view of where the business stands. And accounting and other systems don’t sync with payroll data.

So, we chatted to a number of our accounting partners and bookkeepers and identified six steps for taking the pain out of payroll. We then built them into Xero.

1. File taxes electronically. Filing taxes electronically from within your accounting platform ensures that you pay your taxes on time and avoid costly fines or penalties. With Xero, as of today in California, Texas and Florida, you get it done quickly and affordably right within the accounting software.

2. See your payroll and cashflow in real-time. You might have been on top of your payroll in your payroll software or service but struggled to reconcile that with your overall financial standing. Xero gives you one single view of where you stand and what obligations you need to meet. Information is power.

3. Stop printing and using snail mail. It’s a hassle to have to get back to the office or to go home, print everything out and send it. With Payroll in Xero, you can send your forms and payments electronically to the appropriate agencies from anywhere in the world.

4. Manage your cash better. Every business aspires to manage their cash better. With Payroll in Xero, payment is only taken when you process the payment. It is not taken automatically after running payroll, so it helps maintain a healthy cashflow.

5. Save money and time. What if you could pay for your accounting and payroll with one simple and all inclusive subscription? As of today, making direct deposit employee payments is available to all Xero customers on Standard and Premium plans. Paying your staff is one of the most important task for small business employers and Payroll in Xero gives everyone the option to pay their staff electronically.

6. Get help when you need it. Make sure to investigate and read reviews about your payroll providers customer support. When you need help, you don’t want to get stuck in call center hell. Xero’s no wait service means you log your request and Xero employees here in the US quickly respond.

We know this works. Forty percent of Xero customers already use our payroll software in countries where it’s available, such as Australia. In fact, we pay hundreds of thousands of employees over US$1.2B of payroll a month globally. And we are just getting started. Watch for additional US states over the next year and the launch of integrated accounting and payroll in NZ and the UK over the next few months.

The time is right for every small business to take the pain out of payroll.

 

Customer relationship management goes beyond contacts

Xero’s add-on marketplace continues to grow and it’s clear that applications in the same category can vary greatly. Customer relationship management, or CRM, software is a perfect example. Salesforce.com defined this category for the cloud with an emphasis on identifying opportunities and closing deals. In our marketplace we have add-ons who fit this definition and others who add their own spin on CRM. All of these application sync contacts from Xero, it’s the other features that is keeping this space interesting.

Solve CRM

Solve CRM’s integration with Xero positions your client facing staff to make faster, better informed decisions by displaying accounting data in-context, on contact and project records. A popular choice for businesses that needs a flexible, modern system.

Solve CRM has earned the designation as an official “Google for Work Premier Partner”, offering a unique and useful Google Apps integration that employees value.

Read how businesses like Prescient Power voice measurable improvements to revenues with Xero and Solve.

ClickDesk

Web visitor engagement is extremely critical to maximize sales and boost customer satisfaction. ClickDesk helps online businesses engage customers through a combo of Live chat and Helpdesk. Customers can chat, call or email from the widget while the agent can answer them from the online agent panel or Google Talk on desktop, tablet or mobile.

Customers enter their name and email address through ClickDesk chat window. ClickDesk then automatically checks to see if a contact exists in Xero and informs the agent. If no contact is found, the agent can create a new contact record in Xero with just a few keystrokes. For returning customers, agents can view invoice history directly from the chat window and also add notes. This helps agents answer customer questions better which in turn nurtures relationships.

Agile CRM

Agile CRM offers integrated contact management, sales tracking and marketing automation. Invoice and payment history from Xero is displayed alongside contact information. You can create invoices and send them to your contacts all from your Agile dashboard. Additionally, Agile provides easy appointment scheduling and task management for your staff.

In my opinion, marketing automation is the standout feature in Agile. Build multi-step marketing campaigns visually with an easy to use drag and drop designer. Send automatic email responses based on time like a follow up email, or when some some one signs up on your website. Score leads automatically based on user activity like clicking email links, or browsing your website.  Then segment your contacts automatically based on their actions. Most importantly, evaluate and optimize email messages with A/B testing. Send different versions of email to contacts and evaluate based on open and click rates.

Funding Gates

The Funding Gates Receivables Manager helps you manage your Accounts Receivable and customer relationships. It syncs with your Xero account, and immediately starts learning about you and your business. You or your employees can understand the health of your receivables in an instant and take actions with effective reminders. In the US, you additional can call customers with a single click or connect with a professional collection service.

Turning your receivables management process into a customer relationship building activity makes good business sense.

Conclusion

Be sure to dig a little deeper when evaluating a category of add-ons. You may be surprised by the differences you’ll discover.

 

Introducing electronic payroll taxes for California, Florida and Texas

File and pay your state payroll taxes electronically with Payroll in Xero.

Today, customers located in California, Florida, and Texas (top three employer states in the US) can file and pay their payroll taxes electronically. This is just the start. For New York, New Jersey, Utah and Virginia customers, we’ll be releasing state e-file and e-pay in the near future. We’ve started work on additional states and we’re aiming to have nationwide coverage by the end of 2015.

This release builds on our momentum of realizing our vision of an integrated platform for small businesses worldwide. 40% of our customers already use our payroll software in countries where it’s available and pay hundreds of thousands of employees over A$1.5B of payroll a month globally.

We want as many businesses as possible to have access – that’s why we’ve made this available for customers in our Standard plan. All existing and new Standard and Premium customers have access to e-file and e-pay for payroll taxes at no extra cost.

File and pay payroll taxes online

For small businesses, staying up to date with your payroll taxes is a huge priority to avoid penalties. Payroll in Xero helps by allowing you to easily control when you file and pay your payroll taxes – anywhere, anytime. We show you upcoming obligations on the Payroll Overview with detailed information available under Taxes & Filings. Payroll in Xero works out relevant business days and displays both the File By and Due By dates to ensure you know the key dates.

 

With Payroll in Xero, you don’t need to print and mail your payroll forms. Now with a click, you can send your forms and payments electronically to the appropriate agencies from anywhere. Payment is only taken when you process the payment, it is not taken automatically after running payroll to help maintain a healthy cashflow.

For more information join a short webinar to get an overview of newly updated Payroll in Xero. In this short webinar we will walk you through how to add a work location, adding employees, setting up direct deposit, federal & the new state electronic services for selected states and the general ledger integration.

To enroll for Payroll in Xero e-file and e-pay read the information available here.

Manage US Payroll in Xero

Also available from tomorrow (Thursday) will be the 2014 940 Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return. The due date for filing Form 940 for 2014 is February 2, 2015. However, if you deposited all your FUTA tax when it was due, you may file Form 940 by February 10, 2015. Use Form 940 to report your annual Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax.

Another change available today is making direct deposit employee payments available to all customers in Standard and Premium plans. Paying your staff is probably the most important task for small business employers and we want everyone to have the option to pay their staff electronically.

Xero is committed to bringing seamless online accounting and payroll for small businesses nationwide as quickly as possible. As we roll out additional states, we’re also working hard on other features that will make the lives of small businesses easier and more efficient.

2015 Payroll Taxes

2015 payroll tax rates have been announced by federal and state tax agencies and Payroll in Xero has been updated automatically to reflect these new rates.

The 2015 Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) wage base is $7,000 per employee. The 2015 Social security tax rate is 6.2% each for the employee and employer. The 2015 social security wage base limit is $118,500. The 2015 Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for the employee and employer and the additional Medicare withholding tax is 0.9% (on top of the 1.45% rate) for wages paid to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year.

For full information please read the release notes.

 

Introducing receipts for iOS

For many of Xero’s customers, today is a red letter day… Yesterday morning we released a hotly anticipated update to our expense claims functionality (currently for iOS, Android still in development). This is a complete overhaul of the UI, and features several clever tweaks. Read on below the video for a guided tour!

Default to one line item

Gone are the days where you had to explicitly add a line item before you could fill in the details. A little research showed over 95% of all expense claims only contained a single line item, so for those cases the new flow is vastly simplified. Of course you can still split your claim into separate line items if you need to!

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