Today is Data Privacy Day. As an annual event, it’s probably not the best excuse for a team meeting at the pub and it almost certainly lacks the fun of Burns’ night or the sexiness of Valentine’s Day. Yet, in the digital era, Data Privacy Day is a good excuse to take a step back and consider the potential risks we expose ourselves and our businesses to.
Data Privacy Day is about getting us thinking about how well we guard our personal and business data, and our all-important customer information. The fact that a hoax caller got a direct line to the British Prime Minister just days ago shows that no organisation is immune from the type of human error that culminated in his number being given away inappropriately.
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.
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 ›
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.
Xero is well known for giving small business owners remote access to their books. However, for the Ring of Bells pub it has also helped a first-time publican in a remote location to get on top of his accounts. Two years ago, a move to Devon saw former city professional Richard Edlmann set up his ‘destination’ pub with rooms in the picturesque village of North Bovey in the Dartmoor National Park.
Previous experience working in the hospitality industry and as a management accountant provided him with good grounding, along with five-star hospitality training at The Savoy. Like many small business owners, it was a desire to be his own boss combined with his passion for hospitality that spurred him on to buy the Ring of Bells pub. Continue reading ›
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.
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.
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!
As part of Xero’s sponsorship of 7billionideas, we were thrilled to host more than 50 students and teachers at our UK HQ last Thursday for the #UnitedApp2015 final, an entrepreneurial app competition for Year 9 students.
Run by United Learning in partnership with 7billionideas, and supported by Xero, the competition promotes entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and team work across schools and introduces participating pupils to the world of coding. In October, 7billionideas visited 37 secondary schools in 22 days to build up excitement behind the competition and encourage participation. More than 180 teams made up of around 700 students entered, and on 8 January the final was held.
Debt can be a useful tool to start and grow your business, but small business owners need to make sure their debt is working for, and not against them.
When a substantial amount of expenditure goes towards servicing debt rather than investing in the business, small businesses struggle to grow and can often get into trouble when expenses and debt begin to consistently outstrip revenue.
As a small business owner, getting on top of your debt is one of the best New Year’s resolutions you can make. More than a third of small business owners feel uncomfortable with their levels of debt, but taking a few steps to get things under control now can go a long way toward making your finances easier to manage in 2015.
Here’s where you can start:
- Get visibility over your debt: If you’re managing your finances through spreadsheets, you probably aren’t aware of all your debt obligations. And, if you’re not aware of your debt, you can’t make a plan to get on top of it. You need to have this information at your fingertips at all times. Using accounting software, like Xero, will help show what you really owe as well as working out your optimum level of debt for your business.
- Prioritise your debt: Not all debts are created equal. Prioritise your debt by asking yourself “what would happen if I didn’t make this payment?” The more unpleasant the outcome, the higher priority the debt. Payroll is usually the highest priority, because if your people aren’t getting paid, they have no incentive to work. And, if they’re not working, they aren’t generating revenue to help you pay off the rest of your debt. The same goes for your top suppliers and business partners, although not to the same extent.
- Renegotiate bank loan terms: You can renegotiate your bank loan depending on your situation. If you need more cash in the short term, you can ask for a higher interest rate in order to reduce your monthly payments – even though the overall repayment amount will be larger.
- Work out a payment plan with your creditors: If you are having trouble paying off your creditors, talk to them before they come asking for their money. If you put together a clear payment plan, they will be more receptive. After all, it’s in their interests for your business to succeed; if you go under, they get nothing.
- Ask your biggest suppliers for a discount: Don’t be shy. The people you buy from in bulk and/or have a long history with are great candidates for giving discounts. These discounts can add up, and the savings can go into paying your debts.
- Cut short term costs: Accounting software gives you visibility of your largest outgoing costs, so you can see which ones to cut. For example, you could reduce the amount of office space you lease. Be sure to think carefully about where you cut costs – sometimes it can be counter-productive. If you lose your biggest customer because you cut your ability to serve him or her for example, you’ll be worse off than you were in the first place.
- Look for opportunities for more revenue: Easier said than done – but it’s not impossible. One way to get a short-term boost is to offer clients a prompt payment bonus. You’ll lose a bit of revenue, but you’ll have the cash you need to service your debt faster.
I’m Jade Shearstone. 2014 has definitely been a different kind of year for me. I jumped off the Xero rocket ship for a while to to try something new. I was recently asked to share my experiences from this year on a guest blog post as part of The 12 Blogs of Christmas. In some aspects I’ve come full circle – I’m back at Xero, back in Wellington, back in recruitment. In others, it’s all completely new and exciting – I have side projects, I’m helping a start up and I’m prototyping a new app. Here’s some of my learnings from a rad as year.
Getting out of the building
Twelve months ago I decided to scratch an itch. I left the familiar and the comfortable for the unknown. From recruitment to coding. Why? Because I had drunk the Kool-Aid.
I had spent the previous year working at Xero in both recruitment and events. It was my first foray into the world of tech and I was hooked. I was inspired daily by our development and design teams and I was frequently having conversations about things I didn’t fully understand. It was a whole new world that had previously seemed inaccessible. My brain was invigorated. I wanted to create. I wanted in.
Can a girl with no technical experience really learn to code? The short answer is YES.
What happened next?
I signed up to an intensive front-end web design bootcamp. True to it’s word, it was intense on a number of levels but I survived. This is not my story.
SPOILER ALERT: This isn’t a fairy tale (although some magic may have been involved). I didn’t become a developer and I am not going to teach you how to code, but if you want to begin your own journey into software development, here’s a good place to start.
Where this new path did lead me however was somewhere even better. I stumbled across Lifehack Labs on the Twittersphere, a five week social innovation lab blending concepts from lean startup, UX, design thinking, with team development, leadership, technology and social innovation to tackle youth wellbeing issues.
To sum that up, it was good people doing good things. The best people in fact. I am so humbled and privileged to have had the luxury to spend five weeks learning from and with such an amazing group of humans.
The lessons I didn’t expect to learn
At many points during the year my mind was blown.
I’m going to try and piece some of it back together here because this is the good stuff. This is the stuff I didn’t realise I wanted to learn when I started to peel back the covers of a website and wrote my first line of HTML. This is the stuff that I think everyone needs to learn.
1. Ask why? Rinse and repeat.
If you want the real answer, ask why. And then ask it again. And again. And again. And again. Only when you truly know what the issue is, can you then understand it and figure out how to solve it.
2. Bring your whole self.
This sounds simple, but the reality is people hardly ever turn up to work as themselves. You always leave something at the door. But imagine if you didn’t. We’re all human, we all have good days and bad. What if you were a person first and a job description second? What if you shared how you really felt? Working relationships would be so much richer because of this.
3. Leadership is not a job title.
It is easy to be a manager without being a leader. Leadership is displayed in actions. You don’t have to wait around 10 years to get your golden ticket to step up and lead. You can do this from day one. Every action counts and it starts with you. Lead by example wasn’t just coined for fun.
4. Design thinking is not just for designers.
Taking a design thinking approach to any issue reinforces the need to get out from behind your desk and seek to (re)define the problem and answers from the people involved, test your assumptions and then to do it all again. Nothing is ever perfect, or ever finished. Get out the building (literally, whenever possible).
5. Be well.
Wellbeing has been a central theme to much of my life this year. I’m not talking about the next fad diet or fitness craze. Nor is it just about being happy all the time. “It’s about learning how to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world. It’s learning how to flourish.” – Martin Seligman
6. Good people are doing good things.
When you start looking, it’s everywhere. Good people doing good things. On small scales and big ones. It’s not always easy to know if you’re doing the right thing but doing something is better than the alternative. Keep doing. Keep learning.
Bonus Discovery: Fluro post-it notes make every idea better.
Get it out of your brain and onto paper. Then cover the walls with it. Order it. Improve it. Validate it. Make sense of it. Iterate. And I’m NOT just talking about developers and designers. We should ALL do this. You can never have enough post-it notes.
There’s always more learnings than you can capture in words, but armed with some of these I’m looking forward to the next challenge of putting them into practice next year as the journey continues.
It’s time to flourish. I’ll leave you with this thought.
“Imagine an organisation full of people who come to work enthusiastically, knowing that they will grow and flourish, and intent on fulfilling the visions and goals of the larger organisation. There’s ease, grace, and effortless about the way they get things done. People take pleasure and pride in every aspect of the enterprise… That’s a lot of energy walking in each day, accomplishing an ever-increasing amount of work and having fun along the way.” – Peter Senge
2014 was RAD. 2015 is going to be RADICAL.
In real estate, the adage is “location, location, location”. For small business, the adage should be “cash, cash, cash”. Whether it is a service or product-based business, cash is necessary, and positive cashflow is the goal.
There are many business apps and software dedicated to the “front end” of the sales cycle. The sales cycle is the time between the initial contact with a client or customer, the identification of services or goods to be procured, the acceptance of purchase, and the transaction that completes the sale. There is lead generation, marketing, and CRM software – but the critical part of running a business often gets ignored. The back end is the bookkeeping. It’s not sexy but it is necessary.
After the sale is made, the cash cycle begins. You either end up with cash, credit card transaction or an accounts receivable. Think of it as a race and the finish line is your business’ bank account. Cash is the fastest. Cash is a sprinter. For retail businesses during the busy holiday season, it is important to make cash deposits daily. This cash can be immediately turned around to pay for expenses and employees. Depending on the price point of your products, you may have lots of cash transactions, but for a smaller amount per sale.
Credit card sales are not as fast, but can be powerful. Credit card sales are like Olympic hurdlers. They take a bit longer, but they are substantial. A few years ago, I worked as a sales representative for a jewelry designer at a holiday market in New York. While working there, I noticed that the average credit card sale was always higher than the average cash sale. The downside is that are merchant fees and the fact that it takes up to three days for the proceeds from credit card sale to be deposited into your business account.
Accounts Receivable is definitely the slowest of the three, but it may be the most consistent. Accounts receivable are the long distance runners. Professional service-oriented businesses are more focused on accounts receivable because their sales are usually recurring. For example, if you are bakery that has set up a business account with an office to provide baked goods every week for a set price, then you just have set a recurring invoice and you should receive payment monthly.
No matter how fast or slow the money hits the bank, you have to have a good way to record it. Xero.com is back end software of the sales cycle. It’s where you can manage small business cashflow easily and reach the finish line.
Guest author Nichelle Stephens is a blogger, cupcake enthusiast, editor, event producer and social media strategist. She is the co-founder of Cupcakes Take The Cake, a popular blog about cupcakes. She is also the founder of Keeping Nickels, a personal finance and business accounting blog for freelancers and entrepreneurs.