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Farming: Embracing change

As Xero’s Head of Rural Strategy, I recently wrote this piece for Young Country that I thought I’d share with you.

One of the great things about meeting and talking to farmers is understanding why they are passionate about farming and their drivers. Farms are very different in nature to your average city small business or listed corporate, but there are things in common which often get neglected in city business and farming entities.

First things first. Every business should have a clear strategy and a plan on how to execute that with the right team. Secondly, any good business should bring in support from outside and improve skills where key knowledge gaps exist. This can be from working closely with advisers, like accountants or consultants, to ensuring your ‘team’ is aligned. From my perspective, the key thing is the ability to embrace change, so that’s what I want to start off on.

I am not suggesting change for change’s sake. We know that many people in the industry have built a vast bank of experience throughout generations and that wisdom should always be respected and reviewed, but too often farms continue to run the same way for generations and miss key opportunities to grow or take advantage of the shifting industry. Just like business customers’ needs are constantly changing, we need to make sure we are evolving or changing our products and services to meet their needs.

General9-4027

When it comes to change what are the important steps to consider? Continue reading ›

 

Survey: Stormy Weather Brings Headwinds and Tailwinds to Small Businesses

Spring is around the corner, thankfully, and parts of the US that have been hit with harsh weather are seeing signs of an anticipated big thaw. But for small businesses, digging out of the financial impact of winter storms may not be quite as easy. Here at Xero, we wanted to understand just how small businesses in the Northeast fared, so we partnered with Dimensional Research to poll 200 small business owners in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, who had experienced extreme snow, sleet or rain this winter. And to get a complementary pulse on how consumer behavior regarding small businesses might be impacted, we worked with Harris Poll to survey over five hundred consumers in the Northeast region.

The results were, in some cases, startling:

  • 58 percent of small business owners said that their business was negatively impacted by the weather
  • Revenue was down for a whopping 31 percent of small businesses
  • Rural businesses were hit 10 percent harder than urban businesses
  • According to Harris Poll, 61 percent of people surveyed said they were less likely to rely on small businesses and service providers during extreme weather

Continue reading ›

 

Upcoming tech trends in 2015

Today’s guest author is small business and finance expert, and co-host of Sunrise, David Koch.

DAvid Koch gives his take on tech trends for 2015As a small business owner, I know how hard it is to keep a business running while wearing ten different hats at once. And that’s to say nothing of keeping up with tech trends and identifying the ones that could impact my business.

That’s why it’s not surprising to see a lot of small business owners who are resistant to trying new technology.

If you’re in this boat, don’t shy away from digital developments. Instead, treat them as a cue to consider how efficiently your business is run right now. I can guarantee one of the latest tech trends can be used in your business to help save you time, money, or both.

Working on the go

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a third of small businesses are now using the internet to work remotely. Coupled with cloud computing and cloud storage it’s easier than ever for businesses to work from home, on the road, or just about anywhere with an internet connection.

This flexibility can do many things for a business. It opens up a bigger pool of freelance talent and resources, lowers overheads and keeps staff engaged, productive and satisfied. Which can allow your business to operate more efficiently.

Online accounting

If your office is looking like a fire hazard, it could be time to consider moving online. Switching to online accounting will not only reduce the amount of paper you use but save you time, money and possibly your sanity. Continue reading ›

 

Android 2.6 released

Last week we released version 2.6 of the Android app. It’s been a staggeringly long time since I put out a blog post about Android – for the Files release for expense claims, way back in July. A lot has happened since then. This post wraps up the five major releases we’ve done over that time, and gives you an idea of what we’re working on now.

While we haven’t made a song and dance about Android for a while, we have released a steady stream of small but significant improvements. I wonder how many of them you noticed? Let the tour begin!

Files, files, files

We spent the first few months rounding out our Files support. The Xero Android app now supports attaching files to invoices (2.2), attaching from or uploading to your files inbox (2.3), support for many additional file types, and cancelling uploads (2.4). Working with files on Android is now a first-class experience and shows the kind of polish and attention to detail we want to give to every mobile feature we release.

The new 'attach file' button on the invoice screen  A PDF and an image stored in the Files inbox

Contact account number

This feature was completed alongside a Xero web release as part of mobile version 2.4. It permits searching for contacts by an account number you define. Contact account numbers display in grey alongside the name when you search through your contacts anywhere in the app.

Contacts search result showing new contact account number Continue reading ›

 

Xero for iPad

Today marks an unusually large release for us. It’s been a stretch, but we hope you’ll agree that this is definitely going to change the Xero landscape:

combo

 

That’s right, we’ve released a version of Xero for iOS that provides custom layouts for iPad! The left-hand pane shows overview information and lists (as on a phone), and the right-hand pane shows detail. Each tab remembers the last-selected item. Best of all, it now supports changing orientation! See it in action here:

We’ve been keeping an eye on the proportion of iPad users, and it’s been increasing steadily. The total proportion of active iPad users for us now stands at 29 percent of iOS and 12 percent of mobile use. That’s significant enough that we thought it was time to spend a while properly supporting the iPad. It’s interesting that 13 pecent of iOS customers use both an iPhone and an iPad with Xero. We’ll be watching the numbers pretty closely after the release to see if there’s any change.

Artboard 3

 

The other changes with this release are a few fixes for the difficulty some users have been having using Touch ID to log in. It’s been hard to track down since it struck at random, but we think we’ve nailed it. We’ve also made sure that if you choose not to use Touch ID and prefer a pin, the app remembers your choice and will never ask you again.

Once you’ve finished all your reconciling in the new UI, you might like to have a coffee and read some of our Small Business Guides on iBooks. We’ve just started publishing them through iTunes and these are the first of many!

We welcome your feedback on what we’ve done with the app, good or bad. If you’ve got a minute or two, please consider rating our app in iTunes to let us know what you think! We read all your reviews and, along with feature requests in Xero Community, they help us decide what we should be focusing on next.

 

 

Introducing UK Payroll in Xero

At Xerocon London we announced UK Payroll in Xero. Today, we’re pleased to report that you can now set up your payroll ready for processing in the new financial year.

Getting Started with UK Payroll in Xero from Xero.

We’ve built beautiful online accounting and payroll software for small businesses. It’s easy to implement and use from anywhere. Payroll information flows seamlessly into your general ledger, with journals created automatically.

We’ve produced online training in Xero U to help you get started. One series for our Accountant and Bookkeeper partners and one for our business customers.

Powerful UK payroll software

Changing your payroll software isn’t a decision made lightly, but combining two primary business systems saves both time and money. Xero is the platform of choice for small business.

Starting today, you can get ready for 6 April by setting up payroll to suit the needs of your business, including adding employees. We’re enabling payroll processing from 6 April, in time for the 2015/2016 financial year.

UK Payroll in Xero includes support for the following:

Employer Settings

  • Claim £2,000 Employment Allowance
  • Tracking by Employee Groups for cost analysis
  • Standard Public Holidays provided, grouped by country
  • Add custom business holidays and holiday groups as required
  • Record Tax Office details for reporting to HMRC
  • Record bank and pension fund details

Employee Management

  • Personal details including employee photo
  • Employment details including salary or hourly rate and hours per week
  • Monthly, weekly, fortnightly, quarterly, annual & 4-weekly pay
  • Leave balances for annual leave and custom time off types
  • Notes to record comments against each employee
  • P45 Leaver Forms
  • New employee starter declaration

Pay Elements

  • Hourly and salaried pay rates
  • Unlimited custom earning rate types, based on either: base pay rate, rate per unit, or fixed amount
  • Unlimited custom leave types in addition to the statutory leave types
  • Unlimited custom benefit, deduction, and reimbursement rate types
  • Student Loan repayments
  • Record attachments of earnings orders

Tax & NIC

  • Built-in Tax and NIC rates
  • Tax and NIC rate updates automatically each year
  • Week 1 / Month 1 pay basis
  • Directors special NIC calculations

Payments

  • Electronic payment of employee wages via BACS file
  • P32 Tax & NIC amounts to be paid to HMRC

Continue reading ›

 

Introducing New Zealand Payroll in Xero

Last week we announced the imminent arrival of New Zealand Payroll in Xero. Today we’re pleased to announce it’s been released so you can get ready for processing payroll from the 1st April. Now is the time to make the change in time for the new financial year.

Getting Started with New Zealand Payroll in Xero from Xero.

We’ve built beautiful, online New Zealand payroll for small businesses that’s easy to implement and easy to use from anywhere. Information from payroll flows seamlessly to the general ledger with journals automatically created.

New Zealand Payroll

We know that changing payroll systems is not easy. Having your two primary business systems combined into one experience saves time and money and improves accuracy.

From today you can get ready for 1st April by setting up payroll to suit the needs of your business including adding employees. We’ll be enabling the ability to process payroll from 1st April.

New Zealand Payroll includes:

Employer Settings

  • Support for small & large employers for Inland Revenue reporting & filing obligations
  • Tracking by Employee Groups for cost analysis
  • Weekly, fortnightly, half-monthly, four-weekly, and monthly Pay Calendars
  • Standard Public Holidays provided, grouped by region
  • Add custom holidays as required by each business

Manage Employees

  • Recording personal details including employee photo
  • Managing employment details including salary/hourly rate, standard days per week & hours per day
  • Enter IRD Number, Tax Code, ESCT Rate, (Tax Rate, Special Student Loan Rate)
  • Manage KiwiSaver including eligible employees, Employee & Employer Contribution Rates, Opting Out and Contributions Holidays
  • Employee’s joining KiwiSaver or Opting Out advised via monthly filing to Inland Revenue
  • Salary Sacrifice for KiwiSaver
  • Leave balances for Annual leave, Holiday Pay, Sick Leave, Alternative Holidays and custom leave types
  • Enter employee notes to record comments against each employee
  • Enter employees past 12 months gross earnings easily
  • New employees advised to Inland Revenue via monthly filing
  • Create a pay template for each of your employees to make your pay runs quick and easy

Employee App

  • Available online at launch and coming soon to iOS and Android
  • Employees can access pay history, download payslips and view personal details
  • Request leave and manage current leave requests
  • Optional ‘Manager’ role can be given to employees to approve leave requests without accessing the business or payroll financials

Pay Elements

  • Record current future hourly and annual salary pay rates
  • Unlimited custom earning rate types, based on the either: base pay rate, rate per unit, or fixed amount
  • Unlimited custom leave types in addition to the statutory leave types
  • Manage statutory leave types including Holiday Pay (8%) and unpaid parental leave types
  • Unlimited custom deduction rate types including Payroll Giving deductions
  • Unlimited custom reimbursement rate types
  • Student Loan Repayments, including Additional & Voluntary Student loan repayments
  • Support for Statutory Deductions for Child Support, Court Fines, MSD Repayments and Inland Revenue Arrears
  • KiwiSaver deductions and contributions
  • Unlimited custom superannuation rate types in addition to KiwiSaver (for complying and Other funds)

Continue reading ›

 

Six tips to strengthen client relationships (part 2/2)

Last Tuesday I shared some tips for improving client relationships. Today I’ve got the final three for you. This advice is great for any accountant, bookkeeper or business owner who wants to nurture client relationships.

4. Developing social intelligence

Humans unconsciously imitate the emotions of others. Moods often transfer between individuals – from the aggressive to the passive party. Actors use this principle of mimicking emotion onstage. It helps them get an emotional reaction from the audience.

Socially intelligent people can control the signals we send that mark our moods. Accountants who have mastered social intelligence can send signals to alter their client’s moods. An appropriate use of mirroring and displays of empathy (discussed in the next section) will often do the trick. These techniques will help bring about coordination of moods, which is the essence of rapport. Increased rapport, motivation and encouragement all assist in strengthening client relationships.

Emotional rapport in a meeting is mirrored by how close the physical movements follow as the participants talk. Nodding while another person talks and leaning toward them as they make a point indicates engagement. Studies of school classrooms show a strong connection between this synchronicity of movement and levels of engagement by the students.

5. Three ways to display empathy

Empathy is identifying and understanding the feelings of others. It is one of the principal conduits for managing emotions in others. This skill helps people to provide social support and make positive interpersonal relationships.

Active listening is one of the key ways of displaying empathy. Be present, not thinking about anything else. Look the other person in the eye. Show that you understand the content of the discussion by repeating it back in your own words. Acknowledge your emotion and share that.

Another key way to show empathy is to share something of yourself. Building empathy goes both ways.

Try to understand the viewpoints of other people without making any assumptions about them. Do not judge or make hasty classifications. This way you will gain a deeper understanding of the person. Remember that your impression of the other may not be the true person. They might just be having a bad day, received bad news, or just be having an off day.

6. Systemised learning and development

Recent studies show that emotional intelligence (EQ) is dropping among younger people. At the same time, IQs are generally rising. This trend will have long term implications for industries that have high EQ requirements. Accounting is one of these. Decreasing levels of EQ across the industry could lead to widespread dissatisfaction. This will create an environment ripe for disruption.

Accountants and their firms can combat the trend of declining EQ with education programs. These programs can help staff learn how to display warmth and build empathy. This education should cover all firm members, from associate level through to director. Remember, changes in the emotional intelligence of an individual tend to happen slowly. People need time to practice the new skills and habits that they develop. To accommodate this, the education process should start early.

Education programs should:

  • identify the particular skills needed
  • develop education content
  • deliver content
  • evaluate outcomes.

The skill levels of participants should be measured first so that the education can target the area of greatest need. Review skill levels immediately after the delivery of the education program. This will ensure that the education is meeting the desired requirements. Develop exercises to allow individuals to practice their skills. This will help you meet the standard you’re aiming for.

Strong client relationships benefit everyone

It’s wise to recognise the significant gains to make from deepening client relationships.

  • The average lifetime of a client extends and the value that the client contributes increases.
  • Employees benefit from higher EQ as they have more fulfilling business and personal relationships.
  • Clients gain a more open exchange of ideas and opinions, which gives greater depth to the advice they receive.

Specific skills, techniques and behaviours can enhance the characteristics of warmth (lovability). Many accountants seem to have these as natural talents, but all accountants can learn them. The challenge is to develop ways of training individuals. It may be profitable to be more loved than feared, but it may be more difficult to achieve.

 

 

Xero Graduate Programme launches today

Today we’re really excited to announce the launch of the Xero Graduate Programme in New Zealand!

The Xero graduate programme (NZ)

What is the Xero Graduate Programme?

Xero has made a big commitment to finding and developing great talent. This programme will support graduates making the transition from study to full-time work. It includes tailored onboarding, training and mentoring.

We want to bring exceptional junior talent into a fun, supportive environment. Then we’ll help turn their ideas into reality. Simply put, we’ll work to help graduates build an excellent skill set with which to start their career. At the center of it all is a dedication to living the company values and celebrating the start of a new career in a fun, engaging way.

Who will benefit from the Xero Graduate Programme?

Graduate roles will be available in both the Auckland and Wellington offices. Grads with a wide range of qualifications will be eligible to join the company. There will be roles available in Product, Platform Services, Internal IT and Design.

“Junior talent is extremely important to Xero,” says Solutions Architect Chris van Reenan (Platform Services). “We need to think outside the box. It’s exciting to have grads with fresh ideas working for Xero and helping us move forward.”

How can you find out more?

The Xero Graduate Programme will see our team at career fairs and events around the country. Staff are really excited to get out there and talk to students, hear their stories and tell them all about Xero. They are also looking forward to helping mentor them when they come on board.

Development Team Lead Rowena Joe (Product) believes Xero is a great place for juniors to come along and learn. “People here are so experienced, but they’re also so willing to teach.  Everyone’s really excited to see our junior developers grow and develop. Eventually they’ll  become leaders themselves,” she says.

 

NZ’s high performing partners sought for 2014 Xero Awards

2014 Xero AwardsIf you’re a high-performing New Zealand Xero Accounting, Bookkeeping, Industry or Add-on partner, we’d love to receive your nomination for the 2014 Xero Awards.

Celebrating the success of our high achieving Kiwi partners throughout 2014 (1 January – 31 December), the Xero Awards are the perfect opportunity to showcase your firm’s performance and enhance your professional recognition.

There are 10 categories up for grabs for performance in 2014:

  • Accounting Partner of the Year
  • Bookkeeping Partner of the Year
  • Emerging Partner of the Year (new)
  • National Practice of the Year
  • Add-on Partner of the Year
  • Emerging Add-on Partner of the Year
  • Xero Industry Partner of the Year
  • Marketing Innovation Award
  • 100% Xero Award
  • Xero MVP Award (not eligible for entry)

Partners can nominate themselves or an Add-on, Industry, Accounting or Bookkeeping Partner for an award. There is no limit to the number of categories entered, however, the Xero MVP Award is not open for entry – this is selected by the Xero team. It’s a really open process this year. You can nominate yourself or someone else – providing you meet the criteria in the nomination form. Continue reading ›