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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.

Continue reading ›

 

The flat white coffee has come to America!

Or has it? I’m a bit of a coffee snob Catherine (OG) with the 'What is a flat white?' sign(as only an ex-Wellingtonian can be) and have already made sure I can get a flat white in various U.S. cities before visiting them over the last few years of living here. Perhaps not known colloquially as a ‘flat white’ until more recently, if you strike the right place (not necessarily run by New Zealanders or Australians), their competition cappuccino-style drink is pretty much the same as a flat white.

So there was a bit of a fuss about the flat white arriving at Starbucks in the States last week. Lots of people who know I hunt out the good coffee had been asking me if I was going to try it. Of course I scoffed NO, but then I’m not the kind of person to operate on assumption, so I did my coffee fans a favor and took one for the team by going to try it.

It was exactly as I expected. Doesn’t taste like coffee (it comes in different bucket sizes for crying out loud) is searing hot, is made with some kind of plastic-tasting milk. Those who’ve tried Starbucks and don’t like it will know just what I mean – their flat white is basically the same as every other ‘coffee’ drink on their menu (in an emergency once I went in there), although yes, they have attempted to make it less foamy. It certainly doesn’t look like their own picture of a flat white.

So what started out all smiles (not sure why I was smiling even… I think it was the deranged smile of someone who feels so totally inappropriately out of place worrying that in a city of millions that someone they know will spot them in a place you vowed you’ve never set foot in that it was just a gut reaction) ended with a burnt tongue and regret mixed with gleeful I-told-you-so! In my defense, I didn’t order the drink, nor pay for it, I was with American business associates who wanted to try it so I just took a tiny first sip!

 

Gif – Catherine tries Starbucks 'flat white'

Luckily I know lots of places in New York City where, for a while now, if you want a flat white, you just rock on up to the counter and ask for one and they don’t ask for clarification, they just make it (properly). And I have a list of those places, so tweet me for a recommendation next time you’re over this way!

 

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!

new_expenses Continue reading ›

 

Xerocon London 2015 – four weeks to go!

It’s now more than twelve months since our last big event in London and excitement is really building now as Xerocon, our two day conference for financial professionals and software developers, re-opens its doors four weeks from today on 10 and 11 February.

Our first London event in 2012 attracted just over 200 delegates, and in 2013 we saw that grow to over 400. Now I’m pleased to share that Xerocon 2015 is going to be a very big one indeed – last week registrations shot way past Xerocon 2013, some five weeks out.

Xerocon London 2015 – four weeks to go… from Xero Limited on Vimeo.

So, Xerocon London 2015 looks set to become not only the UK’s biggest FinTech conference, but the biggest event of its kind in Europe.

Continue reading ›

 

Harvest Integration Update: Easy Time Tracking and Job Costing

Tracking time and costs associated with a job (or project), and seeing how that measures up against a job’s budget in real-time may be a struggle for your clients. Harvest helps make time tracking and job costing painless for your clients, while eliminating manual entry of invoices into Xero on your part.

Copy Harvest Invoices to Xero

Last year we awarded Harvest with Xero’s Partner of the Year award because of the integration they built that copies invoices into Xero. They’ve now made that integration even better by making some changes that require less work from you to get your details into Xero.

Automatically copy payments from Harvest to Xero

You won’t need to add payments manually to Xero anymore. When an invoice is marked as paid in Harvest, either manually or automatically via online payment (they support PayPal or Stripe), this payment record copies over to Xero.

Harvest and Xero integration

 

Invoice line items save to the right Revenue Accounts in Xero

Now, the integration handles placing invoice line items into the right Revenue Accounts. You’ll just need to assign Item Codes and/or Contacts to a Revenue Account in Xero. Then, when a Harvest invoice is copied to Xero, each line item is mapped to its respective Xero Revenue Account.Harvest and Xero integration

If your clients haven’t used Harvest before and you think it might be a good fit, give Harvest a try with the 30-day free trial! If you’re interested in the details of the Harvest for Xero integration, they have a handy reference guide.

 

Summer of Tech

summer of tech
Summer of Tech is an internship program connecting innovative tech companies with smart students who are eager to learn about the industry. Employers have access to the next generation of New Zealand’s top talent, while students are able to apply and prepare for a variety of internships which match their interests.

This year Xero has taken on 13 interns across the Wellington and Auckland offices. In previous years, a high percentage of Summer of Tech interns placed at Xero, stay on to work for Xero.

Summer of Tech Interns at Xero 2014–15:

  • Hollie Arnett, Marketing Designer, Wellington
  • Rebecca Hill, Developer, Auckland
  • Luke Inkster, Developer, Wellington
  • Ena Sun, Developer, Auckland
  • Grace Benedek Rooney, Data Engineer, Auckland
  • Jui Deshpande, Data Engineer, Wellington
  • Cameron, Automation Engineer, Auckland
  • Teakin Otang, Developer, Wellington
  • Joseph Whyle, Internal Client Support Engineer, Wellington
  • John Davies-Colley, Infrastructure Engineer, Wellington
  • Minh Ha, Automation Engineer, Wellington
  • Oliver Ewert, Developer, Wellington
  • Jack Robinson, Developer, Wellington

 

We asked one of our interns, Grace Benedek Rooney, what it’s all about. Continue reading ›

 

Taking stock of what’s important: managing inventory

Inventory matters. With your business, you are not only selling Nichelle Stephen's: tips for managing inventorythe brand but also the product or service as well. The consumer retail industry lives and dies during the holiday season, so it is important to manage inventory. Optimal inventory should be just above “Goldilocks level”. Remember the fairy tale Goldilocks and The Three Bears where Goldilocks only wanted the middle bear’s stuff because it was “just right”? In fact, there’s a Goldilocks principle that says that the preferred state is between the margins – not too little or not too much.

When it comes to managing inventory for the holiday season, it is best have a little more than just enough. As it gets closer to Christmas, sales can increase significantly on the weekends when people are free to browse and shop.

Keeping inventory levels right is vital since it not only controls costs but also serves as a barometer of a business’ overall health. First, pay attention to your top sellers. Whether you are using Square, Shopkeep or some other Point-of-Sale (POS) system, there is a report that will show which inventory items are consistently selling well. Use this data as a guide to determine which items should be increased in your inventory.

Next, look at the bottom of the list to the inventory that is not selling. One thing that may be a quick fix is to change where it is displayed. If you are selling offline, move the inventory in the store next to items that are selling or that are complementary. If you are selling online, you may not be able to change your website as easily, but you can feature items in your newsletter or social media.

Another reason that an inventory item could be under-performing is its price. The most obvious answer is that the price is too high. That can be true; however, sometimes it is because the price is too low. While working as a sales representative for an artisan jewelry designer, the owner increased the price of some pieces and sales actually increased. I think that customers perceived higher priced items to be more valuable. This is an important distinction. Value tends to be more important than bargain for people, especially when shopping for others.

The last reason an item in your inventory is under-performing is that doesn’t fit with the brand of your business. For example, if your business is known for selling vegan leather accessories, then suede shoes should not part of your product line.

It is essential to establish good relationships with vendors. Despite all the technology and apps, small business retail is based on maintaining relationships with all vendors. That way, you can reach out to them to deliver product immediately if you sell out. Vendors can be lifesavers to your business when it comes to maintaining inventory level. Some vendors will even suggest other products to sell and may offer a discount. You have to communicate with them often and let them how sales are going. They may offer advice on what works best.

The accounting of sales inventory is pretty easy with Xero.com. When you add a new vendor invoice into Xero to pay it, you can associate each line of invoice to the inventory item that you are selling. You can also enter unit price and product description as well. If your business needs a more robust inventory management software, check out TradeGecko, which can be integrated with Xero as part of Xero’s Add-On Marketplace. Managing inventory is taking stock of what is going with you business. You can’t afford to ignore it.

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. 

 

Right brain, left brain, right foot, left foot

When I was a kid, it bothered me when kids in "Right brain, left brain" is a favourite topic for Nichelle Stephensschool would mistakenly put on their shoes on the wrong feet. It seemed silly to me because the right shoe on the left foot or vice versa was so uncomfortable.

Like shoes and feet, the way people think is often slotted into two categories, right-brained or left-brained. If you are “right-brained”, you are considered to be more creative and intuitive. Conversely, if you are “left-brained”, then are more analytical and objective. It’s an over-simplification of how people think, but often people pick a side of the brain and stick with it.

When I was in grade school, I exhibited right brain tendencies. I wrote poems and stories. I took modern dance and acting. However, I did well in science. Sans the catastrophe of calculus, I was always good at math. Back then, it was something I did well, but not something I really liked. One thing I have learned from adulthood is that you can be happy doing something well even if it’s not your favorite thing to do. The feeling of a job well done can be intoxicating.

In college I had to decide on a major. I was trying to choose between my two brains, marketing and accounting. My left-brain won out as acounting seemed like a career that would mean steady employment.

Because of the internet, I tapped into my inner right brain creative in 2004. I started a blog about cupcakes. The next year, I quit my job as a risk management consultant and started accounting for entrepreneurs. Most of the entrepreneurs I initially worked with were women I met through Ladies Who Launch, an organization for creative women starting businesses. My first clients were jewelry designers, personal coaches, food truck owners, and writers. I helped them navigate the perils of invoicing, accounts receivable and bank reconciliations while also understanding and appreciating their creative spirit.

My early clients helped me to love accounting because I can see the immediate results of making deposits, paying vendors and entering invoices. Instead of focusing on income statements and balance sheets, I was empowering my clients by simply doing their books.

Because of their “right-brain” leanings, many of my clients were afraid of bookkeeping because it was in another language that they were convinced they could never understand. Some creatives had anxiety about accounting and preferred to delegate it to someone else. However, accounting does not have to be a chore because it helps them to see how their business is doing quickly.

If you love to read but you’re not a fan of accounting, change your perspective. Think of the chart of accounts like the table of contents of a book. The income and expenses are like the forks in the road of a choose your own adventure book. Your bank account is your protagonist and your other current assets are its friends. Conversely, all the payables are potential threats. The taxes and the loans are especially menacing. Making the right decisions can yield a happy ending to the story. Then you do it all over next year. The goal is to be a prolific as George R.R. Martin without the blood and gore.

The right brain, left brain dichotomy is a construct. If you own your business, you need both. Two sides of the brain are better than one.

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.