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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. 

 

[Resolved] Intermittent access issues

22 December 10:48am GMT

Xero is currently experiencing intermittent site access issues affecting a small number of users.  The issue affects some users attempting to access xero.com sites due to a DNS timeout (DNS is the service that translates the name you type into the browser into the number of the system you are accessing) due to a problem at our hosting provider.

We are working as fast as possible to resolve the issue for affected users however we can’t provide you with an estimate at this stage as to when that will be. We will provide updates via this blog post & twitter as and when we know.

22 December 11:35am GMT

The issues are now resolved.  We will continue to work with our provider on the root cause and monitor the service closely.  If you experience any further issues please email support@xero.com

22 December 2:30pm GMT

This has started reoccurring for a small number of users. We are currently working with urgency to resolve.

22 December 4:12pm GMT

We continue to have intermittent issues and are working with our current provider in parallel with migrating DNS to our backup provider.  We do not have an ETA at this point however we are working as quickly as we can safely make changes.  We apologize for the inconvenience this is causing.

22 December 5:21pm GMT

Issues continue however they are specific to the ISP you are using due to the way they cache DNS records.  A number of customers are having success by using their mobile device or mobile internet connection.  We are continuing to work with our providers to make sure we have resolution.

22 December 6:00pm GMT

We can confirm that the cause of this issue is a DDoS attack against the Rackspace DNS systems that tells your browser how to find Xero.  The issues you may be experiencing are a downstream effect of this attack on Rackspace and at no point has Xero been directly attacked.  We are working with Rackspace on resolution and in parallel we are migrating our DNS system away from Rackspace to another provider.  We are in the final stages of the move to the alternate provider however there are a number of security hurdles in place to protect our DNS from malicious hijacking which takes a little while to be disabled.  We do not have an ETA at this point however we are doing everything possible to resolve the issue.

22 December 6:55pm GMT

Rackspace are reporting to us that the issue is resolved.  We are still working to verify that all of our customers are able to access our sites.

22 December 7:25pm

Customers have confirmed that their access has been restored.  We will continue to work on this and monitor the situation however at this point the issue is resolved.

 

 

NZ campaign brings four real kiwi businesses right into your living room

This month we are super excited to kick off a campaign and sponsorship of 60 Minutes in New Zealand. We’re really proud to be associated with this trusted current affairs programme and there’s a great fit between viewers of 60 Minutes and business owners who are considering Xero. Our goal is to start to educate NZ businesses on Xero and the great reasons they should jump on board with us.

We’ve used this opportunity to showcase four real New Zealand small business owners and I’m sure you’ll agree they are just fabulous! Each customer focuses on a different feature of Xero that has made managing their business easier.  We love hearing about how kiwi businesses can save time, be more efficient, stay on top of their finances, and generally enjoy doing business more  Who doesn’t love that?

We know there are a lot of people who know about Xero but haven’t taken the next step to use online accounting software.  This campaign is to inspire them to make time to do that, by showcasing their peers who have taken the step and are really benefiting from having Xero in their lives.

Here’s a sneak peek of two of our Xero customers featured in the campaign – Jeremy from Cibo restaurant in Parnell, Auckland, and Kerry owner of online florist Wild Poppies. You can also check them out on our website. Continue reading ›

 

Happy holidays from Xero Australia!

As 2014 draws to a close and we get ready to take a well-deserved break, it’s a good time to reflect on what we’ve achieved in the past year. In Australia alone during 2014, Xero:

  • Grew to 158,000 Australian customers at 30 September, at 100 per cent year-on-year growth
  • Surpassed $1 billion in Australian payroll processed through Xero every month
  • Reached 176 staff in Australia and opened new offices in Canberra, Brisbane and Perth
  • Grew Xerocon to become the largest accounting event in Southern Hemisphere, with more than 1,300 registered attendees
  • Ran largest partner roadshow in Australia, with more than 5,500 registered attendees
  • Appointed a Head of Accounting and Head of Bookkeeping to represent the expanding number of accountants & bookkeepers working with Xero, now more than 6,500 in Australia
  • Was named #1 as Australia’s Most Innovative Company by BRW

Continue reading ›

 

Xero Dashboard: your business at a glance

Fresh new look for the Xero DashboardHi, I’m Tony. I’ve spent the last six years leading the Xero API team and am excited to get back to my roots to focus on the core user experience of Xero. I am laser focussed on making it easier for Xero users to monitor and understand the health of their business.

I’m excited to tell you that with today’s release you’ll notice a fresh new look to the Xero Dashboard. This is just the start of many ongoing updates you’ll notice to the dashboard in the coming months. With this release:

  • We’re introducing a new graph which shows your incoming and outgoing cash over the last few months – handy for seeing your historical cash movements at a glance. You can drill into the detail as required.
  • Our invoice and bill graphs will be improved so you’ll be able to see the total amounts for all outstanding invoices rather than just those overdue – the same will apply to bills. The charts are simplified so you can quickly see if there are overdue items at a glance and drill down to see these.
  • You’ve told us for a long time that you want the choice of what to show on the Dashboard and where those items are positioned. So from now everything can be positioned as you like or optionally hidden if you don’t have a need for a particular item.

Continue reading ›

 

The Australian Tax Roadmap: Partnership tax return

This will be the last tax release for the year and we’re really pleased to tick off another item from Australian Tax Roadmap.  This release means we’ve delivered 4 key forms this year; Individual, Company, Trust and now Partnership returns.

Partnership Tax Return

Partnership tax returns 2014 can now be completed and filed from tax in Xero Practice Manager.

As with the individual and trust tax returns that are available now, sharing is taken care of for you when you’ve setup the partner relationships in the client, helping you to save time and eliminate re-keying shared data.

Find out more in our Practice Studio Help Centre

How can you get Australian Tax? Continue reading ›

 

400,000

Over the last few days we passed 400,000 paying customers around the world. We thought it would be useful to give a 2014 wrap up and share some of the internal numbers we’re seeing as the power of the small business cloud platform is coming clear.

Paying customers gif

 

Key numbers from 2014:

  • Millions of small businesses now connect in the cloud on Xero – we touched around 10 million businesses
  • Processed over NZ$250 billion in transactions
  • Over 400 customer facing updates
  • Emerges as crucial growth platform for small businesses

400,000 is a key milestone as we head into key selling seasons in the UK, New Zealand and the US. In 2014 we processed NZ$250 billion of transactions and 95 million invoices, connecting millions of businesses, advisors, suppliers and customers worldwide.

The support from both our customers and partners is both humbling and exciting. Together we’ve established Xero as one of the leading platforms on which they connect, collaborate and conduct their business. Through a constant innovation cycle we are fulfilling our potential as a small business growth engine, bringing together crucial capabilities in accounting, payroll and payments with insights and the business specific applications small businesses need from our hundreds of partners worldwide.

We’re now utilising more than half a petabyte of data collected to report business performance at scale and deliver insights to help improve the growth of small businesses, providing a real time data set to discover the real power of the small business economy and trends such as growing self and part-time employment.

We are thrilled to be playing a role in igniting the small business economy. Our customers are adding employees and growing revenue and margins by having clear visibility of their numbers and easy access to advisors. At the same time, the vibrant ecosystem around Xero – including the growing advisor channel – is creating jobs worldwide.

We’re continuously improving with over 400 customer facing releases deployed during 2014. Most of these releases are silent, unnoticed by customers,  but span small business tasks ranging from payroll through beautiful business reporting. In the next week, we’ll unveil a new business dashboard to help small businesses have better visibility of their cash flow as Xero begins its delivery of ‘Big Data for Small Business’ in early 2015. We’ve now grown the team to over 1,000 in 2014, building capability for further innovation in 2015.  Onboarding so many staff has been an incredibly time consuming activity but it positions us very strongly for the coming years.

Our momentum is not only a clear vote for platforms born and bred in the cloud, but also for those optimised for mobile devices. In the past 12 months, over 145,000 small businesses have downloaded Xero Touch enabling them to pay, invoice and manage cash flow any place, any time.

Today, we are New Zealand and Australia’s most loved accounting platform and achieving a similar position in the UK. We had some staff speed wobbles in the US but we now have the key operating team in place and seeing a positive difference. The small business cloud market is still in its infancy: of the addressable market of hundreds of millions of small businesses, only a small percentage currently use cloud financial software.

Throughout 2014, we’ve invested significantly in our platform which is becoming critical infrastructure in its core markets. We now manage 500 servers across redundant data centres managing approximately 500TB of production data while maintaining best-in-class uptime of 99.99 percent. We have our sights set on not just leading in building our Cloud infrastructure, but also putting the innovations and investments from the global cloud providers like Microsoft, Google and Amazon to work for small businesses.

Thank you all for your support in 2014. Our team are fired up and excited about what’s to come. 2015 is going to rock.

 

Monitor key business data in one dashboard with Cyfe

Businesses spend a lot of time juggling data around for multiple websites, Cyfeblogs, email accounts, social media accounts in order to monitor and analyze data required for making informed business decisions. For many businesses the process is tedious and repetitive work.

Cyfe offers a business dashboard to help you easily monitor all your business data from one place (e.g. social media, analytics, marketing, sales, support, infrastructure, etc).

Cyfe dashboard

Cyfe lets you monitor individual departments, projects, multiple websites and anything else using dashboards. You can pull data from popular services like Xero, Google and Facebook using pre-built widgets. Or use custom widgets to securely display data from your company’s databases.

Who is it for?

Cyfe is designed for anyone who wants to save a ton of time on reporting and make better business decisions in the process. Marketers and IT teams in particular have found the software very useful for their companies.

 

Continue reading ›

 

Public holidays, US reports and more Payroll in Xero updates

We’ve released updates to Payroll in Xero today following on from previous monthly updates in November and October.

Public holidays

Managing leave requests where the dates include public holidays is a real chore. Today we’ve added Holidays to make it easier for you to more accurately calculate your employee’s leave requests.

You can add any number of custom Holidays and Groups for your business and assign them to employees as required. The first step is to ensure that you have the right groups and holidays configured. You then assign the employee a Holiday Group on their Employment screen. An employee can be assigned to one Holiday Group.

We’ve created Holidays and Groups automatically for you based on your country with dates entered for 2015. We’ll keep public holidays up to date each year for you so automatically.

Holiday leave requests in Payroll

This is just the first step for Holidays and it currently works with leave requests. When the request dates includes a holiday for the employee, the number of hours requested is automatically reduced by the number of holidays falling within the date range. For example, a request for 26–30 January 2015 will automatically calculate the 26th as public holiday in Australia, for Australia Day, and reduce the required number of hours requested.

To use Holidays for new requests in the remaining few weeks of 2014 you simply need to manually add the holidays you need and assign the employees to the correct group. Any new request will use this information and previously completed requests will not be affected.

We have plans to roll this out to more areas in the coming releases including timesheet visual indicators, automatically including a days pay within the pay run and a visual calendar for everyone to see when key payroll dates and who’s away from the office.

Why not use My Payroll (employee self-service portal) to let employees apply for leave online? It makes life easier for them and for you. You’ll be able to approve requests online and have electronic records at your fingertips. It also allows your employees access to information, such as how much time off/leave they have due, without asking the HR department. Employees and managers can plan December holidays better, knowing at all times exactly how much time off/leave is available.

Check out the help information on getting holidays setup correctly, click here if you’re in Australia and here if you’re in the US.

Payroll settings

Pay Items

As we continue to build UK and New Zealand Payroll in Xero we get the opportunity to give key pages a refresh. In this release you’ll notice that Pay Items have moved to a left-hand navigation.

Payroll Earnings

As a result we’ve added a Display Name field for Earnings. We understand that sometimes an earning name can be confusing for employees, especially due to penalty rates flowing in from timesheet add-on partners. This optional field allows you to control what name is displayed to the employee on their pay information, on timesheet entry and in the employee portal.

For our US customers we’ve also added support for additional Benefit categories including:

  • Group Term Life (GTL)
  • Personal Use of a Company Car (PUCC)
  • S-Corp Health Insurance (S-Corp)

Payroll frequency

When setting up payroll frequency in Calendars (Australia) or Schedules (US) we’ve made it clearer to understand how this works to ensure you get setup and ready to go correctly.

Payroll Frequency

You’ll now see the next three payment dates depending on the Start Date and First Payment dates you select. The Name will be auto-populated based on the type you select, but it’s editable.

US payroll reports, annual forms and electronic filing

As the financial year comes to an end in the US we’ve released key updates to US Payroll in Xero including state annual forms and payroll reports.

Under Taxes & Filings we’ve added support for the following forms: New Jersey NJ W-3, Utah TC-941R and Virginia VA-6.

You’ll also notice five new reports under Payroll Reports that are specific to US Payroll. These include:

  • Opening Balance Summary
  • Opening Balance Details
  • Total Cost Summary
  • Total Cost Detail
  • Taxable Wage Summary

Coming in January will be the first release of State electronic payroll filing and payments with the focus on our current seven states. This will allow you to file and pay your state payroll taxes with a click of a button. More on this coming really soon! We will then begin rolling out calculation and filings for new states.

For full details of this release see the 9 December release notes.