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Fifty Shades of Tax Write-Offs

What’s the weirdest thing you think someone might try to write-off in their taxes? Dogs? Cats? Donkeys? Adult, ahem, entertainment items? The list is long and distinguished, according to a survey we just conducted of small business owners and accountants.

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The results are part of our brand new Xero to Sixty Report, a look at the relationship between accountants and their small business clients. We found some tasty morsels like the attempted write-offs above, but we also identified really useful data suggesting a huge opportunity for small business owners and accountants to grow their relationships and therefore their businesses.

But it also shows the disconnect on both sides. For example, both parties share a common goal of wanting to track financial performance and increase profits. However, while 70 percent of accountants recommend that their clients see them at least once a month, only 45 percent of small business owners do so. What gives? Continue reading ›

 

Change to Xero – free until 31 March

Getting up and running on Xero is easy. But when you’re moving from an old product like Sage, while it might be nice to start fresh with Xero, you may also want to bring your transaction history with you.

We want your transition to Xero to be as seamless as possible, which is why last month we announced that until 31 March we’d foot the bill to help UK small businesses move their books to Xero from Sage and Quickbooks.

Hundreds of UK SMEs have made the switch already. But if that’s not yet you or your clients, now’s the time to take a positive step into the new tax year. Join more than 400,000 small businesses and almost 14,000 accounting practices around the world already enjoying the benefits of Xero’s beautiful accounting and payroll software.

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Exercise for stress relief and problem solving

For Xero CEO Rod Drury, exercise is key to stress relief and problem solving

“It feels great to plan to achieve something. Do the work. And nail it.” – Rod Drury

The first thing most people do after they arrive home from a long-haul flight is rest. For Rod Drury, this wasn’t the case. Instead he jumped in the pool and smashed out a 1km swim. He then hopped on his cycle and conquered a forty minute hill-climb.

He’s not alone, studies have shown that exercise doesn’t just keep the heart healthy. It also depletes stress hormones and releases endorphins which help with stress relief. Endorphins are mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain that act as the body’s natural painkillers. The increase in endorphins in your body leads to feelings of euphoria and relaxation (aka the ‘runner’s high’). This helps combat the negative effects of stress.

I had a quick chat with Rod about fitness just after he arrived back in New Zealand from Xerocon UK. He mentioned an interesting concept that he has been aware of for most of his working life – the brain needs time for unconscious thought to function well and solve problems. Time where focus is not directly on the problem at hand. This unconscious thought often occurs while we are sleeping. Ever had one of those middle-of-the-night ‘eureka moments’? Exercise can provide a similar experience that helps to form ideas and solve problems.

Exercise is good for your brain

“I always have these massive ideas by the time I’ve finished exercising.” – Rod Drury

When dwelling on a few issues during the day, he will jump on his cycle for a hill-climb. By the time that he comes down the hill, the problem is usually solved. I have also experienced this during weight training sessions. While concentrating solely on my training, ideas and solutions just pop into my mind. Rod recommends busy people who deal with a lot of problems prioritise time in their day for exercise. The time spent focusing on exercise gives the brain a chance to develop thoughts and work through problems.

Rod’s progress is real evidence that consistency and commitment leads to results. When he first started swimming, he was only able to complete one or two lengths of the pool. Over time he’s built up to swimming 1km three or four times per week and is now looking for his next challenge. He has also clocked up over 440 hill-climbs on his cycle. Swimming and cycling keep him fit for his passion of stand up paddleboarding. He’s been surfing for years but this requires a much higher level of fitness. Stand up paddleboarding makes more sense as he gets older and travels more frequently.

We also discussed the significance of finding the right environment for exercise. In other words, finding an environment that minimises the dread of exercise. This dread of exercise plagues many of us and often leads to failure. Rod would much rather conquer a hill-climb outside on his cycle than sit on a spin bike inside. Even if it’s cold and wet, or the middle of winter, outdoors is the right environment for him. In contrast, I prefer weight training in the gym. We all have our own exercise-niche. Once we find it, exercise becomes something we look forward to; instead of dreading.

Towards the end of our chat, Rod stressed the importance of exercising and remaining active as we age. As we get older our bone density declines, our muscle strength deteriorates and a lack of exercise compounds this. Exercise helps us to stay healthy, energetic and independent. For older people, he suggests low impact activities which are easier on the joints. Remaining active and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle is something he’s worked hard on as he approaches his fifties.

While my exercise-niche is different than Rod’s, we have both experienced the same benefits. Regular exercise helps us to relieve stress and solve problems. I suggest that you find your own exercise-niche, train for yourself and look forward to exercising!

In addition to being a developer at Xero, Jordan also runs jch254, a fitness and productivity website. A version of this post was originally published there.

 

 

 

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.

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

 

Big changes coming in Xero Workpapers

The Xero Workpapers team has been releasing lots of small updates lately, and you’ll see some really big changes this month.

You will be able to log in with your Xero credentials

This is a huge change for us. Once you’re logged into either Workpapers or Xero, you’ll be able to switch between them seamlessly.

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The first time you log in with Xero, we’ll need you to link your Xero account to your old Workpapers account. After that, there’s nothing else to think about! You probably won’t even see our login page again, and you can forget your old Workpapers-only password.

The practice switcher

I know many of you work with clients across multiple practices within Xero Workpapers, whether it is across different countries or offices. Before now, you’ve had to use a different username for each practice you’re a member of. We’re launching a way for you to instantly switch between your different practices. 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 ›

 

FSB’s message to Government: Back small business

The Federation of Small Businesses has sent a clear message amid the UK’s pre-election political posturing and debate, asking the next Government, regardless of its political makeup, to back small business.

Xero has long been an advocate for small businesses. With 99 percent of businesses in Britain being small and micro businesses, they represent the heart of our economy. And we don’t want to see our heart grow weak. That’s why we back the FSB’s call to support small businesses and provide the right conditions for them to survive and thrive.

In its latest manifesto aimed at policymakers, the FSB has set out a plan for delivering a sustained economic recovery. It asks the Government to provide the right conditions for businesses to start up, grow and make an even bigger contribution to the UK economy.

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Many of its common sense recommendations will no doubt strike a chord with the UK’s 5.2 million small businesses and their financial advisers. We’ve discussed many of them right here on this blog. In particular, tackling late payments, giving greater access to finance, investing in the skills of our young people, driving exports and lowering the cost of doing business.

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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 ›

 

Easy payment of foreign currency invoices with SAT FXOnline

Paying invoices in foreign currencies can be time-consuming and expensive for small businesses in the UK. But SAT FXOnline is now part of Xero’s add-on ecosystem, letting our small business customers pay their foreign currency invoices from one central place at more competitive exchange rates than their banks will offer. SAT FXOnline’s at-a-glance view also gives users information about invoices that remain unpaid.

Who is it for?

SAT FXOnline makes life easier for Xero’s UK small business customers who need to pay foreign currency invoices. What’s more, small business accountants can use it too.

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 ›