Guest post by Seth David, a technology consultant specializing in trends and solutions for bookkeepers.
Thanks to today’s technology, CPAs, accountants and bookkeepers are more valuable than ever before. Our roles are changing; we’re business coaches, financial planners and virtual CFOs. Yet to fulfill these responsibilities, you have to be able to leverage technology to benefit both you and your clients.
To some, this might seem obvious. But the truth is that adopting smart technology can be a challenge. For starters, I admit that I have a technology addiction! Whenever new software or applications pop-up, my mind races with possibility. More often than not, I’m quick to implement new solutions. My clients however, require more convincing.
When bringing new technology into my practice, I have just one rule: it has to make it easier for clients to do business with me.
The key is to always keep the client front of mind. Here is a checklist to help you:
- Take the time to understand your clients’ business hurdles and comfort level with technology.
- Make a list of the issue(s) you’re solving. Use this as your guide when selecting a product.
- Present clients with solutions that complement their current processes or are easy to adopt.
- Check-in and review how technology is benefiting your clients.
The cloud has delivered up some amazing document management platforms. Think of Box, Dropbox and Google Drive (just to name a few) and you think inexpensive, accessible, easy to use and fully functional document management solutions.
Gone are the days where as a small business owner you need to fork out thousands of dollars in server infrastructure to store your data. Driving the cost of storage down through economies of scale, firms like Box have built out a platform that isn’t just about data storage. With a richness of interface and a wide ecosystem of integrated solutions, as an SME you get a robust, low cost, feature complete storage solution with the ability to access and share your documents with clients, suppliers and staff anywhere in the globe.
SurePayroll is a lot like Xero – they want to help US small businesses better focus on the important things by turning the time-consuming task of payroll into something that’s as easy as 1-2-3.
The SurePayroll product has everything you need to manage your small business payroll: in addition to a fully featured payroll application that can be accessed from any computer (and mobile apps too), SurePayroll also handles tax filing and payment, paycheck payment via direct deposit or paper checks, and an online portal for both employers and employees.
Who is it for?
SurePayroll is all about small business from entrepreneurs starting out with no employees right through to franchises. SurePayroll is also great for accountants managing small business payroll with an accountant dashboard and partner programs available.
While our main focus is in four key markets – New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and United States – the rest of the Xero world covers well over 100 countries. We’re happy to report that this “Global” region is going gangbusters.
We have over 150 accounting partners (many of whom are shown in the map above) who are ready to help out business owners outside our four main regions. It’s important to have Xero Partners in-country so that local businesses have trusted advisors to turn to with their accounting and tax affairs, advisors that use Xero as their core accounting platform.
Some regions are showing notably strong organic growth; namely Canada, Singapore and South Africa, where we recently welcomed our first Global Gold Partner – Colin Timmis from Real Time Accounting. We also have Partners in other beautiful locations like Seychelles, Curacao and the Maldives – all places that in the name of equal and fair partner treatment may require Xero staff visits in the near future…
Today we’re excited to offer Workpapers on open release to Australian and New Zealand accountants. This follows the acquisition of Spotlight Workpapers in July last year, with the product in closed beta since then. During that time we’ve had over 100 accounting firms working with us globally to put the product through its paces.
Workpapers makes core compliance services much more efficient by allowing accountants to seamlessly connect Xero data with online workpapers, for faster preparation and review than traditional products. Improved client query functionality provides clients with the ability to upload any additional information straight into the software. Check out the video for a full overview:
We’re thrilled to confirm Workpapers for Xero will move to open release on 15 April – the first step in bringing together our Practice Studio vision. Workpapers has been in a closed beta since Xero acquired it back in July 2012. In that time we’ve had the input of over 100 accounting and book-keeping firms to help guide the development of market-driven features and functionality, whilst building up a compelling product roadmap for the future.
Workpapers has come a long way and there’s plenty more in store. Over the next two weeks we’ll be getting the plumbing sorted to connect the sign-up and log-in functionality with all of our back-end systems. Alongside the migration of the application to Xero servers we’ll be updating the Help section and introducing content to the marketing site.
Existing users won’t notice any change on 15 April other than access to the app will be automatically redirected to its new home. We’ll be in touch with all of you individually closer to the time.
Practice Studio will continue to come together over the next 18 months: Tax will be rolled out in Australia over a number of releases (the first step of that due in the next month); Practice Manager gets a complete redesign; Workpapers rolls out for the UK and US; and the lot will be brought together under one umbrella.
It’s no small feat but we’re making good progress and based on previous experiences (like Payroll in Australia and Tax in New Zealand) we’re confident we can deliver something special.
If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper that hasn’t used Workpapers yet – don’t stress. As you’d expect from us, from April 15 there will be a 60 day free trial available so you can get stuck in and have a play.
UPDATE: The migration is in full swing but we have encountered a few issues we want to resolve before going live. The open release for Workpapers has been moved out a week.
The Xero community has spoken and we’ve listened. We’re pleased to have ticked off 16 of the most requested new features and updates today based on feedback in the threads in Xero Community.
Of those requests, one has a certain … history.
Since I started at Xero over 3 years ago, it’s been the itch in the middle of my back – the one I can’t ignore but is difficult to reach. The issue I’m talking about is the much discussed Unreconcile button on the Account Transactions screen. A seemingly simple problem to solve but one that spawned many a whiteboard session to find a solution we could all agree on.
One of our team caught up with accounting partner Martin Dowse at last month’s Xerocon in Auckland, New Zealand, to discuss Martin’s thoughts on the subject. Martin has been particularly persistent and inventive in trying to get this issue sorted – his latest attempts include vote rigging and smuggling his son into our development team!
I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that amongst the features and updates we’re releasing today we’ve done more than just update Martin’s pet feature request.
The accounting or professional services firm of the future will price its services based on external value provided, not internal efforts generated. One of the most successful methods adopted to implement value pricing is the Fixed Price Agreement (FPA). Essentially, this requires meeting with each of your customers to determine the services they need and want over a given time period.
It is important to keep in mind any FPA drafted between your firm and a customer is the result of a conversation. This is your chance to provide the customer with a customized list of services to meet their specific needs and wants, to offer a fixed price for those services, specify the payment terms, the scope of services to be provided, and any other level of agreement reached.
I’d like to relate my past experiences as a bookkeeping franchisee before I joined Xero, and the lessons I learnt.
I chose to start my bookkeeping business through a franchise because the system made it so easy. The hard yards are already done so you don’t have to spend time figuring out how to start.
My franchise of choice at that time was Jim’s Bookkeeping. I met their CEO John Birse at a franchise expo and he was very approachable. That was my first lesson – make sure whichever franchise you buy into, that the franchisor is approachable and has systems in place. If they are not and don’t have systems in place, it will be harder for you to be motivated in your business.
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We love it when our partners provide great video. Sydney’s m.a.s accountants “50 years counting, the original accounting office for small business” have this super cool animation video doing the rounds, featuring their new frontman Henry the Clock Maker.
This is real cute, entertaining, and delivers clear messages, emphasising their specialist focus on small business customers. To cap it off the video was created with them by Xero customer Little Marketing.
Henry the Clock Maker needed his accounts straightened out and tax paperwork hodge podge sorted so he could have more time to teach little Jack the family business and make his dream of building the world’s largest cuckoo clock a reality. But why are we telling you this. Watch the video: