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How Withers Tsang took their practice to the cloud – and to Rarotonga!

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Nick Putt

Oct 13, 2020

Withers Tsang is an Auckland-based chartered accounting firm offering a full range of business advisory services, tax compliance and specialising in advising on property related transactions and structuring. 

Withers Tsang is a Xero platinum partner and has been a Xero partner since 2007. Nick Ashford and Stephen Tsang, partners at Withers Tsang, led the implementation of Xero and this is their story of moving to the cloud.

The problem

Back in August 2018, Withers Tsang needed to prepare for the end of life of their current IT servers. The team came up with some benefits they wanted to get out of their future IT system, based on what was important to the practice. They also wanted to take advantage of software currently available in the market. These included flexibility, mobility, ease of use, client integration and transition downtime.

With mounting pressure from staff and a growing number of clients on Xero, they could not ignore the possibility of moving from their existing accounting system to Xero. A visit to Xerocon in Brisbane back in 2018 opened their eyes to all that Xero could offer, including the flexibility and freedom that cloud-based operating enables. It gave the Withers Tsang partners the opportunity to experience what Xero is all about: making life better for people in small business, their advisors and communities. 

After months of waiting for a new and improved version by their current provider, they couldn’t wait any longer. Xero met the brief in many ways. It was flexible, mobile, easy to use and a larger portion of their clients were using it compared to other systems. The real time data flow through the platform helped reduce job time-frames and improved visibility of their clients’ financial positions. Nick knew the firm was in good hands from the beginning with a proven migration path and a robust project plan with buy-in from the team. 

Finding flexibility in the cloud

Unfortunately, Nick’s young daughter Wyn, was battling an illness during this time. When given the green light from the doctors, Nick and his wife Davina took their daughter on a family trip to Rarotonga, so she could relax.

After just a few weeks in the beautiful Cook Islands, Wyn’s health dramatically improved. With this good news sparked an idea. Nick had always dreamed of working in Rarotonga, but his professional growth, loyalty and friendships all lay with Withers Tsang. So with resounding support from his fellow partners, Nick started working remotely in Rarotonga and commuting back to Auckland every two weeks.

The need for a flexible and mobile practice solution became a more and more urgent requirement for Nick to work remotely. Their current accounting system offered them many functions, but Nick started to realise hardly any of these were being used by many staff. He knew Xero had a streamlined set of the most commonly used features, as well as being a fully cloud-based solution. 

Xero Practice Manager (XPM) was just what Withers Tsang needed to solve job, time and billing challenges. XPM helps accountants at Withers Tsang manage their clients more efficiently, from anywhere. Since implementing XPM, the team can focus more on helping clients succeed. Thanks to Xero’s single ledger, Withers Tsang clients and their customers can work together in real time on the same data.

After learning more about Xero’s features and the time they can save with cloud technology, the decision was made to start their journey with Xero.

The implementation journey

The Xero implementation seemed like a daunting process at first for Withers Tsang. There were five key areas to address in their implementation: general ledger (GL), tax, practice management, document management and workpapers.

Withers Tsang decided to be bold and address the most concerning area first, transferring the ledgers to Xero. In the early days, Withers Tsang developed their own standard chart of accounts well before their accounting system provider released their own. However, these unique charts made the transition seem daunting.

With Xero’s help, Withers Tsang explored three options: have staff move each GL when they work on the job, hire summer interns, or outsource it. The downtime and cost of internal staff transferring ledgers was hard to predict, so Nick came up with another idea. Why not use socially conscious outsourcing (SCO) to give young Cook Islanders an opportunity to upskill? 

Nick set up a SCO programme to recruit recent high school leavers who had achieved NCEA Level 3 accounting, and fund their tertiary study through distance learning. These young aspiring professionals gained hands-on Xero experience through transferring and setting up the reporting for over 1,500 GLs.

The programme was so successful that Nick and Davina established their own SCO company to provide outsourcing services to overseas companies, and a professional pathway for young Cook Islanders. Now, the Cook Islands Government SMART initiative is looking to support the programme to help diversify their economy, especially given the effect of COVID-19 on tourism.

Game-changing benefits

Once the GL was all set up, the team noticed immediate efficiencies with reduced write-offs. This was achieved by having easy and quick data processing, and having the data flow freely across each step of the year end process. This was a game changer – no more time being wasted taking data from one place and manually inputting it into another. 

 The Xero implementation team worked closely with Withers Tsang, and six months later they had XPM and Xero Tax running, and the Withers Tsang team had been trained. Throughout this process, Nick was committed to streamlining processes.

“Processes are often developed as a reaction to something going wrong. Even minor issues often result in a band-aid approach, a quick fix. These often don’t get re-evaluated, so this implementation gave us the chance to find new ways of doing things, and assess the need of each band aid,” shares Nick.

Withers Tsang were using their accounting provider’s document manager and their own custom Excel Workpapers for years. They chose a simple, seamless document management system that integrated with Xero, and the Microsoft Outlook integration to make it easy for staff to save files. After a lot of consideration, another big decision was made to implement a full paperless Xero Workpaper process.

Just the beginning…

Withers Tsang describes their implementation story as just the beginning of a bright new future.

“It may not have been a breeze, but looking back to when we started considering our future IT strategy two years ago, I would never have expected us to be where we are now,” adds Nick.

The events of COVID-19 made the benefits of moving to Xero clear for Withers Tsang. During New Zealand’s first lockdown, Nick was in Rarotonga and easily coordinated the entire New Zealand team’s shift to working from home. Having their entire practice in the cloud was a saving grace for the Withers Tsang team during the lockdown. Not only could Nick communicate with his team, but he could give his clients absolute confidence that they were available to help. Whether it was helping clients apply for wage subsidies and loans, preparing cash flow forecasts or scenario planning, Withers Tsang had the technology in place to conduct them remotely. 

“We were thankful that our last year of hard work meant that we could give our clients the certainty of us being available to help them when they needed us, from wherever we were,” says Nick.

How to get started with Xero

At Xero, we are committed to delivering continuous improvement to help firms like Withers Tsang to get the most out of our platform. We’re always working on new ways to help you work more efficiently and collaborate with your clients effectively to help them succeed.

Learn more about our vision here

We’ve helped hundreds of practices move their business to the cloud, and have learned a lot along the way about how best to help you make the switch to Xero. We have different levels of support available, depending on your needs to make the switch to Xero as easy as possible. Please reach out to your Xero account manager or email to discuss the best approach for you and your practice.

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