Why my small business switched to Xero

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, XERO

Today’s guest author is small business and finance expert, and co-host of Sunrise, David Koch.

David Koch on online accounting for small businessI’m not a huge fan of the Super Bowl, but I love seeing the ads. They’re always the highlight of the whole event for a lot of people. This year there was a great ad by BMW that showed a clip of two TODAY show hosts from 1994 who were reading an email address out loud. It was obviously the first time they’d done so. They didn’t know how to pronounce an ‘@’. This led to the perplexed duo questioning “what is internet anyway?”

Today’s rapid outpouring of technology and innovation often leaves business owners wondering “what is this?” and “do I really need it?” In a lot of cases, perhaps not. Small businesses have enough on their plate without trying to educate themselves on every single new ‘life-changing’ product or service. But when it comes to online accounting, it truly is a revelation. And in the world of online accounting, Xero is at the leading edge.

Making the switch to online accounting

I’ve been a small business owner for over 25 years now and have employed teams from five people right up to 70. Bookkeeping used to mean shelves and shelves of folders and actual books. There were days on end spent reconciling accounts, and using a ruler to scroll down pages of transactions (yes, I’m old). At the time, it was just something we had to do. But now, with the beauty of hindsight, it was a nightmare.

After a lot of research into the market, my family business, Pinstripe Media, made the switch to Xero last year. This was because we’d heard so much hype from other business owners, and our accountants, about how easy and how enjoyable it was. I was sceptical at first. How on earth could anyone make small business accounting and bookkeeping enjoyable? Fortunately, I was convinced to give it a go.

Never looked back

Nine months later, and I can tell you without any embarrassment that I love logging on and checking the accounts. I’m a control freak, and Xero’s platform really is impressive. Everything is simple, intuitive, and easy to navigate. In just a few clicks, I can see how much money is owed to us compared to what we owe. I can get a P&L for any specified time period – and even just for individual jobs – to compare against other jobs. I can see  bank and credit card balances, and reconcile it all straight away. Our bank feeds come straight into the dashboard. I love the dashboard.

The best part about it is that I can do it all while sitting on the balcony at home. Because these days I’m trying to spend as little time in the office as possible. (That’s why you have kids, to take over the family business isn’t it?). With the footy season coming up and, a lot of trips to Adelaide and Melbourne, I can keep checking up on things from the road whenever I like. And that’s the real beauty of Xero – it gives me not just peace of mind, but the freedom to have peace of mind from anywhere at any time.

So if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, then give it a go and see for yourself how much it changes your life as a business owner. Because in a few years it won’t be “what is internet” jokes playing on Super Bowl ads, it’ll be “what is online accounting?” And when that day comes, you can sit back and be proud that you knew all about it. And you may even have your Xero dashboard open next to you.

As a side note, in case the sceptics are wondering, I did pay for my Xero accounting package. We made our decision to switch without contacting them.

David Koch is the owner of Pinstripe Media. He also hosts Kochie’s Business Builders, co-hosts Sunrise, and chairs the Port Adelaide Football Club. Connect with him on Twitter @kochie_online.

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Five tips to create sales quotes that get accepted

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, XERO

Small businesses win work by using sales quotes (also known as price quotes). Yet they often don’t realise that how they prepare and create quotes can cost them business. Many lose revenue by not following up on quotes or turning quotes around fast enough.

According to a recent US survey, the number one financial challenge of small businesses is cashflow and getting paid.* Getting on top of the quoting process can reduce the number of days to acceptance, which reduces the number of days to getting paid and improves your cashflow.

So, getting on top of your quotes make a real difference. Xero’s Head of Accounting, James Solomons, offers the following tips to help you prepare and create quotes that get accepted:


1. Ensure your sales quotes are properly constructed

A sales quote is often the first impression of your business that you give to prospective clients. Every quote that you send out should tell the client a little bit about your business. It should detail the prices, costs and services that they’re expected to receive. Include terms and conditions in plain English. Make sure the branding of the quote is consistent with your business’s brand (different looks and experiences will confuse your clients). And, most importantly, use a call to action at the end through an acceptance or modification process. A clear and simple quote increases the chance of a sale the first time and reduces the back and forth effort.

2. Send a quote within 24 hours

It’s a good idea to use cloud software to quickly prepare and send quotes on the spot or immediately after an initial meeting. This efficiency helps you to respond to an opportunity anytime, anywhere – without the need to return to the office to construct a quote.

3. Embed a quoting engine on your website

You may not always be able to meet your client in person. But a quoting engine on your site speeds up the process and allows customers to do business with you 24/7.

4. Follow up within two to three days of sending

Sometimes, business or industry protocol dictates when you should follow up. However, it is always best that you strike while the iron’s hot. Once you’ve quoted, follow up between 24 to 48 hours after to ensure that the client has received and understood the quote. This is a good way to get in front of your client and give the quote every chance of being accepted.

5. Ask the questions and learn from mistakes

Always remember to ask potential customers why they didn’t accept your quote. You may learn that you need to improve the sales or quote process, or perhaps clarify the content within the quote. Regardless, there’s a lesson to be learned from every quote.

Xero makes it easy

If you’re managing your finances through spreadsheets, you probably aren’t always aware of your workflow and where quotes are sitting in the sales process. It’s important to have this information at your fingertips at all times. With accounting software like Xero, you can 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 quotes that have been sent but not accepted – and generally keep your business moving.

Want to know more about quotes? Check out our Small Business Guide: How to make price quotes work for you.

 

*The results of this study were taken from a random US sample of over 500 small business owners. The research was commissioned by Xero and independently conducted by market research company, Zogby Analytics.

 

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Kitchen table entrepreneurs – turning your hobby into a business

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Cloud Accounting

From cupcake-crazy home bakers to fitness addicts and artistic dreamers, more and more entrepreneurial Britons are turning passions and pastimes into money-making enterprises. In fact, latest studies show there are 600,000 more micro businesses in the UK today than there were during the onset of the financial crisis in 2008*.

emma lomax

A separate report by the Office for National Statistics also found that self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began 40 years ago. However, one of the big differences between being self-employed and turning your hobby into a business, where you’ve had no formal training, is that you’ll have to work even harder to get a grip on market and customer demand.

Do your homework

Before taking the plunge, homework and research are key to deciding whether or not it’s just a pipe dream. This needn’t break the bank – depending on the business and what you want to find out, you could try face-to-face focus groups in your local community, as well as free online polling tools such as surveymonkey.com.

Social networks give fast feedback and are a good place to find other people in your industry – and discover what your customers are saying about you. Or why not delve into big data? Google Trends and Google consumer surveys show the types of terms people are looking for online, which can assist in optimising your website copy using SEO (search engine optimisation).

Create a business plan

As with any new venture, creating a business plan and working out costs is also hugely important, especially when it comes to figuring out prices, profit and securing investment. That’s not to say it’ll be easy – many small businesses fail in their early years because owners make mistakes, misread the market, or fall victim to other external factors.

Get it right and you’ll end up wishing you’d done it sooner: “I used to teach textiles and was always sewing between classes,” says SewLomax founder and creative director, Emma Lomax. “Starting my own business meant moving to the next step. It was no longer about embroidery; it was about making something people wanted.”

* Data from Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce/Etsy.

 

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Adopting cloud technology: eat or be eaten

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Cloud Accounting

 

Cloud technology adoption

Over the past couple of decades, The Chasm Model has been the centrepiece of nearly every conversation I’ve had about launching new technology.

While its merits are many, lately I’ve been wondering how applicable it is in business-to-business markets. Sure there are early adopters. Perhaps even an early majority. It’s the late majority that seems to be in trouble.

Having sat around harvesting revenue from their customer base, the late majority wake up one day to face a revenue precipice. In short, the early adopters and majority reach a tipping point and start acquiring their customer base en-masse. Powered by the economics of the cloud (not just technology but also business) these new players scale at speed – achieving continuous growth rates in the high double and even triple digits.

We see a couple of shifts driving the acceleration of the new players. For instance, cloud technology and business models on the supply side, and then mobile on the demand side. Entrepreneurs emerge from both sides presenting the late majority with an impossible force to counter – and their brand advantage and customer relationships are quickly weakened.

Look at what happened to booksellers, record stores, and others. We are seeing the same in accounting where new disruptive value propositions are being built on cloud platforms like ours. What’s important is that these new players aren’t just using new technology – they are reshaping their brands, service offerings, price points and more.

The message is clear. Rather than wait for the late majority, fuel the high-growth early adopters and watch them grow. Who would you rather be (or be backing)? The eater or the eaten?

 

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Guest post: How to perfect your pitch to gain customers

Written by admin on . Posted in Business

Today’s guest author is international motivational business speaker Debbie Mayo-Smith.

You know how important it is to have a small elevator pitch or few word summary of what you do. Not only to have it – but to get it right.

This is something that I have had great difficulty with. No, more than difficulty. It has painfully eluded me. Even though I am a marketer and normally have a way with words and know how to talk in benefits. Well, you would think – that is until it came to describing succinctly what I do. Having that wee pitch that generates interest and ‘tell me more’

Oh the struggle! Every time someone would ask ‘so, what do you talk about’? A feeling of pain would have to be carefully hidden from showing in my facial expression (because I knew I hadn’t found the perfect description) as I would stammer out an answer.

This past week I was in Melbourne, invited to speak at a very important event – AIME. Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo. This event is populated with my prime target market – professional conference organisers and event/meeting planners.

I thought I was creative in picking this title for my presentation:

Tiny Tweaks – Great Gains. Fabulous smartphone, software, Internet, cloud tips from the queen of productivity Debbie Mayo-Smith.

Yeah, I agree now in retrospect. Toooooo verbose.

Keep your elevator pitch simple

The day before my keynote session, we had several networking events. Seeing simply my company name SuccessIS, which I never use anyway, people would ask, as they do, “So what do you do?” and “What do you speak about?”.

“I show how to use your everyday business tools better for more time and more income.”

“I talk about using everyday technology better.”

“I show how to make small changes for great gains in using everyday business tools.”

The response has always been bland – not that “ohhhhh, tell me more” that you are supposed to get (according to the people that teach you how to get the elevator pitch right). Yet, the subject matter – email overload, smartphones, software, the Internet, is something everyone uses and struggles with.

That is until I blurted out an offhand, but business changing, remark. Yet again someone asked in the expo “What do you train on, Debbie?” and without thinking I replied:

“I show people how to get more done in less time”.

But this occasion, for the VERY FIRST TIME, I got a brand new response. The person smiled broadly, their eyes shined in interest and engagement, and they said “wow, everyone needs that. We sure need you at our company”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So I tried it again with the next person. Their response: “Oh my goodness. I need you! Can you come sit with me for a week?”.

Again and again I tried my new one liner. I got two speaking engagements from it that afternoon – both derived on the expo floor chatting with people as I wandered around.

Find your differentiator

Okay, so you want advice on how to make your perfect pitch? Should I be giving advice? For ages I couldn’t see the woods for the trees myself. So who am I to talk? The problem is that even when you know what you need to do:

  • It’s about their pain point.
  • It’s about their benefit, not feature.
  • You need to think about what will they gain.

It is hard to see past your how or what. By this I mean, I kept putting the word technology, and/or business tools in my phrase. I thought that it was important. A differentiator. Yet from the results described it clearly was not.

Let’s try this out now.

No: I’m an accountant, and I work at x company.
Yes: I help my clients get paid faster and grow their business

No: I’m a virtual bookkeeper
Yes: I help companies save significantly on administration

No: I’m a florist
Yes: I help add emotion to any occasion

Please comment with your thoughts – or how you came up with your perfect business description. We’d love to read about it.

Debbie works with companies that want more effective staff. For more tips and business ideas, sign up for her free monthly newsletter.

 

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What’s Holding Firms Back from the Cloud?

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Software, XERO

I recently interviewed Jason Blumer on the future of accounting and how he runs his practice. As always, Jason is a blast to chat with and he has some very interesting perspectives. One thing that comes across loud and clear with Jason is that everyone should get their data into the cloud. Anyone who isn’t seeing the light is simply missing the opportunity.

The series of interviews were posted on Accounting Today. Click the image below to see the videos.

Blumer

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Data Privacy Day – time to smarten up on information security?

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Cloud Accounting, Software

Today is Data Privacy Day. As an annual event, it’s probably not the best excuse for a team meeting at the pub and it almost certainly lacks the fun of Burns’ night or the sexiness of Valentine’s Day. Yet, in the digital era, Data Privacy Day is a good excuse to take a step back and consider the potential risks we expose ourselves and our businesses to.

Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day is about getting us thinking about how well we guard our personal and business data, and our all-important customer information. The fact that a hoax caller got a direct line to the British Prime Minister just days ago shows that no organisation is immune from the type of human error that culminated in his number being given away inappropriately.

Use correct and up-to-date records

For small businesses, running a tight ship reduces the likelihood of falling foul of the Data Protection Act, as well as potentially souring relationships and even leaving your firm open to damages claims. It’s also good manners and good housekeeping: using incorrect or out-of-date records not only risks annoying clients, but also wastes time and money when emails are deleted and letters go straight in the bin.

On the flip side, good information handling can improve your business’s reputation by increasing customer and employee confidence. Not sure how well you or your team are doing when it comes to best-practice? Take a look at this checklist from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Keep your passwords secure

Then there’s the thorny issue of passwords. With logins needed for everything from your bank, supermarket or social network, using the same one over and over is clearly a bad idea. Yet make too many new or complex passwords and it’s easy to get mixed up or forget. It’s also good practice to change passwords on a regular basis. Here, apps such as 1Password that use secure encryptions for double protection can be incredibly convenient.

Where does your data end up?

Last but by no means least, before signing up to a new bank or software provider, don’t be afraid to ask questions about where your data will be stored and how it will be used. Keep in mind too that, like many things in life, the old adage ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is probably applicable. The main reason many software apps are free is because the data is used commercially or held for use at a later date.

Read more about Xero’s world-class data protection.

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Customer relationship management goes beyond contacts

Written by admin on . Posted in Business

Xero’s add-on marketplace continues to grow and it’s clear that applications in the same category can vary greatly. Customer relationship management, or CRM, software is a perfect example. Salesforce.com defined this category for the cloud with an emphasis on identifying opportunities and closing deals. In our marketplace we have add-ons who fit this definition and others who add their own spin on CRM. All of these application sync contacts from Xero, it’s the other features that is keeping this space interesting.

Solve 360

Solve CRM’s integration with Xero positions your client facing staff to make faster, better informed decisions by displaying accounting data in-context, on contact and project records. A popular choice for businesses that needs a flexible, modern system.

Solve CRM has earned the designation as an official “Google for Work Premier Partner”, offering a unique and useful Google Apps integration that employees value.

Read how businesses like Prescient Power voice measurable improvements to revenues with Xero and Solve.

ClickDesk

Web visitor engagement is extremely critical to maximize sales and boost customer satisfaction. ClickDesk helps online businesses engage customers through a combo of Live chat and Helpdesk. Customers can chat, call or email from the widget while the agent can answer them from the online agent panel or Google Talk on desktop, tablet or mobile.

Customers enter their name and email address through ClickDesk chat window. ClickDesk then automatically checks to see if a contact exists in Xero and informs the agent. If no contact is found, the agent can create a new contact record in Xero with just a few keystrokes. For returning customers, agents can view invoice history directly from the chat window and also add notes. This helps agents answer customer questions better which in turn nurtures relationships.

AgileCRM

Agile CRM offers integrated contact management, sales tracking and marketing automation. Invoice and payment history from Xero is displayed alongside contact information. You can create invoices and send them to your contacts all from your Agile dashboard. Additionally, Agile provides easy appointment scheduling and task management for your staff.

In my opinion, marketing automation is the standout feature in Agile. Build multi-step marketing campaigns visually with an easy to use drag and drop designer. Send automatic email responses based on time like a follow up email, or when some some one signs up on your website. Score leads automatically based on user activity like clicking email links, or browsing your website.  Then segment your contacts automatically based on their actions. Most importantly, evaluate and optimize email messages with A/B testing. Send different versions of email to contacts and evaluate based on open and click rates.

Funding Gates

The Funding Gates Receivables Manager helps you manage your Accounts Receivable and customer relationships. It syncs with your Xero account, and immediately starts learning about you and your business. You or your employees can understand the health of your receivables in an instant and take actions with effective reminders. In the US, you additional can call customers with a single click or connect with a professional collection service.

Turning your receivables management process into a customer relationship building activity makes good business sense.

Conclusion

Be sure to dig a little deeper when evaluating a category of add-ons. You may be surprised by the differences you’ll discover.

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Introducing Receipts for iOS

Written by admin on . Posted in Business

For many of Xero’s customers, today is a red letter day… Yesterday morning we released a hotly anticipated update to our expense claim 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 always 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

Submit single-receipt claims in one tap

Something missing from day one has been the ability to submit a single receipt as a stand-alone claim. Up until now, you’ve had to save receipts which you later assemble into a claim on the web. No longer! Submit for approval, or submit and approve in one step yourself if permitted.

one_click

Record business expenditure as well as expense claims

One of the most common complaints is from those wishing to record money spent from a business account (on the web, this is referred to as ‘Spend Money’). These receipts don’t need to be reimbursed, but it’s good to record the paper trail on the spot, and of course it means you get a beautiful green ‘match’ when the bank statement line comes through. How do you do it? Couldn’t be easier. Simply select the bank account you spent the money from, instead of choosing to be reimbursed.

how_you_paid

Frequently used descriptions

Rather than making you type out the same common expense descriptions every single time, you now start off with a convenient pre-populated list based on the most common expense descriptions used by Xero customers.

description

View claim status and all past receipts

Instead of only showing your drafts, the newly renamed ‘Receipts’ tab now shows drafts, submitted, approved and paid claims as well as any ‘Spend Money’ transactions you’ve created.

view_past

These are just a few of the changes and tweaks we’ve made with this release! I hope those of you already familiar with our mobile offering like what we’ve done with the place. We’re looking forward to your feedback, and we’ll keep you posted about the progress of Receipts for Android.

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Xerocon London 2015 – Four weeks to go!

Written by admin on . Posted in Business

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.

These statistics, and the fact that so many Xero advocates value Xerocon so highly (a number of UK firms will be shutting down for two days to enable them to bring entire practice delegations along), result in a responsibility that weighs very heavily on my team to ensure that the event exceeds everyone’s expectations.

So, alongside hearing from Xero’s leadership about where Xero is heading both strategically and from a product innovation perspective, we want delegates to leave Xerocon 2015 with a variety of learnings and new perspectives. We have some outstanding guest speakers such as Karren Brady, David Rowan and Rita Clifton and we’ll be offering lots of content and practical workshops around helping your practice, your staff and your small business clients optimise technology in 2015.

It’s our belief that technology will create more opportunity for change and improvement in the next five years than it has in the last fifteen and that’s equal parts opportunity and challenge for many UK firms and their small business customers – so, it’s in this area that Xerocon 2015 will expend most of its focus this year.

But most importantly, this is a fantastic opportunity for you to network and learn from your peers. And the Xero Awards dinner on the Tuesday evening will give you a great chance to have a wine or two and hit the dancefloor with your new and old accounting friends.

We’re really looking forward to welcoming you to Xerocon 2015, and if you haven’t registered yet, please do so over at https://www.xero.com/uk/xerocon/london/. Early bird tickets are available until 16 January.

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