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Xero only? QBO and Xero? Which one is best for my accountancy firm to use?

Apr 19, 2018

Ah, the big debate. The two big players. The decision for online accounting software often comes down to either Xero or QBOL.

It’s a drastic statement, I know. And you can weigh in with a vote for someone else, but realistically, these are the two.

So if you haven’t picked a camp, which one is it?

Or do you have to pick at all?

At PF, we work with accountants all over the world. Some use Xero. Some use Quickbooks. A few use FreeAgent or Kashflow. (Incidentally, almost none of the firms we work with use SAGE…but that’s simply a fact. It does seem to have something to do with the mindset of those who use it and their approach to marketing.)

I will admit that we at PF have a particular love for Xero, personally. We use them ourselves, our own accountants use Xero exclusively, and we love the community. (We’ve even had people ask if we will work with an accountancy firm if they don’t use Xero. The answer is yes, by the way. We care more about your mindset than your software.)

But our preference for Xero doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use it, or your clients.

The key is to use the best software, that which will help your firm be most efficient and will make your clients’ lives and businesses better.

1.  Your accounting software is not primarily for you.

In the same way that your brand is not for you (it’s for your clients and future clients), the accounting software you use and recommend is not for you, either.

I’ve had some accounting firms resist using Xero because everyone seems to be talking about it. “Oh, all the cool kids use Xero, huh? How come I can’t use something else?”

Naturally, “everyone’s doing it” isn’t always the best business reasoning…but often when it comes to tech and marketing, it gives you an indication of what your clients want. Everyone is using Amazon Prime because they get stuff faster. Everyone watches Netflix because you can access the shows you want when you want. Everyone uses Uber because it’s more efficient and lower cost than a black cab.

It doesn’t mean you have to do that. You can watch Prime Video or use Lyft instead of Uber. Whatever suits you. But when it comes to accounting software, you have to do what is absolutely best for your clients.

2.  Do the evaluating and research on behalf of your clients.

Many firms accept all accounting software. All the logos listed on their home page or tech page. Whatever you use, we’re here for you. No restrictions here.

Except that it’s your job as an accountant to tell them what your expert opinion is.

You do the evaluating. Review, consider, try, and then choose. They want you to decide, because they’re not accountants, and they don’t know how to decide. Most business owners picked an accounting software (if they have one) because they saw an ad or someone phoned them or a fellow business owner showed them an app. They didn’t consider all the integration capabilities or the community element or the reporting aspects.

That’s your job.

Don’t waffle around telling the clients they can pick whatever they want and you’ll bend to their wishes.

Think about the message of expertise that you’re sending. Are you simply going along with what they prefer, or are you showing your expertise & training by helping them work through the issues for their business and choosing what is best for them? For exclusive firms, are you showing your expertise by saying ‘we’ve researched them all and we chose this’?

Pick something. Pick two, if you want. But pick them, and stand on them, and actually give your clients advice about it.

3.  You don’t have to pick only one, but it might make things easier for you.

Some firms are Xero only. Some are QBOL only. Some are happy to use either. A few years ago, there was a real trend to choosing one and only one accounting software, and standing on it.

That’s changing a little. I’ve seen some die-hard Xero-only firms begin to work with businesses who prefer to use Quickbooks. I’ve seen QBOL partner firms open their minds to the idea of Xero, after a time of resistance.

You don’t have to be exclusive, but you do need to be efficient and be an expert. If you accept all the accounting softwares with no exception, you’ll need to make sure that your entire team are well trained. That they can switch to another accounting software at the drop of a hat, and advise and direct your clients accordingly.

This is why most firms end up picking one. It’s more efficient, you become more of an expert, and therefore it’s more profitable.

4.  Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you avoid it.

Sometimes when a film comes out that “everyone is talking about”, I roll my eyes a bit and avoid going to see it. How can it possibly please so many people? Surely it’s really not that good. Plus I’m tired of seeing it everywhere.

Then I go and see it, and most of the time they’re right. (With the exception of The Notebook, which is the stupidest film I’ve ever seen, closely followed by Field of Dreams, which is also a big waste of time.)

Some accountants have this approach to Xero. “Oh, I know it’s what all the cool kids use, but how is it really that great? Is it that different from QBO? What if I like QBO better?”

Again, the accounting software is not solely and only for you.

It’s for your clients.

They’re going to use it, get familiar with it, get trained in it, integrate apps with it. (At least, I hope so.)

When it comes to Xero, one of the reasons it’s got such a big name (particularly in the UK and Australia/New Zealand) is the community element. There’s a really powerful connection made by accountants who all use Xero. They tend to have the same mindset, the same level of enthusiasm for new tech, the same willingness to try new things.

It’s a brand thing. Xero itself is passionate about constantly being ahead of the curve: and the accountants who have this mindset tend to prefer it.

I’m not saying Quickbooks accountants don’t want to grow or use great tech or be ahead of the curve, either. But in my experience working with accountants all over the world, there’s just a slight difference in the mentality and approach of those who love Xero.

So…which one do you use? Which one will you use? Or do you have to pick?

I’m always fascinated to hear your reasoning and thinking, so do share your thoughts. I’m pretty sure Xero and Intuit will be interested too.