Because many of our clients use and love Xero, we took some time out to attend several of the Xero Roadshow events in the UK.
Although delivered by Xero to Xero partners, the principles shared apply to the whole industry, regardless of the software you or your clients use.
The digital movement and how it impacts your clients
The digital movement can be seen in all industries from banking, taxis and holidays, but the scale of growth Xero are experiencing is highlighting that accounting is now also part of this journey. Gary Turner attributes their speed of growth to the adoption of cloud, with subscribers fast approaching 1,000,000.
Remember that we’re in a world where we all expect everything to work instantly, as standard. Accountants need to keep this in mind when evaluating your marketing efforts, and ensure that you’re keeping up with changing technology opportunities – because that’s what your clients want and need.
86% of businesses are already operating in the cloud and accountants as an industry still have a ways to go.
The opportunity of remote working for accountants
Xero’s research also highlighted the fact that a lot of clients are happy to work with you remotely. The example was shared of Fresh Financials, making face to face contact with around 40% of their clients. If they trust you, and understand that technology can facilitate much of what’s needed then it allows you to get on with working for them. No down time. This leads to more frequent contact, so there’s a whole host of options for communication.
Forward thinking firms are using communication tools that their client feels comfortable with.
Slack, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, and Skype are just a few options. Blu Sky Chartered Accountants who were on the partner panel in Edinburgh shared that they primarily deal with tech and digital businesses who love Slack: so they decided to use that tool.
We at The Profitable Firm are completely remote with the team all around the country, and clients globally. We use Slack with our clients (PF Community) and have set up various groups to keep all the discussions relevant. We’ve discovered that it has massively reduced our email intake, and it has the added benefit of allowing our clients to talk to each other and share ideas . (If you’re a client of PF and haven’t signed into Slack yet, get in touch to ask us about it.)
Automation and new roles
Automation of basic, repetitive accounting processes is inevitable for firms who still want to thrive in the future. This doesn’t mean the end of accountants. It means change. You’ll be able to focus on the complex tasks, and have more time to do what you’re good at. Technology will expand your capability. We’re already beginning to see a change with the emergence of new roles like Cyber Security Managers within firms.
This is a theme Xero expect to continue with the change in attitude towards cloud technology, and a huge opportunity for accountants.
Making Tax Digital
A key area highlighted was HMRC’s Making Tax Digital ambitions. With the deadline not too far off (April 2018), many of your clients are not even aware of it. Accountants are, and although there is uncertainty around exact details it will come in some form.
Business owners who are already used to cloud and technology will likely feel much more comfortable with the digital tax element. Gary Turner went as far to say that if they are using Xero ‘they’re almost there’.
Those who haven’t began the journey are more likely to panic.
This is the perfect opportunity for you to contact your clients and tell them they do need to be aware of the changes, and that you will take care of it as their ‘trusted advisor’. Build up that relationship. Making Tax Digital will not eradicate the need for an accountant: instead, you’ll be needed more than ever!
Over the next 5 years Xero plan to develop a lot of features based on machine learning. We read a lot about this, from every software company, and Xero are no exception. Using intelligent data, they aim to take tools like ‘Find and recode’ and flip them around. Instead of waiting until a code needs ‘fixed’, they want to work to prevent it from happening at all.
Code free accounting is one option. Gary also shared the fact that business owners really don’t need to be exposed to the complexity of accounting codes. This is a new concept when it comes to accounting software, but it’s likely to be an incredibly appealing one to your clients. The accounting codes are of course still available and used in the background, but code free accounting (from the perception of the user) makes the experience a much cleaner one. And best of all, it strengthens the need for an accountant’s support and advice!
“The reality is that accounting is really hard for small businesses.” Gary Turner
New partner programme and Xero HQ
There’s a lot of effort by Xero going into advancing their partner programme.
There are changes coming around how you earn your partner level (Gold, Silver etc): and the new system will work on a points basis, rewarding you for the level of effort you and your clients put in.
There will also be a new ‘Xero Partner Champion’ tier added to each level which will be based on your speed of growth per level. This also boosts your ranking in the Advisor Directory searches.
To keep you on track for your next partner level there will also be a monthly partner update email. It’ll show your current level, and highlight what you need to do to up this.
This new programme will launch in 2 -3 weeks.
There’s a new Advisor Directory coming and Xero aim to connect all partners with Xero customers. At the moment 89% of Xero businesses are connected to an advisor but Xero want this to be 100%!
This is extremely powerful for Xero partners. Essentially, the more connected you and your clients are with the Xero community, and the more use you make of the software and integrated apps, the higher the likelihood that prospects and leads will find you and want to do business with you.
Another addition is the search feature which will allow a business to enter a specialist industry and location, so they can find a partner that’s a perfect fit.
Steps to increase your place in the search results:
- Tag your clients with the relevant industry via Xero HQ.
- Build out your profile page – with videos, testimonials, partner and firm information, your specialism (if you have one) and any App partner specialisation.
- Enhance or redesign your website, so you impress prospects straight away.
You do this all through Xero HQ yourself, and it’s published instantly.
As Darren Upson, EMEA Marketing Director for Xero, pointed out, this also highlights the need for you to have an up to date, impressive website. If a prospect comes to you via the Xero advisor directory (with all its clean, modern marketing) and then moves to your outdated or old school website, you won’t get the leads you want.
Xero HQ – the core
Xero HQ will allow you to fully manage all of your clients in one place, clearly displayed at top level. This is the go to area to manage your partner level information, education, and rewards.
It was clear how important Xero see their App partners. Xero HQ will allow you to see all of the Apps your clients are using, from top level chart of number on which, right down into who’s using what.
This is also broken down by industry making it really clear what your base looks like.
Xero HQ promises to create a more efficient, streamlines experience for partners. It’s in beta but planned to be released on Tuesday 29 November.
Our one big takeaway for you is that it’s not enough to simply be an accountant using cloud technology, or Xero. You have to love it, embrace it, integrate it and other tech with your daily business, and constantly look for ways to improve – like Xero is doing. This is what will ensure you are still successful in 10 years’ time.
As Paul Bulpitt shared, you need to have a “manifesto” (which he advised is merely a fancy name for an action plan). This means actually thinking practically about your digital plan, and making sure you have the digital skills to support your clients.
Digital is not a department within your firm, it needs to be ingrained throughout the business.
All in all we found it an insightful event, in true Xero style. The team spurred on a lot of thoughts, and ideas about what’s to come. It was fantastic to see such a successful event north of the border.