Industry Stories — 15 March 2017

How the cloud enables accountants to help scale your business

2006 was a big year for digital; with YouTube and Facebook in their infancies, Twitter was born, and our path to social media was firmly set. But with eyes focussed on California for the next big innovation, something else was happening that year, thousands of miles away, on the two tiny islands of New Zealand. Xero was launched.

And, at a time where the idea of a digital workplace was still just a concept, the company had a brave new vision; to change the game for small businesses.

A decade on, and their cloud-based accounting software, and 1,400 employees, are working with over 16,000 accounting and bookkeeping partners, and nearly a million small businesses across the globe. What’s more, recent ONS figures show SMBs using Xero are twice as likely to be successful.

True game changers. Now they’re on a new mission, to change how we view our accountants. Because according to Xero, if we do that, SMBs unlock a simple new way of scaling their business and growing it.

We caught up with Marketing Manager, Zubair Mohammad to find out more:

“A critical part of growing your business is to trust partners to do the things they’re better at than you. That means you can concentrate on what your business does best, and let them do the things that enable you to run and scale your business.  In some cases it’s trusting people with your IT, in others it’s finance – that’s your accountant or bookkeeper. And what the cloud enables is stronger relationships between a business and their advisors. It’s no longer just a case of meeting up with the ‘finance expert’ once a year, to calculate a bunch of receipts and invoices – and be told how many thousands of pounds you owe the tax man – the relationship is much more collaborative now.”

Zubair continued: “Using products such as Xero and Dropbox, the accountant has a year-long view, receiving data on your business all of the time, which enables them to turn from ‘reactive bean counters’ to pro-active advisors. With the real-time scope on your business, they are now able to spot future problems, help you avoid bottle-necks, help you make better decisions. Companies like Dropbox and Xero are essentially helping you scale your business. If you can’t scale your business, you can’t grow.”

Mandy Bagot, Founder of Cloud Bookkeeping agrees: “There has been a definite shift within the accounting industry away from just collating information needed to produce a vat return/monthly accounts to being a cloud solutions advisor. I find as part of this change, I am not only discussing the accounts with my clients, but also the digital tools that can simplify their business processes. Xero and Dropbox are key examples: easy to implement and use products, that save business owners time with their quick accessibility and documents retrieval in the cloud.”

Something we’ve been hearing from many successful businesses we’ve spoken to across Europe, is that success, is always linked to ‘doing things properly’. And when it comes to accounting, and working with your bookkeeper, doing things properly, Zubair say, is critical:  “Not doing simple tasks properly will hold SMBs back. So many people who start using Xero have that ‘Eureka’ moment, suddenly realising that they’ve been doing things so badly, for so long, wasting so much time. My Dad is a great example; three years it took me to convince him to swap his spreadsheets and carrier bags full of old receipts for a Xero subscription, but from the day he took the plunge he was able to stop worrying about his numbers and focus on what he was good at, what he got into business for in the first place.”

According to Zubair, what was holding his dad back from embracing this new digital age, and what’s still holding millions of other small businesses back too, is time. “People feel this investment is too time-heavy. They haven’t got the minutes in the day to think about it, let alone action it. But just imagine what would happen if people stopped feeling like that.”

Across the next couple of months we’ll be hearing more from Xero, getting their thoughts on digital innovation and advice on scaling your business. Meanwhile, if you’re keen to explore how it could help you, then you can try a free 30-days trial here.

For now though, Zubair leaves us with this: “What my father’s story shows is that by using tools like Xero, and other innovative cloud-based services like Dropbox, it really does allow you to focus on your business. He’s now in a digital world where his accountant helps him to grow – meaning he can do a job, tap a couple of buttons on his smart phone, and get paid straight-away. It’s a game changer.”

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