Adapting To Change

You’ve read about the disrupting forces of technology. How have you adapted? How has it effected your business? I caught up with Julie Russell, Secretary of the NZ Bookkeepers Association and of course Julie runs her own bookkeeping business

Julie’s industry, as well as accounting is straight in the face of disruption. Why? Their traditional work has been automated. What was a bread and butter billable hour in the past, is now reduced to barely 10 minutes. Travel to clients, sitting with them, packing up figures and spreadsheets and emailing becameunnecessary with cloud software.

Julie was one of the early adopters of Xero accounting software An experience in 2008 convinced her of the power this new breed of software had. “I participated in a New Zealand Trade and Enterprise seminar for small business owners, educating them about running a small business. When it came to the section about accounting software, the instructor first illustrated package accounting software. No one was paying attention. People were looking at their phones and doodling. When the instructor had difficulty trying to log onto Xero, I jumped in with a helping hand and proceeded to demonstrate it. I had 30 people in the palm of my hand. For the first time I saw an accounting software capture peoples’ interest. They were engaged. They wanted to see what it did. I saw that Xero made people want to know their numbers. As a bookkeeper I saw so many people shying away. However show them a Xero screen and it engages them.”

Now here’s the thing. Julie decided to run a Xero only bookkeeping service. This meant it would also mandate a big change for her business. Before Xero, the ‘old’ days with desktop accounting software, Julie had to go to her clients offices. She had five clients because there were five working days in the week.

Currently Julie has 165 clients on her books. The disruptive technology that she chose to adopt meant she had to develop new and different business skills herself. Marketing. Sales. Business Development. What else can you do when your working week of forty hours is whittled down to almost nothing?

Here’s the interesting thing. What were the steps Julie took to keep her business going and growing?

  1. She marketed herself as a Xero expert on the Xero website
  2. In the early days businesses didn’t know about xero so local accountants. And banks would send Julie to train their clients as it wasn’t cost effective for them to do so.
  3. Julie has a branded car. She parked it near a door to a supermarket. This generated clients from the wives of small business owners that were fed up with doing the paperwork.
  4. People driving along the highway take a photo of her car and call her. “The calibre of prospects isn’t as good as target marketing’ Julie says .
  5. Now a lot is word of mouth is generating business.

Julie’s turnover increased fivefold and as you can imagine the number of hours she works has increased too. However she can choose which 80 hours she works now that the ‘in the office with clients’ restriction has been eliminated.

I asked Julie how Xero and the add-on partners had effected the businesses of her clients? She gave me three examples.

Clients Little and Friday (café’ in three locations with outstanding cakes and pastries) operate using Xero along with vend which is a cloud based point of sale requiring only an iPad and eftpos machine.

Unleashed – stock and inventory – big piece of software.

Rogue Society a boutique Gin manufacturer. Uses Xero along with Unleashed ( stock and inventory) http;// to manage their inventory of Gin. Daniel McLaughlin the Managing Director says ‘We originally supplied directly to bars and retail outlets. We had hundreds of clients to keep track of. Using unleashed for stock management with Xero keeping track of our debtors and creditors allowed us to keep our focus on growing the business rather than the administration’.

Julie feels that Xero and workflowmax have been an integral component enabling Interior architects Bonham Interior to grow business quickly. Why? Because the software handles all the on charging of work in a way he never could have done using spreadsheets. An example of the complexity. A bathroom renovation has invoices from 20 different suppliers including tiler, plumber, painter and decorator. Piles and piles and piles of invoices have to be entered into job costing software; have the right margins applied; the clients invoiced and Bonham Interior paid before the suppliers need to be paid, Tens of thousands of dollars passes through a renovation. Keeping the cash flow right is imperative.

What is next for Julie? Training and helping people understand the numbers is what she loves, so she’d like to become more of an adviser. Those client lightbulb moments are so divine.