Friday, September 6, 2013

Xerocon USA 2013 – a great debut!

From the Xero blog we read the Xero Update:  Xerocon USA 2013 – a great debut!
What a fantastic couple of days at our first US Xerocon! Great to host over 400 partners and Xero fans in San Francisco and share our story, vision and what’s coming up in the product, partner program and Xero ecosystem. This was the biggest Xerocon debut for a region yet so we’re feeling pretty excited for the future here.

Welcome!

Jamie, President US Operations kicked things off and set the scene for the great partnerships we’re building with accountants, bookkeepers and add-on partners on our journey into the future of accounting.
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First up, Rod talked about the space we’re in, the small business market and the huge part our Partners, trusted advisors for small business owners play in this market. Technology plays a main role in the lives of small business owners – mobile technology, social technology and small business are all mixed in – it changes how they do business, their opportunities and their expectations. Rod shared the Xero journey, the frustration felt by himself and co-founder Hamish using desktop software … “there’s got to be a better way!” So they set about building something that would work and that’s become our vision – connecting small businesses and their financial advisors and building that connection to be successful and fun! If the right things are recorded, measured and improved then businesses can become more productive. We’re not just building software and shoving it on shelves, we’re building connections.
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Our biggest challenge is transforming the profession – building connections, scaling in this connected world, taking proactive action to make small business more productive and keep hold of a lifestyle, charging for value and services, not time. We’ve built something that’s online from the get go, not desktop that’s being converted so it’s truly online and part of the transformation to take business and accounting practices online.
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Rod showed the Xero platform – the best of breed approach to online business apps and add-on partners. The single ledger and our full open API brings about such productivity gains when advisors, small business owners, banks and other online services can share data once.
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Xero’s Head of Design Philip took the stage to explain that beautiful accounting software is not just making software look pretty, it’s about how we’re changing the way people use their accounting software – would you rather get a root canal or do your bank rec? Let’s make bank rec actually fun! (Real life story!!) We’re seeing now that customers using bank rec are doing it more often – 20% are reconciling 3 times a week or more. We want to make people smile!
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Online accounting & payroll

Tokes told us about his first trip to San Francisco – Alcatraz, bought new jeans, wandered through the Tenderloin … all the tourist stops. And amused the crowd with his attempt at pronouncing ‘oregano’ in an American accent! He talked about his role managing the Xero Business product development around the globe, mixing local requirements with all the parts of accounting software that do the same thing. We get our first look at purchase orders, quotes, inventory – some great audience participation and a bit of a debate about what to call a ‘stock take’.
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Our CTO Craig wowed the crowd with a live demo of Xero files – uploading documents anywhere in Xero or emailing them into your Xero inbox.
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We don’t see Mark (“The Reporting Guy”) up on stage very often and his demo of the new reporting framework, showcasing fancy columns, filters and formulas for customized reports, was well received. The topic of US Report Packs was also discussed and promised for delivery within the next 12 months. The challenges of building powerful browser-based reports that meet the needs of everyone are not small but there’s some great stuff coming up!
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Big news for Xero in the US is the launch of fully integrated payroll later this year – Stuart (GM Payroll) showed us through what his team is working on and what will be released this year – you’ll be able to get a closer look at a US roadshow coming soon – keep an eye out for details!
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What can you expect built into Xero? Seamless accounting and payroll, automatic tax calculations, direct deposit and checks, employee payday app, electronic tax filing and payment, open payroll API platform.
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Practice Studio

Ian (VP Product Marketing) popped up for a brief visit playing a new Xero Partner video to introduce the Partner Program, training program and the suite of Xero products in Partner Edition – Workflowmax and Workpapers.
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A familiar face (or at least voice) to many of our partners is Carla, our US Training Manager who showed us new public profiles for Xero partners, driven from the Xero Business Community where partners can promote themselves and their business. Online training, introducing learning at your own pace – a show of hands in the room showed that just about everyone has done some Xero training.
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Gavin showed the changes coming to Workflowmax as it becomes fully integrated into the Xero Partner Edition as Practice Manager (free for partners silver and up!)
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Richard shared his Spotlight – Xero Workpapers story and let us know that US Workpapers is bubbling on the stove and we’re putting together a group of Xero Partners to get input into any changes needed for this market. Please get in touch if you’d like to be part of that.
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Xero ecosystem

In the Xero Ecosystem session after a delicious food truck lunch (of course, in San Francisco what else would be offered for lunch?!) we had a deep dive into 3 of our add-on partners.
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Ronan gave background on Xero’s growing group of Add-on providers and how these folks are instrumental in helping partners better run their practice with Xero.
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Rene Lacerte opened with pictures of his grandparents and discussed lessons learned from his dinner table MBA. This experience is what led him to understand “Cashflow is King”, and ultimately form Bill.com. After hearing about the product history, we had a live demo of the Bill.com integration with Xero and how the two help establish a paperless office.
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David Barrett gets the award for fastest speaker during the day (and you thought New Zealanders spoke quickly!) with his entertaining arm-waving demo of Expensify – expense reports that don’t suck! Explaining how Expensify originally started as a trojan horse for banking buy-in, earned David several chuckles; but as he as he continued, he showed how being at the right place, at the right time with the right product makes all the difference.
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David Watson and his able assistant Daniel, wrapped up the ecosystem chat with a detailed look at the Fathom and Xero partnership. Running through a live program demo, David showed how Fathom focuses on targeted KPIs to produce deep reports that give a better view of small business performance – ultimately helping accountants better advise their clients.
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Partner journey

The afternoon sessions were dedicated to the partner journey – complete with inside opinions and advice from real Xero Partners.
As a chartered accountant, Greg challenged the crowd with hard-hitting questions: Are you growing your business? If not, how do you expect clients to trust you to grow theirs? Greg is CEO of RightWay, one of the fastest growing accounting firms in New Zealand, he started his firm by putting the customer at the center and worked to answer key questions like: what does the customer need from their accountant? how do you keep customers happy and avoid surprises? is there a solid way to scale success? A common theme in all these questions revolved around using the cloud – so RightWay went 100% online, not just with Xero, but everything. Greg knows he has some crazy ideas, like starting an accounting business in a coffee shop – complete with a menu of services – but why not? And that’s one of the best questions yet.
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To close out the event we hosted a panel discussion with 3 Xero Gold Partners: Steve ChaneyBruce Phillips and the director of small business services for the largest privately owned accounting firm in California, Todd Peterson from Armanino McKenna.
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These gents openly shared their stories on how they made the decision to switch to the cloud and how they found Xero – Steve chose a memo “I’m turning off that server on July 1st”, Bruce chose to start with new clients, Todd’s staff thought he was nuts when he told the firm they were getting rid of Quickbooks – but the clients love it and he set up a specialist implementation team to help with the switch. On the question of how to choose an Add-on partner from the Xero ecosystem, Bruce said he has someone in-house who researches and tries out add-ons and sometimes clients even request one by name. Todd explained he has a small select set of applications that his staff are all familiar with. A big take-away from the panel was if you want to change your practice and become a CFO expert in a vertical, make sure you know your stuff! Else clients will quickly know you’re just faking it.

Thank you!

Great to see a packed house of next generation accountants and bookkeepers. We’ve talked a lot and shown you a lot of stuff – keep in touch and let us know what you think – any feedback about Xero or Xerocon please let us know.
Thanks for the awesome feedback so far! Jamie shared these quotes from attendees with the team today and we’re humbled:
“I’m speechless. Literally blown away by what you guys are doing”
“I flew here for the day from North Carolina and it was completely worth the trip…thank you, thank you for this”
“I’m over 70 clients since December and they are basically all coming from your web site…we’ve had to stop accepting clients until we hire”
See you at Xerocon again next year!
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