Friday, September 26, 2014

AccountingWeb U.K. Follow Up: 100% Xero Practice Discussion / Xero 50K customers, FreeAgent 35K, Clearbooks 7K, SageOne 32K, KashFlow 22.5K


Well that original person has continued the discussion as.  AccountingWeb U.K. Follow Up
Following on from a helpful response from other accountants on my 100% Xero practice thread and response from Xero that did not answer some of my key questions, I think it would be too risky to go for 100% Xero or any other one type of software practice. 
I am exploring QuickBooks and I spoke to their approachable staff. Try and find a phone number to call someone at Xero!
I intend to become QB certified partner.  Their prices are competitive.  
My questions that I would appreciate feedback on are:
1) How many types of cloud based bookkeeping/accounts software do you use?
2) Are you a single type of cloud based software practice? How is that going?  
3) If client comes to you for instance with Sage and you don't use Sage what do you? 
4) Is there data showing percentage of UK market that each software supplier has? If so, where can I get it? My plan is go for software that has higher % of UK market. 
I intend to add FreeAgent and ClearBooks to our portfolio if they have a significant share of the UK market. 
How do you handle variety of software clients use?  

garyturner's picture

Data    1 thanks

garyturner |  | Permalink
@James
Sorry you couldn't find our number. Our contact details are on our Contact page, link in the footer of our homepage.
Xero has more than 50,000 customers in the UK.
Freeagent's website says more than 35,000
Clearbooks say more than 7,000
Sage One say 32,000 - a third of which are payroll, so around 20,000+
Kashflow haven't said anything for a while, but it is estimated to be about 20,000-25,000.
Intuit don't report UK customer numbers on quickbooks.
Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

1) one.    1 thanks

Maslins |  | Permalink
1) one.
2) yes, great.
3) say "sorry, we can't help".
4) don't know.  I believe FreeAgent were claiming a few months back that they had more UK users than any other cloud provider...possibly there was some clever wording I don't know, but I had understood that for a few years Xero, FreeAgent and Kashflow were the 3 main players in the market, I think that still holds true.

Question …

JC |  | Permalink
If a practice is ‘.. a single type of cloud based software practice ..’ how do you demonstrate that the client is being offered the best solution?
In fact how can clients be advised at all on the subject of a suitable/best accounting package unless the whole market has been assessed first hand?
Recommendations will always have connotations of 'kick backs'

We don't push every Tom, Dick & Harry onto FreeAgent

Maslins |  | Permalink
JC wrote:
If a practice is ‘.. a single type of cloud based software practice ..’ how do you demonstrate that the client is being offered the best solution?
In fact how can clients be advised at all on the subject of a suitable/best accounting package unless the whole market has been assessed first hand?
Recommendations will always have connotations of 'kick backs'
You don't have to test drive every single car on the market to decide what's right for you.
If a potential client comes to us saying "we run a shop and want to use you guys and FreeAgent", I'd point them elsewhere.  Realistically neither FreeAgent nor us are the best tool for assisting with the books/accounts of a shop.
We help freelancers/contractors, and IMHO FreeAgent is the best tool out there to assist that kind of client.

Benchmark ...

JC |  | Permalink
@Maslins -
'.. You don't have to test drive every single car on the market to decide what's right for you ..' - of course not because its your decision for yourself, however, if you are offering independent impartial advice about the car in a professional capacity then potentially you do
Clearly in some cases such as your example it is rather more clear cut than others, but how is advice offered in other instances
Anyway best tool compared to what - the entire market or a review of 1 or 2 others or .... ?
What is the measurement benchmark
lucy.danon's picture

Some feedback to your    2 thanks

lucy.danon |  | Permalink
Some feedback to your questions:
1. We made a decision to actively promote Xero to our clients and potential new clients as we felt it was and is the best product out there for our client base. We mainly act for small and medium sized limited companies. We can also work with FreeAgent, Clearbooks, Kashflow and the rest but we don't actively promote them to clients. We have one member of staff who knows the majority of the software's and 8 who are Xero Certified.
2. We're not single type (we don't turn non-Xero clients away) but the vast majority of clients are on Xero. 
3. Depends on the client. If we felt Sage worked well for them and couldn't see any big justification for them to move then we leave them with what they're comfortable with. If Xero would work better for their business we'd make the recommendation.
4. Xero are very up front about their numbers and we believe them to be the market leader in the online market.
Final point - don't make a choice based on market share - make a choice based on which software would be best for your client base and pick a company you'll enjoy working with. 

Essay :)

Maslins |  | Permalink
JC wrote:
@Maslins -
'.. You don't have to test drive every single car on the market to decide what's right for you ..' - of course not because its your decision for yourself, however, if you are offering independent impartial advice about the car in a professional capacity then potentially you do
Clearly in some cases such as your example it is rather more clear cut than others, but how is advice offered in other instances
Anyway best tool compared to what - the entire market or a review of 1 or 2 others or .... ?
What is the measurement benchmark
Inevitably which is "best" is subjective.  Others have attempted to compare and contrast the main offerings, and they'll often come out with wildly different opinions.
Reality is all the main players could be used reasonably well for most businesses.  I'm not talking about forcing a square peg into a round hole, but going back to my car analogy, if I wanted a Ford Focus and ended up with a Vauxhall Astra, reality is unless I'm a hardcore car enthusiast, it'll do everything I want it to do.  Same applies with cloud software.  If all our clients had hypothetically started off using Kashflow instead of FreeAgent, with an accountant that knew Kashflow well, they'd more than likely have got on fine.
Again with the car analogy, many dealerships are tied to one manufacturer.  If I go to a Ford dealer, I don't realistically expect them to tell me the pros and cons of other makes vs Fords.  If a client sees our website and decides to get in touch, they'll have to be close to blind to not be aware we mainly use FreeAgent, so it's rare they contact us and ask us about which software package might be suitable for them.  They often come to us because we use FreeAgent.  Having said that, FreeAgent also do ok out of the deal, as of course many clients come to us because a friend of theirs recommended us, and then they typically end up on FreeAgent too (unless as above they're starting a completely different style of business, in which case I'd likely recommend they look elsewhere).
I also think which is best is largely down to the end user to decide.  As an example, I know quite a few accountants who don't like FreeAgent as if you're used to Sage, it's very easy for historical data to change, with no clear audit trail.  Traditional accountants can consider this a nightmare scenario (and yes, from time to time it does cause problems).  However, to an end user who has limited bookkeeping skills, it can be great...as inevitably they'll make a fair few mistakes in the early days, and these can fairly easily be rectified without there being dozens of transactions in there forever showing things going one place then being reversed out somewhere else.
In terms of me saying IMHO it's best for contractors/freelancers, a few things which lead me to this:
- it's had full VAT submission capability, with FRS calculations for some time.  I appreciate many others will now have this.
- it has RTI submission capabilities (I believe it's currently the only one to have this, though of course all packages are constantly evolving).
- things like expenses I've heard people say are easier to deal with than other packages.  You can add mileage and it knows the rate to give you.
- tax timeline, helps people know what bills they've got coming up, and when.  I believe it's the only one to have this...though again, that may no longer be true/might not be in the future.
- clients tell me they love it.  Yes, I'm sure many Xero/Kashflow/etc clients love those too, but we have had a few clients move to us and FreeAgent from others for a variety of reasons.
I don't think it is my/our responsibility to review every single software package available.  Inevitably as well as the main players there are dozens of other packages with 10s of users.  Do we need to thoroughly review them?  When do you get the time to actually advise clients on useful stuff?  Also as packages are constantly changing with new features/tweaks etc, do you have to re-review them all every year/month?  I feel zero shame in saying we haven't had a proper look at FreeAgent's "competitors" in a few years.  I do read a lot on here/elsewhere, so I'm vaguely aware of what they're all up to, good and bad, and that's enough for me.
Sorry for the essay...we've been snuggled in with FreeAgent for probably not far off 5 years now (ages in SaaS terms!) so it's a topic where I have a lot to say :)
MissAccounting's picture

Firsty!

MissAccounting |  | Permalink
How have you managed to sneak back on??
Paul Scholes's picture

I'd tend to go with Lucy's post

Paul Scholes |  | Permalink
Whilst my view & experience with Xero are opposite to hers, she has described how I first approached Cloud Accounting.  Her final point matches my experience, if you make Baaah noises and need sheering every so often, then the market leader (especially in our industry) will be best for you, in fact why not stick with Sage?
The other thing to always bear in mind with Cloud Accounting is that if you, as the accountant or bookkeeper, intend to do much of the work yourself then go for the system that is best for you but, if you intend to make the best use of the Cloud, which involves non-accounting clients doing some or all (hopefully) of the work, then you really do need to consider their needs and capabilities, otherwise you'll end up spending a lot of time training & correcting.

Choice of 3

Ken Howard |  | Permalink
We suggest freeagent for freelancers and small one-man service type businesses, so that's IT contractors right down to window cleaners.
For those businesses with more complex needs, such as shops, guest houses, etc., we used to suggest Kashflow, but now we've moved over to Quickbooks and will be migrating KF customers over in the next year or two.
So that's it, three at the moment temporarily but aim is for two.  That doesn't mean we don't consider other options as we have the odd client using Xevo, another using Brightpearl, one using Netsuite and a couple using Clearkbooks.  But those are the exceptions who had particular needs where our chosen two products didn't suffice.
The vast majority of clients can easily be pigeon-holed into either Freeagent or Quickbooks.

Si_Woodhams's picture

Quickbooks

Si_Woodhams |  | Permalink
Big fan having seen it earlier this year and like you say very approachable staff and some great benefits included.
We support all software not just say you have to use Xero else we wont help you, for example.
Red Leader's picture

uh?

Red Leader |  | Permalink
MissAccounting wrote:
How have you managed to sneak back on??
Who he?

4 options

marks |  | Permalink
We have 4 options that depends on what the client whats.
If they want desktop will point them to either a SAGE version or VTcashbook/Transactions.
If they want cloud will point them to either Xero or Freeagent.
Which we point them too will depend on the type of client, what they need and what we think would suit them best.
Though we do have clients using other software such as Kashflow, Quickbooks and Quickfile.
Old Greying Accountant's picture

I am still evaluating ...

Old Greying Acc... |  | Permalink
... would love a Clearbooks client, as I don't have the time to invest in evaluating otherwise, but I have found FreeAgent is really good for small start ups, as long as you let them know that you will be looking to migrate them when they get too big for it.
The reason for this is that for inexperienced traders with no book-keeping knowledge find it so much easier to get to grips with. Once they are comfortable with FreeAgent and book-keeping I would then move them to KashFlow if they needed a more robust system.
I wouldn't want a client on a desk top package, if I am doing their books for compliance only I will like as not use SAGE 50 as I know I can get what I need from it quickly and easily.
That said, with IRIS throwing KashFlow at people you would be silly to ignore it as an option. 

3 comments: