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Business Development for Accountants – Xerocon 2013

The last leg of the four global conferences took place last week in London – and what a show it was.  Over 400 attendees flocked to the Old Brewery, on the edge of the City of London


I’d thought I’d allow a few days to pass, before I compiled my thoughts, as it’s easy to be consumed by the exhibition euphoria.  However, I have to say it was a very impressive performance over 36 hours.  Speaking as part of the partner community, and someone who has organised many shows, there were a number of excellent organisational points that aided the success of the exhibition.


Tuesday 24 September was a half day for the exhibitors to set up their stands and hear what Xero have been up too, followed by some networking.  One excellent point of the Xero partner hall was that everyone had the same stand space and stand (graphics printed onto stand) and could only bring along a tablet and monitor to demonstrate software. On the afternoon, all Xero staff had to visit each partner stand, to receive a 60 second pitch, so that they had heard of the product and understood what it did.  There then followed an open networking session, which was open to the many Xero users who had travelled long distances to attend the conference.


Wednesday 25 September was the big day and there was a buzz in the hall that I’ve not experienced at exhibitions since the late 1990’s.  Whilst there was the expected ra ra and celebratory noises in the speeches by senior management; one nobody else is going to sing your praises and 2 they have some great growth figures to celebrate. Over 100% growth in the UK, doubling of the workforce in the UK, new London office opened and expansion of the partner community.


So for accountants why is Xero important? Yes, it’s only one of several online bookkeeping products, but it’s one that is leading the charge and looking to be gaining the majority of the land grab.  Xero is important because all accountants should be in online bookkeeping, if you are not there, you are behind the curve.  Online bookkeeping offers improved capability to interact with your clients, at vastly improved speeds to name but two. Reasons for offering these services are well documented on vendor websites and do not need to be repeated by me.  Why is Xero important to accountants?  Xero have committed on a global scale to use accountants as the distribution vehicle for their software.  Accountants can add clients and services by being certified by Xero, as being shown to be capable.  However, where Xero is much stronger than competition is by having 275 global partners, who can offer all of the services and innovation that Xero haven’t been able to add in today.  Developing software is a long and time consuming process to get right – and as was demonstrated last week, they still have a huge development To Do list.  So the partner community comes into play by adding tools and innovation that will enhance the whole Xero community.  Brands such as Receipt Bank, and Fathom, dwarf the offerings that competitive products can offer.


If you are looking to grow your practice then you have to be in online bookkeeping – it enables you to show that you are aware of change in the marketplace, it shows that you use technology, its vital for the youthful entrepreneurs joining today’s marketplace and it enables you to dramatically improve your own and your clients processes – not just bookkeeping, but with some great partner tools such as Celaton.  It also enables you to add additional fee generating services – BStar


Xero has also publicly stated that it will move into compliance software – and when it does, in the not too distant future, that will really disrupt the existing marketplace.


So where are the important signs for accountancy practices?


A)   If you have not moved into online bookkeeping, then move yesterday.  It’s the end of the beginning.

B)   Xero making excellent ground, but Sage, IRIS, CCH Twinfield and Intuit will not roll over easily. Look at the whole picture, before making your selection.

C)   Investigate the partner community – software development is a long and difficult process.

D)   Ensure that the bookkeeping product is open – has an open API. Software development today is based around an open database, not a closed environment.

E)   Ask your compliance vendor what its plans are for the online world – that’s applications for the SaaS world, not legacy solutions put into the cloud on a hosted solution.


Online bookkeeping is a very dynamic and fast moving sector.  The real long term play for this sector is the USA, a market that has five times the number of accountants; CPA’s, than the UK has.  In the USA the dominant legacy bookkeeping product is Intuit, a very profitable, software company that has woken up to the UK marketplace of accountants over the last two years.  Intuit has more online users than any other product today, 400,000+.  It is creating a UK placed sales force to target accountants, but it is on the back foot.  It is the dominant player in the USA and that’s the key marketplace.


This is a space that offers great growth potential for all vendors over the next three years – watch with interest!!



I’m a business development consultant with over 20 years’ experience of the software community.  I am a partner of BStar, a Xero – on partner. You can contact me at Dermot.hamblin@bstar.uk.com

Published by on September 30, 2013. Comments Off on Business Development for Accountants – Xerocon 2013

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