Shortly before 2pm on Monday 9th February 2015, I boarded a Virgin Pendolino bound for London excited about the prospect of my 2nd Xerocon.
2 hours 10 minutes later, I disembarked at Euston and made my way across the city towards my hotel, situated not 1 mile from the Battersea Evolution conference centre where “Xerocon London 2015” had been eagerly anticipated since its announcement in the autumn.
After depositing my bags and “freshening up”, I headed for the conference centre for the traditional drinks reception where the delegates had chance to meet some of Xero’s several add-on partners who work closely with Xero to provide additional functionality and solutions to make the lives of their growing customer base even easier.
I checked in with a number of them; Spotlight Reporting; Customer Sure and Chaser to name but a few, before getting onto the more exciting business of enjoying a few beers; albeit a slight let down in that department since the only drink of its type on offer was Carlsberg, hardly deserving of the name “beer” in my humble opinion.
An early night was required to ensure complete readiness for Day One which promised great things. Karren Brady was the highlight of the session, flanked by various product and strategical updates from the Xero team all discharged under the watchful eye of Michael Rodd, our MC for the event, but possibly more famous for his 10 year tenure hosting BBC’s Tomorrow’s World from 1972 to 1982.
Baroness Brady was inspirational whilst sufficiently witty, whereas Michael was hilarious, urging us all to “jump on our apps” each time Xero ran a poll across the delegates and also whose not so well chosen closing advice, after Xero’s very attractive Amy Vetter had spoken about the importance of “knowing who you are yourself” before looking to convince others, was to “nobble her” at the dinner later should you want to know more!
One of the most noteworthy announcements from the Xero product team, concerned the birth of Xero Payroll, (possibly to be renamed “People” due to its much greater functionality than just payroll calculations). Just like anything that has left the Xero “factory” before, or will in the future, their payroll solution is unbelievably impressive. With their software testing services they have completely flipped traditional payroll software on its head and looked to tap into the psyche of the employee as well as the employer whilst also having an eye on up and coming technology, such as the Apple watch.
During the breaks, we got more valuable time to meet the “Add-on community” and to hear from the horses’ mouth as to how they can complement Xero’s core offering and how they can help us to help our clients navigate the evolving world which is “business in the 21st century.”
I met Darren Glanville from Spotlight, (an excellent management reporting tool), Guy Letts from Customer Sure, (a discerning device for obtaining honest customer feedback), and David Tuck from Chaser who provide a polite but persistent debt recovery service, amongst many, many more…
Over the coming weeks, I will be taking the time to speak to clients and share with them which “add-ons” I feel can help them to streamline and move their business forward.
With Day One over, it was time to enjoy some food and (proper) beer with my former boss who is also a Xero partner. Between courses, we shared our experiences of Xero, and also of running an accountancy business generally which I found greatly rewarding.
Onto Day Two, and Michael was back to keep us all on schedule; first up today was Rita Clifton who shared her thoughts of the importance and value of a strong brand which I found very interesting. As Rita said;
“People will die; buildings will fall; but a brand, if cared for, will live on.”
The unenviable job of following Rita went to Xero’s own team to share their ideas for helping the community grow and their development plans for the next 12 months. Andrew Tokeley (“Tokes” to friends) in particular didn’t fail to impress, Inventory; Payroll; better reporting; all within the next 3 months or so. Great news Xero!
The afternoon session allowed delegates to choose which, of the various “break-out” sessions, they wished to attend, so I chose Payroll; Identifying niche markets; and to learn more about Xero’s Practice manager tool during which I learnt the importance of differentiation and the continuing need to differentiate yet further as the “laggards” catch up.
Finally before wrapping up, there was a Q&A session with the Xero hierarchy. They reiterated their commitment to growth, both of themselves as an organisation and of us, their partners, whilst retaining that “fun / creative” culture which led them to take on, and ultimately overtake, the established players in the accounting software market of the late noughties.
So that was that. Another successful Xerocon over for this year but we are all eagerly anticipating Xerocon 2016. (I just think Gary Turner needs a few weeks to recover first.)
All I can say is Well Done Xero! You do us proud, our clients proud and yourselves proud. Together we are breaking the mould and leading the way on developing an accounting system fit for the modern age. An age in which business owners need information now, not in several months, and where excellent customer service and pro-active support have never been more important.
Long may it continue.
Goodnight and thank you.
Director of MJH Accountants