Choose the front foot in the face of change

I remember the moment I became head of accounting at Xero in 2014; it was pretty life changing to be honest. When Chris Ridd made that announcement on the stage of Xerocon, it was the start of something incredible. And when I look back on the past three years at Xero, some interesting numbers stand out.

  • In October 2015, Xero in Australia had about 135,000 subscribers. Now we’ve surpassed half a million.
  • Back then, around 100 partners were signed up to the then-newly launched tax solution. Now we have over 2,500 partners in Australia using Xero’s tax solution to lodge their clients’ income tax returns and activity statements.
  • Partner numbers have grown exponentially with over 100,00 advisers globally on our platform.

Weighing up the numbers

A large proportion of this increase reflects the organic uptake that happens when new technology hits an industry. But to see these numbers skyrocket so much in just three years shows how lightning-fast some of the accounting industry has been when it comes to adopting new technology.

I’m not surprised by this early adoption. But I’ll tell you what the biggest surprise has been for me since joining Xero three years ago; it’s the number of accountants and bookkeepers who have yet to connect their clients to the ever-billowing cloud.

This gap genuinely excites me – because the scope for change is still so vast. It’s a huge opportunity, both for the accountants and bookkeepers who are using Xero with their clients and those just getting started on the path. 

Navigating change

Take the proposed government changes regarding single touch payroll as one example. The plan to change the way small businesses report their payroll data will significantly impact the way accountants run their businesses. And accountants who aren’t already exploring the opportunity it presents may be left vulnerable, because clients expect their advisers to help them through this change.

People talk. Thanks to our connected world, your clients talk to other clients (who may or may not be clients of your firm) more than ever. If they’re not receiving regular data-driven business insights, they may do the decision-making with their feet. It’s never been easier to walk away from an advisor.

That fact doesn’t have to be a worry when it can be an opportunity. The teams with digital mindsets are primed to roll with powerful punches when (not if) change kicks in. Remember that this digital headspace doesn’t even need to come from you, it can come from the team members you recruit. However you do it, my advice is to take steps today to set you up for tomorrow.

Kick complacency to the kerb

These changes will be explored in more detail at Xerocon 2017. No matter whether you see yourself as a cardigan-wearing traditionalist, a proud suit, or a member of the trendy t-shirt and jeans brigade, I guarantee you’ll find a like-minded group of people ready to have frank conversations about the shape of the industry.

It’s not about having the right answers or even the right questions, it’s about being part of the conversation – which is why I’d go as far as saying that Xerocon has never been more timely or relevant for our industry. You need not feel isolated when navigating fast-moving change – when you’re among your peers, real learnings happen fast. 

So while there are many things I could reflect on when I look back over my past three years as head of accounting at Xero, it’s the changes ahead I most want to focus on. There is so much potential for accountants and bookkeepers to get ahead, that I’m both surprised and excited that more of my industry peers are yet to take that step.

And I can’t wait to be there when they do.

Have you secured your ticket for Xerocon Melbourne on 13-14 September? Register today before tickets sell out.


Published by James Solomons

FCA, GAICD. Innovative Business Leader. Global CFO @Xref (ASX:XF1). Director at @business_Depot (formerly Aptus Accounting & Advisory @AptusAA). Former Head of Accounting @Xero Australia. Advocate, Entrepreneur & Educator #Family #Football #Fastcars!

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