Small businesses really struggle with cash flow. It’s the No. 1 reason why most businesses fail, in fact. But here’s the problem: a small business owner isn’t an accountant.
For Xero, developing solutions for small businesses to keep their finances in line is a process that stems from this realization. That’s why Xero U.S. President Russell Fujioka says he wants to make accounting almost “invisible” for SMEs.
But there’s another element to small business accounting software that Fujioka says Xero is looking to tap into: actually making financial management fun and rewarding to a small business owner.
Xero is now averaging more than one platform upgrade or update a week, so PYMNTS spoke with Fujioka about how Xero guides its innovation efforts, what needs small businesses want Xero to address, and how to make accounting not only painless, but perhaps even – dare we say it – enjoyable.
As a small business SaaS firm, Xero’s solutions live in the cloud – and that means updates can appear in the cloud, too. That simplicity, Fujioka said, has led Xero to issue 1,000 new enhancements to their cloud accounting platform in the last 16 months alone.
These changes and tweaks are largely based on Xero’s efforts to take care of the accounting for an SME, so a small business owner doesn’t have to.
“The main thing is that we’re looking, through the operating environment of our platform, to make things really, really easy and simple, and to make accounting invisible to small business owners,” Fujioka said. “It’s easy for them to get in, create and utilize all of the tools, like payroll and electronic invoices.”
The launch of new services, including two recent ones – billable expenses and invoice reminders – are done in the spirit of automation, and based off direct customer feedback, the executive said. That’s the key to taking the friction out of small business money management.
“Invoice Reminders is an example of an overall global function that was wanted by small business owners,” Fujioka explained. “Small businesses in general tend to be really bad with cash flow, but now they can automate communications for outstanding invoices. The ability to recognize what’s been reconciled and what hasn’t, and to create an automated system for SMEs to ping their customers and get their payments brought in.”
Whether that be a reminder to corporate clients to settle their invoices, or to automate tax calculations from state-to-state, automation, Fujioka told PYMNTS, means small business owners can focus on more important things. “In the end, it’s all about making it really easy for small businesses to do what they do best, which is run their business,” he said, “to make ‘accounting’ less of a word that might invoke a lot of fear for people that don’t know accounting.”
[bctt tweet=”In the end, it’s all about making it really easy for small businesses to do what they do best: run their business”]
Making It Fun
While Xero’s seemingly constant rollout of new services stems from the fact that many small business owners don’t know accounting, and see it as a burden, Fujioka said that the company wants to make financial management actually enjoyable for executives.
“We’ve automated day-to-day tasks to the nth degree,” he said, “and we have really gamified a lot, like reconciliation, and bank feeds, so they can have an experience of completion of a process, and it gives small business owners satisfaction.”
Customizable dashboards and easy-to-read data reports could actually make the process fun for SMEs, the executive added. “The information small business owners give us allows us to give them insight back into their business,” Fujioka said. “We make it easy for them to get the information in, and then we can analyze that information for you and get it back to you.”
Looking ahead, new solutions for small businesses to manage their money on the cloud will also have a “fun” element. With all the hype around the latest smartphones and wearable technologies, a partnership with Apple means that iOS devices will have the capability to integrate with Xero, meaning business owners can use their shiny new toys not just for personal use, but also to manage cash and payments for their companies.
“The mobility portion of what we do is really key,” Fujioka explained, “and it cannot be undervalued.”
So, how about a future Xero tool for the Apple Watch?
“Funny that you ask,” Fujioka said. “We have new releases coming out for the Apple Watch. What the watch is really good for is notifications, and that’s something we’re doubling down on – the ability to see when you’re paid, when you have to pay… these are things we’re pushing for the Apple Watch.”