Tech Tidbits for SMBs: What's Behind Xero's Online Accounting Discount for Non-Profits
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Jamie Sutherland, U.S. President of Operations for Xero, which provides an online accounting solution for small businesses. Jamie discussed what makes non-profits tick, Xero’s latest announcement—which is a 25% discount for non-profits—and other Xero news.
Laurie: Jamie, can you start by giving us a little bit of background about what Xero is and what it does?
Jamie: Definitely! Xero is beautiful online accounting software designed specifically for small businesses. At the very outset, when we built the application, we went around to a number of small businesses around the world, and uncovered their workflows and the way they do business. We set out to solve key processes for them in an easy to use fashion. What was born was Xero as application. Ever since we’ve been expanding rapidly with customers in over 100 countries now, and doubling our customer base and revenue every year. So it’s quite exciting.
Laurie: How do you define small businesses?
Jamie: Our definition is between 0 and 100 employee businesses, with a specific effort around the lower end of that spectrum. Now businesses are all shapes and sizes, and one distinction is around services-based businesses versus those that carry inventory or are involved with manufacturing or wholesale. So we’re more focused on the services-based businesses.
Laurie: So Xero announced this week that it is offering 25% off to all nonprofits?
Jamie: Yes. We know that non-profits are essentially small businesses, and are experiencing the same types of challenges as other small businesses. With the slow rebound of the economy, non-profits also have challenges around fund-raising and managing their finances. We did a panel and discussed this with a number of non-profits. We learned that managing their funds is one of their biggest challenges. So we want to make it easier for them to manage their finances.
But what we also know is that not every non-profit has an accountant or bookkeeper on staff—they typically use a volunteer to staff this position. The volunteer may not be as adept as an accredited accountant or bookkeeper. So we want to make it very, very easy for non-profits to do finances. Again, Xero is built in a very user-friendly fashion, which is helpful for the non-profit sector.
Laurie: So how does the 25% discount for non-profits work?
Jamie: Xero has 3 pricing plans. We have a $19/month, a $29/month, and a $39/month plan. All three plans include unlimited users. So no matter how many people are working in the business or non-profit, this one monthly fee covers everything, there are no additional charges. That’s unlike many of our competitors. That 25% discount is right off the monthly plan price.
Laurie: What are the differences between the three plans?
Jamie: The $19/month plan is our entry-level plan, which allows you send up to 5 invoices a month and a certain number of bank reconciliations. For $29/month, you get the full feature set of Xero minus the multi-currency capability. The $39/month plan includes multi-currency. The majority of our customers are on the $29/month plan.
Laurie: When we do our SMB surveys, we always include non-profits, because we also see a lot of similarities with small businesses. So I’m just wondering, in what ways did you find that non-profit needs differ from those of commercial small businesses?
Jamie: We did research across the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. We found that non-profits needs don’t differ that much from small businesses. They focus on cash flow to make sure that cash coming in can cover expenses. Like small businesses, they have issues with employee turnover, complying with rules and regulations, etc.
But non-profits are unique in that they typically have a volunteer workforce. Whether small or large, this is very different from the typical small business. The other big difference is that people running non-profits tend to understand finances less the average small business owner. So something like Xero accounting, which makes it really easy to understand your finances, can help out.
Laurie: Are there some tips or best practices that came out of the panel that you can share?
Jamie: Budgeting is a big thing. There’s a budgeting tool in Xero to budget and forecast. It’s important to any business. You can import and export from Excel, and track what’s going on. So if you have a lot of volunteer turnover for accounting or bookkeeper roles, you can still have consistency around your financial and monthly reporting. With an online solution like Xero, you have real-time access to info anytime, anywhere in the world. This is helpful to anyone doing accounting or bookkeeping.
Laurie: Before we wrap up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if there is anything else on tap for Xero that you can fill me in on?
Jamie: Yes. It’s been a busy 6 weeks or so. We recently announced 100,000 paying customers across the globe. It took us 5 years to get to 50,000 and then we added the next 50,000 in 10 months. So we’re starting to see much more rapid growth and adoption. We also announced payroll integration with ADP, the world’s leading providing of HR and outsourced solutions. The payroll integration we developed with them let’s you do your payroll online with ADP and seamlessly sync with Xero. This alleviates the need for duplicate entry between the two applications, which is also exciting.
We’ve also put together a partner advisory council in the U.S., the Xero Partner Advisory Council. The council will look at the things we’re doing in the market, the product and our strategy and help us really try to cater to the needs of small businesses and make everybody better off.