The last two years have profoundly impacted the way small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) operate, with some companies and sectors more heavily impacted by the pandemic than others.
Companies that were forward-looking and early adopters of digital solutions quickly adapted to the changing landscape. By digitalising and automating their businesses, these companies were able to recover promptly.
On the other hand, non-digitally savvy SMEs - particularly those in the F&B and service retail sector struggle, noted Ms Elaine Lim, Managing Director of Agere Accounting & Advisory Pte Ltd.
"These businesses typically relied on manual and paper-based processes such as hardcopy files and accounting records at the workplace. When the lockdowns happened, staff were unable to access these financial records. This resulted in late payments to suppliers, slow responses to customers and delayed accounting reports. Ultimately, affecting their client-supplier relationships and slowing their decision making," Ms Lim shares.
One client, a popular local zi char (Chinese stir-fried food) chain, racked up losses of more than $200,000 in just a few months.
Ms Lim recalls: "Their clientele was mainly families and large groups, so the dine-in group restrictions hit them hard. They could not close their accounts for months as they had no access to their physical documents in the office during the lockdown, which delayed their accounting reports. They did not know the magnitude of their losses till sometime later."
A business associate who knew of their plight introduced them to Agere.
With digitisation cost subsidised by the government's Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), Agere conducted a holistic review of their F&B client's business. They set up a corporate structure and implemented Xero, a cloud-based accounting software. In addition, Agere set up a restaurant Point-of-Sale (POS) system, allowing for contactless table ordering, credit card payments, a customer loyalty program and more - all fully integrated with Xero.
As a full-service corporate services firm, Agere also serves as a business advisor, assisting companies with structuring their business, offerings, financial processes and even human resources. To cater to smaller-sized groups due to the Covid-19 restrictions, Agere advised the restaurant to revise its menu to serve individual portions and cater to smaller group sizes. They also worked with food delivery services to reach out to more customers.
Agere's quick implementation of Xero and apps (POS and payroll apps), coupled with its advice, enabled their client's business to turn its $200,000 losses around in just three months.
Additionally, Xero automatically matches and categorises transactions for easier bank reconciliation. By keeping transactions organised, their F&B client was able to get an accessible view of their outlets' cash flow in real time.
Fast, easy and in real-time
When Ms Lim started Agere in 2015, she wanted a cloud-based accounting software that was comprehensive, easily integrated with other business applications (like an enterprise resource planning or ERP) and simple to learn and use - yet affordable.
"Xero ticks all the boxes. Plus, it provides real-time accounting via bank feeds, is fast, and easy to use," Ms Lim says.
Agere now specialises in helping small businesses to digitalise by adopting a customised suite of cloud-based business software such as Talenox (payroll), Vend (POS), Shopify (e-commerce), and Dext (supplier bills) - all integrated with Xero via APIs.
On why Ms Lim chose to partner with Xero, she shares: "Xero seamlessly integrates with over 1,000 connected third-party apps commonly used by small businesses."
"We recommend suitable apps based on the industry our client is from, and what stage the business is at. They may start with Xero and a payroll app first, before adding on an e-commerce or inventory app, POS or invoicing app, CRM, and so on, as their business evolves," Ms Lim explains.
Ms Lim finds another key advantage Xero has over its competitors is its continuous dedication to improving its offerings and working closely with accounting and app partners in Singapore.
Ms Lim adds that Agere's goal is to positively impact 100 million lives, one company at a time, by continuing to help businesses transform, thrive and grow, even in uncertain economic conditions.
"Looking ahead, we are excited to continue partnering with Xero as our cloud-based accounting platform of choice to help SMEs gain greater control of their finances and thrive in the long run," she adds.
For more information about Xero, click here.