By Brandon Soh, founder of Book&Entries' own admission, his accounting firm took an "old-fashioned" approach when it was first established in 2015.
"A lot of our work involved manual data entry at our clients' offices. Our office became filled with boxes and piles of documents that we constantly had to reorganise. The work was dry and boring, so our staff turnover was high," he says.
Then, in early 2019, an IT catastrophe struck. The firm's office server failed, which caused a massive loss of critical data. While the data was eventually recovered, the process was lengthy and painstaking.
It was then that Mr Soh decided to transform the way the company operated. Book&Entries switched over from a localised accounting system to cloud-based accounting platform Xero. He took Xero courses to understand the platform better and used it to maintain his company's accounts as a test drive.
He also attended Xerocon - Australasia's largest technology conference for the accounting industry for the first time that year. Mr Soh shared that the two-day conference helped him expand his knowledge of Xero and all things cloud accounting.
"I realised that there were many possibilities that technology held in improving our business. At Xerocon, I got to understand the Xero ecosystem and its community better. Xero forms the base of structure, and, like Lego blocks, you can build onto it by adding on apps," says Mr Soh.
Service with a personalised touch
Since its establishment three years ago, Book&Entries has partnered with several Xero app partners such as AutoEntry, Aspire and Talenox to provide clients with full-fledged digital accounting and consultancy services. It is now a Xero gold partner and a pre-approved vendor for the government's Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), which helps small businesses in Singapore adapt new IT solutions such as Xero.
Mr Soh says his firm prefers to keep its client list small, so that each client gets personalised support. The firm specialises in tackling accounting and financial reporting challenges for clients in the food and beverages (F&B) sector - one that Mr Soh has a particular appetite for. "I enjoy watching TV shows starring celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay to see how he runs his kitchens and restaurants. F&B is a fascinating and vibrant sector," he explains.
Before helping its clients migrate to Xero, Mr Soh shared that the team's first step is to familiarise themselves with the clients' existing operations and financial reporting workflows. After analysing the client's business needs and identifying areas to work on, the team creates a customised digitalisation roadmap to introduce each solution at different milestones of the implementation phase. The last step - Guide and Refresh - involves training clients on how to use Xero effectively and keeping them updated on the platform's latest features and upgrades.
Mr Soh says his firm focuses on finding the right automation solution to help clients solve business challenges and replace manual work. For example, in restaurants, invoicing can be integrated with a third-party point-of-sale (POS) system like iChef and Foodzap, so that the daily sales records are fed into Xero directly. Xero also integrates with payroll apps such as PayBoy and HReasily, allowing salaries to be paid and recorded seamlessly.
Making accounting effortless
Last year, Mr Soh helped to transform the business of an F&B client who owns two restaurants - speakeasy bar Taylor Adam and cafe Vibe Bistro. Whenever items were delivered to the restaurant, its staff could snap a photo of suppliers' bills and receipts with their mobile phone and upload it directly to Hubdoc, which integrates directly with Xero. This reduced data entry and sped up the process of recording suppliers' bills.
"The client loves the convenience of being able to review bills and make payment approvals directly in Xero, even when he's away from the restaurants. By accessing Xero on an iPad or laptop, he could indicate which bills to process for payment at the tap of a finger. This has saved him a huge amount of time so that he can focus on running his restaurants instead of being bogged down by paperwork."
"From integrating third-party POS, payroll, procurement and disbursement apps to Xero, F&B business owners can focus on their core operations and leave their books to us," he says.
Creating value with the cloud
Since Mr Soh switched over to Xero, accounting has become a breeze. Through Xero, they now collaborate with multiple clients with the same information on a single platform, providing greater financial transparency for both parties in addition to increasing productivity and collaboration.
For accountants who worry that their services might become redundant after clients start using Xero, Mr Soh says that on the contrary, digital tools like Xero will help transform the way accountants work by freeing up time spent on manual tasks to provide more efficient services.
Looking ahead, Mr Soh plans to continue growing his business by adopting new technology and tools to enhance his clients' digital experiences and better support their financial needs.
In particular, he sees potential in data mining and analytics to boost SMEs' growth and profitability. Data analytical tools like Syft Analytics and Spotlight Reporting, for example, can be integrated with Xero to provide SMEs with more in-depth insights of their financial performance, and allows businesses to stay on track with realistic forecasts and improve profitability by knowing and identifying drivers of their business.
"Currently, many SMEs do not set aside a budget to implement such tools as they think they are too expensive. However, when they start recording financial data properly on Xero, they will realise that such tools allow them to focus on their business and be more effective and efficient in the long run," he says.
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