From XU Magazine, 
Issue 28

Combine your expertise with apps to take your clients to the next level

I spoke with a customer who’s got some great advice for accountants and bookkeepers who’d like to expand the services and expertise they offer.

As soon as you talk to Toni May of Peter May Ltd, you’re inspired by her passion for looking after her customers with the best products and service possible. You also see how much she trusts technology to help drive the company’s success.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Toni uses apps including WorkflowMax, Xero and Shopify to make life easier and to get an accurate picture of how the business is doing at any moment of the day.

She’s worked with implementation partners to help set up these apps and has found their expertise invaluable. Toni believes that accountants and bookkeepers should consider becoming app advisors and teaming up with software setup partners to build closer, more profitable relationships with their clients. Here’s why she thinks there are benefits for everyone:

Taking pride in delivering a great product

Peter May Ltd is an innovative company that specialises in the custom design and manufacture of high quality canvas, PVC and protective products. They’re based in Ashburton, New Zealand and provide products for farming, private and commercial clients around the country. 

Toni is a director along with her husband Peter May and the company employs four more people. They’ve now been in business for 40 years and while they’re a small company, they have a wide production range. 

“Peter loves problem solving and tackling something like a canvas that goes on a potato harvester, but we realised it’s hard to make much money with custom work. We thought, ‘If we can make a widget, we can streamline production and become very efficient’. We discovered our widget is our work-proof seat covers that protect vehicle seats,” says Toni.

They’ve invested in the technology to produce these covers and now sell them from the top of New Zealand to the bottom. 

But there was a time that they didn’t have the right technology to help with job management basics like accurate job costing and knowing whether jobs were profitable or not. Toni says, “A job would come in, we’d enter it into the system we were using, and it would just disappear into the abyss. We didn’t have a good way to schedule jobs or tasks. And ordering everything – we had no good way to track fabric for a job.”

Implementation partners make a world of difference

Toni knew the name Xero and went to find out more when she got an invite to attend an information day. She came home buzzing because she learned what Xero could help with and was introduced to WorkflowMax implementation partner Nicole Elvy from Equation. Nicole thought Xero and WorkflowMax would be a good fit for Peter May Ltd and made a time to visit Toni. 

From that visit and the conversation they had, Toni was happy to make the switch to Xero and WorkflowMax. “But I needed a plan because I knew the setup was a mountain too high for me to climb on my own. I’m busy doing the doing and I haven’t got time to find out the details.” So Nicole took the chart of accounts to do the initial Xero setup and then visited Toni in her office for two or three hours a day that first week to get Toni up to speed. 

Toni says, “We undertook a seamless transfer to Xero and WorkflowMax. Nicole sat with me while we input our jobs into WorkflowMax and she showed me how to do quotes and invoices. From that point on, I had enough knowledge to be able to just ring her if I needed to know something that we perhaps hadn’t covered or I’d forgotten. It worked extremely well and our time with Nicole helped set us up for success right from the start.”

After their accountant retired, Peter May Ltd were referred to Josh Wilson of Sidekick Cloud. Josh is a Chartered Accountant, WorkflowMax implementation partner, Xero platinum partner and certified Shopify partner. He visits Toni every month to answer accounting and software questions and helps her use the apps even more productively. 

“I think the role of the accountant has had a huge shift,” says Toni. “In the old days, we went to our accountant once a year. He told us how much tax we had to pay and then we’d go away for another year’s work. But this was the wrong way to look at it. You can’t do anything based on what happened a year ago, right? You need information in real time.”

Today, Toni wants advisors who can discuss tax issues and so much more. She wants tips for running the business, and understanding how things are tracking and if they’re charging enough. She says, “Small businesses need app advisors who can recommend the right apps, get things set up and integrated with each other, and then advise on what the data is telling us.” 

Someone like Josh has the right skills and expertise to integrate new apps and train Toni on how to use them, then look at the reports these apps produce to let her know about any weaknesses within the business. Toni says, “I’m not going to give Josh up in a hurry – he offers real value. I have to pay for it but it’s well and truly worth it.” 

Seeing the big picture with WorkflowMax

So how has WorkflowMax helped Toni close the job management abyss? She explains, “It’s had a dramatic impact on our business and put us back in the driver’s seat. In the past, you might give an order to a fabric sales rep and only half the order would arrive but there was no paper trail to prove half was missing. Now I have digital proof of when I ordered it, and when it comes in, I can match it to that order. Everything is more visible.”

Keeping an eye on staff efficiency is important and WorkflowMax lets Toni do that automatically. She says, “We have an apprentice who’s allocated one and a half times more time to complete a job than our other tradesman. When he finishes a job, I can share his efficiency with him and because he’s just starting out, we can look into how he can improve his time while still producing a top quality product.” 

WorkflowMax also captures the team’s time and costs as they progress through jobs. They enter their time on the WorkflowMax app as they finish jobs in the workshop. Toni can see their timesheets in real time and invoice from WorkflowMax straight away. Then she can run a job financial summary report and see if they made money on the job. 

She finds WorkflowMax and Xero reports essential – especially for fixed price jobs and explains, “When we charge jobs based on actual time, we capture all costs because we’re charging for everything we do. But when it’s a pre-priced or fixed price job, we can use the financial summary report to compare estimated versus actual costs to see profit or loss.”

As a business owner, Toni relies on these reports. She’ll look at the job financial summary reports weekly and if she sees any negative gross profit margins, she’ll delve into it to find out why and take steps to fix things. 

It’s this instant view and instant knowledge that makes Toni love WorkflowMax. “I enjoy my job and I enjoy seeing that information. I’m quite a detailed person so I like the way WorkflowMax captures all the costs all the time.”

Getting this time back is essential as Toni explains. “I think you’ll find every small business owner works incredibly hard. We work long hours and we’re very passionate about what we do. So we need tools to make life easier and speed things up. And we need real information from our software, and insightful recommendations from our advisors so we can make smart business decisions.”

Join our webinar - 16 September at 11am (NZT)

Join our webinar to learn more about helping your clients move to a cloud job management system. On 9 September at 11am (NZT), we’ll take you through the basics of becoming an app advisor, including:

  • Identifying the clients you want to target
  • Creating your pricing model
  • Profiling clients’ businesses
  • Mapping apps to requirements
  • Working with an implementation partner 
  • Following up with clients and identifying new opportunities

Register now and we look forward to seeing you!

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