From the interactions I had with fellow Xero Advisors to the great speakers and workshops, it was difficult to come up with a single blog post that summed up all of the awesome things I took away Xerocon Austin. Let’s begin with a recap of all the amazing sessions hosted by Xero for this year’s conference!

Precon – Bookkeeper X

I had the opportunity to attend the maiden voyage of Bookkeeper X: Rise of the Accounting Technologist. In our firm, I am considered the “Techie” in residence. So I was excited to learn from this new workshop moderated by Ryan Watson, Xero Ambassador for the Midwest. As soon as this workshop started, I was immediately engaged. Listening to the suggestions from Ryan and others about how they are integrating technology in their practice, I kept thinking: “These are my people!” 

During the session, Ryan explained that while robots aren’t taking over the roles of accounting professionals, they are changing the way we do our job. As Accounting Technologists, our role is to provide higher value services to our clients by implementing internal efficiencies and improved workflow processes. Not every challenge faced by a client be solved by throwing technology at it. In many cases, the issue is not a technology problem; rather, it’s a process problem. Instead of immediately recommending a bunch of app integrations, study the internal workflows first. As Ryan stated; “Trust the process, not the tech.”

I really hope the Xero brings this session back so the rest of our team can attend. It was a great learning experience and an excellent platform for networking. Most of the contacts I made and cultivated during the conference were from this one workshop. If you have never attended a precon session before, make sure you take advantage of it!

Day 1 – Great Opening Keynote and New Xero Features

Keri Gohman, President of Xero Americas, kicked things off with an energetic keynote address.  In her opening remarks, she mentioned: “Our purpose is to help small business owners be successful… Small businesses impact 2 out of every 3 net new jobs in our economy. And we are incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to support them every day. And the role that you [Practice Managers] play in that role is critical in that.” As she discussed the vital role the Xero Community played, one of the personal stories she shared was of a conversation she had with our founder, Cindy Hovig, at Accountex earlier this year. Check out this video clip to see more. Rod Drury provided an insightful discussion on the Future of Accounting, while Anna Curzon demonstrated how the new Xero HQ Platform can help Advisors to build more meaningful relationships with clients. 

Of course, no Xerocon would be complete without a rollout of new features! This year was no exception: In fact, Xero had so many new feature announcements that they had to split them across both days! Here is the list of some of them, but you can see a more extensive list of Xero feature announcements here.

  • Xero Projects – Xero’s new integrated solution to help SMBs manage job costing through labor and expenses.
  • Xero Expenses – A much-needed update to Xero’s Expense Claim system, providing fully functional expense management with a newly developed mobile app.
  • Partnership with Microsoft MIle IQ – Providing mileage tracking that allows users to automatically track mileage and provide accurate mileage reports.
  • Xero+C – A special integration for Schedule C Businesses that includes a chart of accounts and report templates to help them at tax time.

Greg Kyte once again reprised the role of emcee for Xerocon Austin, and he did not disappoint. If you haven’t had the opportunity, you have to see his rendition of the classic Bonnie Tyler song “I Need a Hero” with his own version: “ I Need a Xero”. I’m glad that the Xero Team recorded this because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe; video recording from me was not going to happen!

Day 2 – #blanketcon

So I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the temperature “situation” in Austin during Xerocon. In the course of a day, Northern Texas experienced an extreme temperature drop, from 75 degrees to 40 for a high! At one point it even snowed! Xero’s venue choice this year was Fair Market, on the east side of Austin. It’s a beautiful indoor-outdoor space that while beautiful and eclectic, does lack insulation. Not to be deterred, the Xero Team rose to the challenge, purchasing EVERY blanket they could find in the city of Austin for the sold-out crowd. After the event, the used blankets were donated to a local charity for the homeless. I have to say that I have never attended a conference where blankets were provided…I kinda like it! Can #blanketcon be an option for future Xero Events?

Cindy and I had an early start the morning of Day 2, attending the Innovation as Inclusion Breakfast. The event was a panel discussion consisting of Traiq Khan (CEO, Global Diversity Marketing), Jina Etienne (Principal Consultant, Etienne Partners) and Carols Lopez (CEO, Latino Tax Professionals Association). Each panelist discussed the importance of practice managers to have open discussions with their team about what it means to be inclusive. Additionally, firms that have or want to attract a diverse clientele should ensure that internally their practice reflects those same values in who they hire.

The rest of the day continued with excellent speakers. Amy Vetter gave an awesome presentation on the difference in being “trusted” and “cherished” as an advisor. She also discussed how accounting advisors need to work hard to avoid “autopilot”. All relationships take work, so good customer service needs to happen by design and not by accident. Hearing Robin Bennecasa’s experience as an adventure racer was a delight, I could have listened to her speak for another hour! Something she said that really resonated with me was: “Commitment starts when the fun stops. Find a way to be your best self on your worst day.” 

Finally, Marcus Lemonis interactive keynote really emphasized the importance of honesty and vulnerability in small business. As he selected volunteers from the audience, his manner of questioning probed deep under the surface. He explained that a willingness to be vulnerable can result in client loyalty that is exponential in value. In closing, he recommended that volunteer work be a mandatory activity for all practices.

As I said from the outset, I really wanted the focus of this to be on the content of the event. In a later blog post, I will discuss what Xerocon 2017 taught me about the Xero Community and how it has changed the way I feel about my career path in the accounting industry. It will also include some of the exploring Cindy and I did within the great city of Austin and some of the great people we met along the way. Stay tuned!