Adding app advisory to your skill set is a powerful way to boost your own knowledge, service offering and revenue while you help clients work smarter. We recently caught up with a Xero partner who is doing all this for his clients and more!
Meet Scott Elder, the founder of App Advisor, based in Adelaide, Australia. App Advisor’s goal is to help businesses combine systems, processes and people so they thrive. Scott has a deep understanding of the accounting industry and latest software applications.
He believes that building app advisory skills can vastly improve the relationship accountants and bookkeepers have with their clients and result in a win/win for both. In fact, Xero research highlights how small businesses grow net profit 23% faster when they’re working with an advisor and 30% faster when using apps in the cloud.
About eight years ago, Scott and his business partner discovered Xero. It was around the same time they were setting up a bookkeeping company that also provided cloud integration app advisory. When they saw what Xero could do, they decided to build their business around it.
Scott says, “We started with two clients who weren’t using Xero so they were our first conversions. Since then, we’ve converted more than 200 companies to Xero and implemented apps that work well with it.”
When Scott’s company reached Xero silver partner program status, they were offered Xero Practice Manager (XPM) as their practice workflow tool. They soon found out about WorkflowMax as well, and how it was built on the same back end as XPM but to help small businesses manage jobs and projects. “We liked XPM for ourselves and I knew it would make sense to learn and recommend WorkflowMax to the right clients too,” says Scott.
Scott did the WorkflowMax online advisor course which included videos, tutorials and a face-to-face meeting to get up to speed. And he got a lot of support from the WorkflowMax team whenever he had a question.
He thinks WorkflowMax is a great match for professional services businesses. “WorkflowMax offers very good value for money. It does what it says on the box, it’s easy to use and integrates well with Xero. Compared to other systems, it’s got just the right level of functionality for service businesses that make their money from time,” says Scott.
Huge benefits for everyone when apps work together
It’s not just small business owners who benefit from combining Xero with WorkflowMax and other integrated apps. Accountants and bookkeepers can see deeper into a business to understand what’s really happening and offer informed advice, based on real-time data.
Scott says, “You can analyse jobs in WorkflowMax while they’re in progress. And WorkflowMax lets you see the value of past work and what’s in the pipeline so you can help clients set benchmarks and forecasts. WorkflowMax can also be configured to work with systems like Power BI for in-depth business intelligence reporting, plus a range of other apps. These insights are great for an accountant or bookkeeper to know and deliver to a business owner who’s too busy to find and interpret it.”
App advisory in action
Scott has recently implemented WorkflowMax for Sonnex, an engineering, steel fabrication and profile cutting company that’s based in South Australia.
He says, “Working with Sonnex is a great example of how an accountant or bookkeeper with app advisory skills can really save a client time and improve business processes. Matthew Worrell from Worrell & Co is the accountant for Sonnex. Matthew identified that the Sonnex team could benefit from a job management system to help the business get a better picture of job profitability. Matthew introduced me to the management team at Sonnex because he believed WorkflowMax would suit Sonnex well. I demonstrated WorkflowMax and then implemented the software for them.”
The Sonnex team can now see job-by-job how their estimating compares to actuals and analyse profitability at a micro level. They can track each job as it progresses through their facility and update clients in near real time.
Sonnex staff now enter time on their phones – a big change from when they used to have to record time and then enter it on job sheets as projects made their way through the facility. So double entry of time has been eliminated. And because invoices are seamlessly pushed into Xero, there are no time delays in invoice production. Many processes have been streamlined so the Sonnex team can concentrate on their projects, not admin.
Management has been happy with the process to get WorkflowMax up and running and they’re pleased with the information they can now see. Matthew has monthly meetings with them to make sure everything’s working as it should. And he’s been talking about introducing Power BI for a better view of financial and operational performance.
Scott’s advice for getting into app advisory
Scott says that if you’re an accountant or bookkeeper who’d like to extend their service offering, you should analyse your interests, your skill set and how much time you and your team have. “You can go as far as you like with app advisory. Understanding and recommending the right apps to your clients is very beneficial on its own. If you enjoy setting up software and training people on how to use it, you can combine advisory with implementation – like we do at App Advisor.”
Here’s an example of how Scott has helped a practice get started: “I’m working with a three-partner firm and asked the head of bookkeeping to go into Xero HQ and tag clients with the industries they’re in. She discovered that out of more than 400 clients, they’ve got about 40 in construction, 45 in professional services, a number in agriculture, wine and so on.
“With those key industries in mind, she can go to the Xero app marketplace and see which apps would be best-suited to those industries. Then she can spend some time learning about them. To be able to suggest to a client that there’s software that can provide a better solution than spreadsheets and whiteboards is a great beginning.”
Scott suggests that you check if apps that you’re likely to recommend have an advisor program. “WorkflowMax has an online advisor course that’s open to Xero partners. It teaches you about the types of clients best suited to the software and how to identify them, and includes useful tools that help you scope and evaluate to make sure you are really recommending a match fit solution. There’s also in-depth reporting training so you can provide your clients with detailed insights. When you’ve completed the course, you get a free demo account to show to clients, partner points, and a partner discount if you own the subscription,” he says.
“You can also talk to app companies about becoming a full implementation partner if that’s where your interests lie – that’s what I did with WorkflowMax, Practice Ignition, Receipt Bank and the other apps we now set up for clients. They gave me the training so I could offer implementation, training and ongoing support.”
He explains another avenue as well. “If you want to stick with advisory, you can collaborate with an implementation partner so you recommend an app and then your partner implements it. It’s a good joint venture relationship that gives clients the confidence that everyone is doing what they do best,” concludes Scott.