Xerocon: Be Real. Take Care of Yourself. Get Engaged.
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
The first week of September, I attended my third Xerocon (2019 Brisbane), which is often called the "Coachella for the accounting world". When you walk in there is a huge tower and a DJ playing from 8 am and bright colours everywhere. There are no suits. There was a barbershop, nail salon, skateboard half-pipe, table tennis, bikes to blend your own smoothies, wellness centre and a lolly/doughnut bar. Accounting software conference?
So what’s the point of all these un-conference like activities? Xero is not your typical accounting platform. I believe Xero wants the accounting industry to understand that we need to look after ourselves, our staff, and find our tribe to be able to have good businesses. The activities offered to promote conversation, collaboration and allow us to let our guard down and have fun. There was more laughter and smiles at Xerocon while "doing business" than I have experienced at any other conferences. The difference is it is not all on stage hype. It is taking care of yourself and having a bit of fun doing it. We can have a chat with the top people in the company. They are present, they are engaged and they actually give a shit. It is refreshingly un-corporate.
Xerocon is all about creating a community of professionals for collaboration. It is also Identifying your WHY. This year did not disappoint and encouraged this interaction. We are at the point where every accounting professional does not have to know everything. We need to know someone who knows what we don’t. I love introducing people to the accountant or bookkeeper who best fits their needs. Or introducing a bookkeeper who specialises in a certain app. I know my strengths and know if I try to be everything to everyone, I will fail. Connecting dots comes back to me in so many amazing ways. Its not all about volume anymore but about choosing what enriches my business to give me the lifestyle I want to have. I am now able to introduce newbies to the industry, to my key contacts, so they can flourish as well.
Was it worth it?
As the founder of Rainforest Bookkeeping and a sole practitioner specialising in trades and micro to small businesses, how can I afford to shell out over $700 to attend each year? This was my third Xerocon and the first year that I really got it. Year one in Melbourne, I went on my own and was totally overwhelmed and exhausted and I did not know anyone. Year two was in Brisbane, my first time there, and I had quite a few meetings and events planned but I actually knew a few people. Year three was the best so far. I knew what to expect, who to set meetings with, where to go before, during and after the events, and when to take time out for myself. The investment in myself to do the research, meet the app partners, meet with the Xero experts and meet industry experts and the investment in my personal well-being is worth whatever the cost of Xerocon.
Yes, we love new features and expansion of current offerings, but this Xerocon was about much more than the software “tweaks”. It was not about the life-changing developments of the past. There are always new app offerings in the eco-system and it is exciting to see innovation. It is also interesting which apps have disappeared into obscurity. With 800+ apps it is going to happen - develop or die.
I heard a few Accountants and Bookkeepers comment that they were disappointed that there were no big announcements. What did they expect?
Did they expect to sit in rooms and get high-level training on all the features of Xero?
Did they expect to learn the apps inside and out?
Did they expect Xero to have as many new developments as in previous years?
We were able to hear panels of our peers and the real users of Xero. We were able to see how our peers are working in the Xero Ecosystem to make their businesses work better. When you want to learn and deep dive into topics, software and compliance, find the events promoted by your industry associations and government departments. Attend basic or masterclasses offered by the app partners. Participate in webinars to expand your knowledge. Attend Xero Refresh and Roadshows. There is so much to learn and we all have different focuses. For Xero to try to offer what every person wants it a huge ask.
The speakers were human and raw with their stories. I went to the conference feeling underwhelmed with the lineup but left feeling enriched for having listened. We heard real, raw and uncensored stories about real lives. Yes, some stories were unsettling, but all resonated with the audience. I honestly believe you get out what you put in. I feel like a better human after attending. I know I am more aware of mental health and human issues that were previously disregarded in the work environment. I applaud the choice to keep the conference environmentally friendly with reusable water bottles, buffet-style food services, and encouraging the app partners to move away from plastic swag. Thousands of dollars were donated to charities and we did not have to pack an extra bag to bring everything home.
What three things did I get out of Xerocon for my practice?
1. Being real and human is acceptable and preferred in our community. It is no longer taboo to talk about mental health and ask for help. Xero, Beyond Blue and the wider business community are taking this very seriously and finding a better way to help us as businesses and ways to guide our clients
2. Some of the features I currently user are getting better. Xero Projects will be linked to quotes to provide a more streamlined system within Xero. I met with the Projects team and made some suggestions and pointed out holes in our current workflows. How nice is it to be able to talk to the team responsible for development? Xero HQ will be able to notify us when an employee's age changes in case their award pay rate needs to be adjusted. Stripe can now be a bank feed on the dashboard. AutoPay can be set on recurring invoices using Stripe.
3. Confidence in Xero and its app ecosystem. When I started Rainforest Bookkeeping, I felt strong and confident with my choice to align 100% with Xero and Receipt Bank. This confidence has not wavered and has grown each year. I'm looking for the app solutions to complement these choices and Xerocon provided access to a few that may fit my client's needs. Having the app partners in sections on the floor, like Payments alley, provided a one-stop-shop to compare the offerings. GoCardless, Stripe and Paypal fill the needs for different client types. My big find this year was XBert. It is very new and in the early stages of release but I can see how XBert will be my additional staff member who checks the minute workings for all of my clients. It will point out those suppliers with incorrect ABN or GST registrations and identify duplicates that are very time-consuming to locate. I left feeling very excited about jumping all-in and all my clients to see how I can provide even better service to my clients.
The events Day 0, the breakfasts and post events each day are essential. I highly recommend the Xero Mastermind Group Cloud Meet-ups to hear from many of the app partners. Do your research and talk to the representatives. How can they remove your pain points? The Cloud Meetup often identifies pain points you didn’t know you had. Having one-on-one conversations over a beer or champagne in a networking and learning space can lead to much better relationships and key contacts for the future. and this is all before you get into the conference. The Precon parties are much more about networking and putting faces to names you see on social media. Look for these events and be sure to let the apps know you are attending Xerocon so you get an invitation to attend.
Xerocon 2020 is in Sydney. I will be attending. I will meet more people who enrich my life and my business. I will find more apps to streamline and simplify. I will have a smile on my face. Will you?