February 21, 2014

So here I am again at Xerocon – my fourth Xerocon in 12 months.

I was really looking forward to having that on my lanyard this year!! They used to keep track of how many Xerocon’s you’d been to as a way of skiting about your dedication to the Xero ‘movement’ – a bit of accounting gamification – but they changed the rules this year and I had to concede it was only my second year at Xerocon AKL. Dammit.

Xerocon – it’ supposed to be an accounting conference right – so why the hell was there a half an hour queue this morning? Why were there really cool-looking kids (like under 30’s)  hanging out by the free (thanks ASB) juice and smoothie cart? Why did 900 accountants and bookkeepers make the trek to the Viaduct Events Centre? The fog at Wellington Airport didn’t even stop them! Why is it that almost every second person I walk past is someone I have met before, or follow on Twitter, or think I should know, or want to know. Why is it that they play Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine and Portishead when they announce new speakers? It’s actually a bit… weird.

I think the reason Xerocon is so successful and keeps growing year after year, is that it’s is not just an ‘accounting’ conference, it’s a business conference – for accountants. And for other professions as well actually.

Of course there is content about accounting, the product, upcoming features, the products in the Xero add-on ecosystem, Partner resources etc, but the content that keeps everyone highly engaged is totally big picture, global business focused.

Gerhard Vorster shared disruptive research from Deloitte that was totally fascinating, and so obvious when you take the time to think about it. As our clients grow their in-house capability (or outsource work), consultants/advisors are expanding their offerings into new spaces (to try to maintain or grow market share), however there are specialist services who are offering highly niche expertise that our clients see more value in – so where does that leave us…. ?

He explained how outsourcing is normal everywhere in the world (apart from New Zealand, clearly), that it does allow faster and cheaper labour – which is what the consumer wants, obviously not what we want – but it also opens the opportunity for consultants to become ‘solution engineers’.

We have established that anyone can ‘do the work’, which is why outsourcing is taking off, but who plans and orchestrates ‘the solution’, who manages the moving parts, and who quality controls the ‘final assembly’ before it ships to the client? We do. Or we should if we want to survive. And along the way should also surprise and delight our customers with unexpected insight and unexpected connections, because this will set us apart from our competitors.

You see, this is not an accounting problem – this is a global business problem as local markets look to the global marketplace for labour/product.

And even though I have heard him dozens of times, Xero CEO Rod Drury is a fantastic speaker. He speaks from the heart, he is open and honest, he shares the big Xero strategy picture, what they’re doing that is working in Australia, the US, and the UK, what isn’t, or didn’t, how to grow, what not to do, he asks for questions from the crowd and responds graciously when criticised… and he does it in such a genuine way that you can’t help but feel you’ve been blessed with insight into Big Business that you won’t get anywhere else. I told you it was a bit weird…

If I was to take away one thing from Rod today, it was his challenge to all small businesses – “you should all set a goal to export 30% of your business offshore” – imagine the impact of 460,000 new exporters in the economy! We have already been working with Xero Partners worldwide, but to get to 30% would be amazing!

I have said it before (at Xerocon Sydney), and I will say it again, Xerocon feels like a cult following. Not in a Jo Carroll ‘The Following’-kinda way (I hope!). But Xero has a definite ‘Following’ nonetheless. Especially amongst the self-proclaimed ‘smoking hot’ bookkeeping fraternity – yes that’s you Gayle/Jill/Mel etc, but not exclusively among them.

It is a weird and wonderful phenomenon that the wider business community should pay more attention to – and that we’re excited to be involved with.

And with that I am off to bed. There is another full day of learnings, stats and connections to be had tomorrow.

PS. It’s awesome to see Hawke’s Bay Represent at Xerocon!

Ben Richmond the resident Farming Expert at Xero, Tom and Inga Wallace from Re-leased and Re-view, Phil from Red Jungle, Patrick from IMS Payroll, Michelle and Dawn from Middleburg Accountants, Bronda Smith from Rightway, and our Hawke’s Bay homie Rod, of course!