Organized Bookkeeping

Xero Critical Thinking

Every morning I drink my morning coffee while reading twitter.  I get to see the traffic and any important news stories before I fully wake up.  So this morning I was idly reading and saw this tweet from Joe Woodward, an accounting industry expert.

Joe Woodward Tweet

I’ve written several successful books about QuickBooks.  At one point I had considered writing a sister book for Xero Accounting.   For those of you who haven’t heard about it, it is a relatively new online accounting software package.  Ultimately, I decided not to write the book until it offered a robust payroll system.  In 2014 Xero has moved toward that goal, but doesn’t feature every state yet.  When it reaches that maturity level, I thought I would reconsider that issue.

So I was bit bummed when I read Joe Woodward’s tweet.  Xero really does feature some innovative thinking.  So link clicking I went to:

The article featured some Michelle Long quotes.  I’ve seen her present information for Intuit and Xero at the Shelly Robbin’s Accounting Technology Bootcamp.  She is a fantastic presenter and is great at what she does.


M. Long at Seattle Bootcamp



Interested I read on. Oh. She mentioned her popular Successful Linkedin group that I’m an active member in.  It’s a fantastic group and she actively manages it.

“Last year there was a lot of excitement and buzz and people were asking about Xero. I haven’t heard that this year. I have a LinkedIn group with almost 80,000 members and I haven’t seen a question or comment about Xero in months,” she said.”

I can verify that statement.  I visit her Linkedin group at least once a week.  It’s true, the once popular Xero discussions have largely dissappeared from the group.  Xero has it’s own Linkedin groups, so it’s possible the Xero discussions have moved there, of course.

“Long said Xero’s US rival Intuit had asked her to conduct a lot of training on its Quickbooks cloud-based software over the past year.”

True, I had myself been at one of those Xero training sessions.  In addition I had attended a different one in Seattle that featured Xero staff presenting the software.  (The Xero staff were disorganized, but their software was beautiful.)  I’m in the below picture toward the back attending their information session.  Their information seminars are aimed at accountants and bookkeepers.  There had been about 30% more at the beginning of the day, so this picture looks like the attendance was a bit more sparse than it was.

xero meeting

She is further quoted as saying.

“I am seeing hundreds and hundreds of people at all these events and when I did training for Xero last year, one of the events they sent me to, there were three people there.””

Ouch.  Okay, I admit, I’ve given informational speeches when three people or less have showed up.  I bring everyone to the front of the meeting room and we do an informal presentation.  But I expect that, I’m not a nationally known speaker.  I’m more like, well, I give talks at the local city hall from time to time.

But a software company that planning to take over the US cloud software program?  Everyone has got to start somewhere, but three people at a class, does not scale.  Especially one that has received copious funding. (Additional Note:  It also is hinting at a 2015 IPO, as of 07/28/2014)

Xero Tech Crunch

So I was like.  Hmm… maybe should take it off my potential book writing list? And while I was wondering there, I noticed a follow up article.

Rob Drury had decided to comment on Michelle’s quotes at the Xero Annual Meeting.  I haven’t heard him talk, but I imagine him to be a colorful character shooting from the hip.  This is how he dismissed Michelle Long’s opinion.

“Drury described as “ridiculous” a report this morning in which US accountant Michelle Long said she believed Xero had lost momentum in the US. Drury said Long was a “paid Intuit adviser”.”

“paid Intuit adviser”??  Umm… excuse me, Mr. Drury.  I’ve heard her speak for both Xero and Intuit.  And your own presentation linked to your shareholder listed 18,000 subscribers in North America.  (Which could be Canada, US and Mexico.)  pg.8 shows it has less than 1% percent of the North American Market. Wikipedia had this posted:

Xero Market Share

Further down, the newspaper quotes her as follows.

“I have been paid as an independent contractor to do training for both Xero and Intuit. I am not paid to be pro-Intuit. I have always pointed out anything good and anything bad and been totally honest. That is why I have so many followers,” she said.

Michelle Long is a Certified Public Accountant in addition to being an accounting software presenter.  Her reputation is built on providing unbiased advice to bookkeepers, accountants and Certified Public Accountants.  What she said was a fair and accurate assessment of Xero’s present market share in North America.  Whether or not Xero’s market share remains at those levels, is not up to me, Michelle Long or any other accountant.  It’s up to Xero to provide a competitive and stable product that appeals to United States business owners.

Just for comparison here is a quote Wave Accounting.  Note this is from a press release and not audited financial statements.

“With 2 million users on its platform and counting, Wave is signing up tens of thousands of small business customers each month, and currently tracks over $50 billion in small business income and spending.”

Xero may eventually take over the US Saas Accounting market.  However,  I’m disappointed that pointing out the obvious is dismissed by the Xero upper management.  Accountants need to be able to parse and honestly discuss how software works and performs.  Accounting software that does not work or disappears overnight is a disservice to our clients and colleagues.  This is no greater financial boondoggle than for a company to get signed up for inappropriate accounting software.  It winds it’s way through and organization until it strangles the sales process, the bill paying process, and the payroll process.  And this is even before the bank statement is downloaded which is Xero’s specialty.