Aug 11, 2014
Highlights of my conversation with Gayle Buchanan
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Heather: Hello Gayle.
Gayle: Hello Heather.
Heather: Thank you so much Gayle for being on our show this morning. I’m really looking forward to talking to you about your business and what you generally do within the cloud.
From what I understand Gayle, you founded a business called Number Nurses, can you describe what your business does?
Gayle: Sure Heather, pleasure to be here by the way. The business was started very … I didn’t really know what to do so it was kind of neat to go back to what I loved which is numbers, and I’ve always helped my husband in his business. What we do is we actually go and do call outs to people which are virtual so it’s done via Skype and TeamViewer.
It’s very similar to a Plunket nurse who turns up at your door when you had a new baby and you don’t know quite what to expect and you just need some help with your Xero setup and any add-ons for Xero. It’s kind of neat, we’re the Number Nurses basically, and the bridge between the business owner and the accountant which a lot of people … the service seems to be … a lot of people want that type of thing.
It kind of started as a help and now it’s starting to grow into, hopefully in the next 12 months, be licensing it.
Heather: Excellent, so you’re looking at about 12 months’ time to be licensing that.
Will you be licensing Number Nurses in New Zealand or beyond New Zealand?
Gayle: It will be in New Zealand initially. All the great books I’ve read have said, “Hey, make sure you get it done at home first and it works as a model in your own country first before you go overseas.” But there are a few people overseas that want to have a look at the model as well so that’s quite exciting.
Heather: That is very exciting and what I’m seeing with people working in this Xero space is that they seem to expand very quickly, once I think they’ve got all the automation in place, which is something that sort of you’ll be on top of.
You describe yourself as a chief Number Nurse. As a Chief Number Nurse, what does your day involve?
Gayle: I have a virtual assistant which is really great and they help me with the appointments and the training. So, half of the week is spent training which are 45 minute sessions, with a wee break in between, which is kind of neat.
Heather: Within the 45 minutes?
Gayle: Within the 45 minutes … each training is 45 minutes so have a 15 minute break in between each of them just to prep you. So I guess the day kind of starts the day before. That’s all set up a week in advance so I know what I’m doing in advance. It’s really very much training and down time bookkeeping which is my other love because you kind of need to keep that skill up in order to train better.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. I completely agree with that, in that you need to actually be doing it to train it. It always worries me when people train something that they’re actually not doing. As you know I am a writer, when people write about stuff they’re actually not doing, it’s like how can you be writing about it if you don’t do it but anyway.
So yes, I think that’s really important and your clients must really benefit from your knowledge there in that you know it and then you’re training on it.
Gayle: I mean constantly the space is changing. Xero and all the add-ons are updating, so you have to keep on top of absolutely everything. But be human about it because we all can’t be 100% perfect and there are areas and markets that will use different parts of Xero. So don’t be afraid to kind of find your niche and do it well in that part of Xero, and knowing the whole lot all of the time, it is a full time job.
Heather: Absolutely. That jumps ahead to another question that I was going to ask you. I’ll jump ahead and ask you while you’ve raised that. It does take a lot of time to learn a new solution, so if someone was coming to Xero and trying to learn that or they were going into the Xero eco system where we’ve now got about currently 300 add-on solutions, trying to pick up and learn one of those solutions.
What advice would you have for a business consultant going, “Okay, I want to learn something in the Xero eco system,” where should they start?
Gayle: The quickest way I learned I think was I spent nine months bashing about and trying to grab anybody and everybody in any market before stepping back. So it was sort of like I didn’t get my toes wet I just jumped straight in. After that nine months of just working, it’s a bit of a slog, just stop and take a minute and think, “Which industry or which sector do I love the most?” And go there.
I went to the New Zealand Stat’s Department and went through all of the industries that were there, picked out the top five that I liked and then came back and saw what add-ons in Xero were attached to those industries. That knocked another three off, so I actually brought it down to two industries in the end. It did take about six weeks to work out which one that was.
Then having had previous experience with my parent’s businesses, I knew what industries not to go into. It was kind of neat. So pick what you love first, then find the add-on, and then go learn that add-on, be a partner with that add-on as you’re learning Xero as well because it is a learning curve and thinking you know everything about it within sort of a couple of weeks, you’re deadly wrong.
I speak to a lot of accounting firms they train their staff with and said, “Look, until you’ve got that 20,000 transactions under your belt and you’re feeling really confident about the industry you’re in with Xero, then you can start talking about being an expert and until then just do your time.”
Heather: Absolutely, goodness I can completely agree with that as well. A lot of people seem to call themselves an expert in something and you’re like going, “Really, when did you do that? That was extremely quickly.” That’s kind of like I rarely call myself an expert in something even though I spend 100 hours learning it.
I love the fact that you spent six weeks researching that to identifying your niche area and what to actually focus in on. That’s excellent advice for people. You do, there are so many out there. You think this person’s really nice and they keep ringing me up and sending me letters, I should learn that product but standing back and working on what you’re actually going to be the best fit for is going to put you in a better position to give your client’s better advice.
Gayle: That’s half the equation, the other half is applying it, and that’s a whole different story.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll jump back so we’ve covered sort of what your business is doing.
When did you start your business, Number Nurses?
Gayle: Back in 2011 actually, it was the 4th of July interestingly enough.
Heather: Lovely, 4th of July 2011.
So Number Nurses is based in Drury, is that correct?
Heather: I had a look on the map to find it and that’s New Zealand’s north island just south of Auckland. So what’s the internet connection like for you in Drury?
Gayle: Okay, Drury, the whole area is kind of cool. I’m more at the Bombay end so we are right on the top of a hill, 330 meters above sea level. The internet line, we’re the last house on the line, so for about 45 minutes in each day it just stops because all the school kids get home. That’s cool, it’s fine after that but you can run it off a mobile and I’ve bought some broadband machinery that helps you get …
Heather: Like a booster.
Gayle: Yeah, a little wee booster and you can run off that. But to tell you the truth, the only time I’ve gone down is when the power’s gone down and there’s been a storm, so it’s pretty cool.
Heather: It’s something that when we become more reliant on the cloud we need to be aware of, and understanding that time slot that the kids all come home from school and how it affects you, definitely. I know for me, if we get heavy, heavy, heavy rains, about three days later that’s when my internet goes down. So obviously it soaks through.
Gayle: Yes, the water in the lines.
Heather: Yeah, exactly, and sort of being aware of that. For me, I kind of have alternative arrangements which I can sort out.
Gayle: Actually my family is quite happy when that happens because I actually move.
Heather: Oh, you go and visit them do you?
Gayle: Yes, I have time to go visit people.
Heather: And I guess that’s the flexibility of actually working in the cloud. I know that I do a lot of travel and being able to just travel, be somewhere else and actually working in the cloud is sensational. So the fact that your client actually has no idea that you’re not on top of that hill when you’re giving him that training, and they don’t know about that.
Gayle: It’s great. When I’m training I just go right through that and get them all hooked up and then talk about it later. They’re like, “Oh, where are you by the way?” It usually happens when there’s a chicken that walks straight past my dog in the background and they go, “There’s a chicken standing behind you. Where do you live?” It’s kind of cool. I quite like that.
Heather: It is sensational that you can live wherever you want and develop a niche/expertise and then provide that knowledge kind of worldwide. It’s sensational. You do work with a number of solutions in the Xero add-on ecosystem and I see from your profile you are partner with a few of them.
What I’d appreciate is if you could share with your listeners what these solutions do. If we can start with WorkflowMax, if that’s okay? If you can let listeners know what that product does.
Gayle: Cool, WorkflowMax in my niche for builders or some creatives is that it does force them to process, and it’s the part I love about it. If you go into a business right now who are working on pen and paper or they’re working on Excel spreadsheets or tiny bits of software, WorkflowMax can pull together the operational part of your business which is really the meat in the middle, and brings all the staff in, all your tasks and chores and all your milestones, and sets it all there really simply for people to track and work through.
That particular add-on is great because you can have the job and the tasks listed and it doesn’t matter if anyone’s sick. If your employees are sick or if you’re sick, you can actually hand the job over and everything is there as a checklist. So operationally very, very good and easy, forces you to processes which a lot of businesses I come across don’t do that at all, so it’s great.
Heather: And putting in the automation of the forced process actually, again, allows them to grow their business because they’ve got a basis to grow it from.
Gayle: Absolutely. Yeah, it then becomes a nice wee asset for them too, so that’s great.
Heather: Sensational, that’s very interesting.
WorkflowMax, you’re using it for builders and creatives, a lot of accountant’s use it is that correct?
Gayle: Yes, they do. Same thing, it’s fabulous. In New Zealand, it attaches to the tax department which is great. You can do your GST returns through there as well and it automates straight into Xero too which is brilliant and work papers of course which the accountants need.
Heather: Sensational, okay. Thank you very much for that.
Another program that you’re a partner with is Job Sheet? Can you share with our listeners what Job Sheet does?
Gayle: Job Sheet is actually moving into a mobile app which is great. It’s putting a job card for tradies onto a piece of software that they can carry around on their phone or on their iPad which is great. Again, it also helps with process, so if you’ve got a job card that you’d give to an employee or to yourself with addresses, delivery addressers, who you bill to, all the parts; it connects to local suppliers like the likes of electrical suppliers or plumbing suppliers.
It can actually do a quote on the run which is excellent for the smaller tradies or going up to about five employees. They can do their invoicing in the driveway as they leave which means they can actually go home and they don’t take their paperwork home which I find a lot of them to keep them balanced is, “Hey, stop in the driveway, finish the job off and then don’t take anything home.” I said, “Your wife will love you for it.” I guess marriage counselling comes a little bit into our software as well which is cool.
Heather: People have told me that after having something installed that they were actually on the verge of divorce and the installation has removed that layer of frustration for them. I completely hear you there as well. That’s an interesting thing.
And building that, here it is, quote; don’t leave the property before you leave the property really brings in. You raised a really good point there in terms of when we go into a business and say, “Have a look at these cloud solutions,” in reality most people are bringing their own device to work. Most people have some sort of mobile phone whether it be an iPhone or a Galaxy or something like that. So it’s very easy to overlay and just say, “Here’s a solution, upload it into your phone and use it.”
And for the business owner, the infrastructure is not particularly expensive because most of them already have that.
Gayle: Yes, it’s something that doesn’t sort of go far from their pocket which is kind of handy.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely.
So another solution that you deal with is Receipt Bank. Can you share with our listeners what Receipt Bank does?
Gayle: Okay, Receipt Bank would be my all-time favourite to date. Every business can use it and I think what happens is … because my husband is real estate agent and then I’ve got my brother is an eel fisherman and neither one of them … I keep my receipts all squashed up. They have the ability, like everyone’s got a phone, is to take a photograph of the receipt and it goes straight to Receipt Bank where I can code it automatically and then it comes straight down into Xero with the receipt attached both up there in the cloud with both of them: one copy’s in Receipt Bank and the other copy comes down into Xero. So you’ve got two places for that which is great back up.
Then it’s already processed so I don’t have to punch it, scan the receipt and get their books done for them each month. Every client I come across that has a shoebox, I will get them to buy Receipt Bank and have that as part of their suite of software. It just saves so much time. It’s a no brainer, everyone gets it. It’s like, “Nope, you’re having it.”
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So in terms of selling it to the client, you just tell them that they’re getting it? I’ve found it difficult to push it to encourage clients to use it. Even though I think it’s a really good solution, I’ve found it really hard to sell it to clients.
How do you go through that process of saying you’ve got to use it?
Gayle: Yeah, it comes as … it’s part of the package. The reason being is the first thing everyone sees is oh, I quite like the idea of my receipts coming off the Eftpos machine, they actually fade over time. I say, “Look, as an obligation, this is part of the obligations of being a director of the company in this country is that you must keep these receipts.” I say, “If you can take a flick and get a photo up there and we’ve got two copies in two places,” and unfortunately last year the tax department here agreed to hold documents outside of New Zealand so that was fantastic, that takes away that resistance to come in and have it held in the cloud which is cool.
So for them I say, “Look, this is what you’re going to be doing,” and I walk it through them and get them to … I will load it on their phone for them or get someone close to them to do it for them which is normally the case. Then once I’ve done it, I show them the difference and how long it takes, with them on Skype next to me, how long it takes for me to do it for them and how long it would take if they would just take one photo.
Then straightaway they look at it from now it’s an hourly rate, not the fact that it’s only $20 a month.
Heather: Absolutely. No, definitely.
Gayle: So I just say for $20 a month you can do this or you can have me for $150, which would you prefer?
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. That’s great. For someone going back and investigating what’s happened into the business, it’s so much easier just to have that receipt attached to the transaction so you can go and refer back to it rather than the time involved in searching through paperwork. Even if they have been properly filed, it is just a no brainer.
Gayle: Yes, it can be a nightmare.
Heather: Absolutely, so we encourage everyone to sign up to a solution like Receipt Bank. You said something that I’ve never heard before. I didn’t know you had such a thing as an eel fisherman.
Gayle: Yes, there is. There are many of them.
Gayle: Yeah, they are. They’re doing some investigations at the moment with a lake nearby that’s starting to turn red. It looks like a rusty colour so the eels in there are obviously starving of food. Yeah, and I mean we export, New Zealand exports around the world.
Gayle: Mmm, smoked eels , yum-o.
Heather: So is it a full time job?
Gayle: It is and it has been for him for nearly 40 years now.
Heather: Oh my goodness, well there you go. He’s a legend. An eel fisherman using Xero.
Gayle: An eel fisherman, yes, and Receipt Bank.
Heather: I frequently watch this very late show that appears on TV here in Australia and it’s really late at night. It’s shot in New Zealand and it’s your New Zealand Police Department and the New Zealand police are catching people who are going and getting something out of the water. I think it’s like a shell, a paua shell or something like that.
Heather: And they’re only allowed so many kilos but then they go in and wrap it around their engines so they can sneak it.
Gayle: I know.
Heather: It’s just like the craziest thing.
Gayle: They’re naughty. They’re just naughty.
Heather: But again, I’ve never eaten one of those either.
Gayle: Well they are lovely, especially if they’re cooked properly. You just need to make sure they get cooked properly.
Heather: Oh, do you? Okay, well, promoting eels and pap … how do we say it?
Heather: Paua, eels and paua, very good. New Zealand delicacies.
Now, on the side as well as running your business, one of the things I first discovered you on is that you actively facilitate a group on LinkedIn and the group’s name is Xero Bookkeepers (International).
You actively facilitate the LinkedIn group called Xero Bookkeepers (International), what does this bring to you? How does this fit in with your business?
Gayle: In that first year or two, part of the social media part to grow not only my name and then start growing the company name, is that I have been taught that it’s always grow your name first and then start growing your company. So part of that was LinkedIn is what I consider the professional group for the social media marketing.
I went, “Right, I’m going to start this group and what I’m going to do is start helping other bookkeepers that are coming in on board on Xero and let’s start sharing ideas and let’s just start bringing all the bookkeepers together.” Because it can be kind of a lonely place and getting up and going in and networking sometimes we sort of get to put your head down and get immersed inside all the numbers.
I thought if we start this group it means that we can collectively get together around the world and I’m sure bookkeeping is the same everywhere. So I started invite … I just invited absolutely everybody that had Xero next to their name in LinkedIn or anyone that I ever met and brought them all together. What it did was it just helped me feel not so alone as I was building my business.
I thought hold on a minute, everyone else has got to be feeling the same way I am. I wanted to give as much as I could because it had taken me nine months to just get started. I thought well if I could help people get past that nine months really quickly and help them just get to where they wanted to go, it’s just good karma. I like it. I like to give them …
Heather: Absolutely. I think that’s the place probably I first discovered you, so if you are listening to this podcast and are interested in learning more about the Xero ecosystem and you’re working as a bookkeeper or sort of the numbers assistant in the business, go and have a look on LinkedIn for the Xero Bookkeepers (International) Group. I find it an excellent resource to actually go and ask perhaps an in depth question and get some resources back.
I know like … Gayle, you know that I go in there and ask a few questions when … it is isolating. You know how to generally do something but then you find something that you’re pondering over and perhaps to my discredit some of the things I sometimes work on are a few things that are bespoke in that it’s like the first time I’ve come across them. It’s like how do I resolve this? How do I get through this? I work as a freelance so there’s no one in the office to … around the water cooler to discuss that with.
You kind of want to be private about it but you still want to have some good resources out there, so I really benefit, I really find working in that group, all going in and discussing in that group beneficial. As you said, I think it’s also really important to really give back to the group and to answer other people’s questions. I never really understand people who don’t go in and say, “I know the answer, call me.”
Gayle: Yes, I know. I’ve gone through it a couple of times and tried to weed out some people that aren’t contributing or sitting there and they come around personally and say, “Please, please can I stay? I just haven’t brought myself to say anything.” What I’ve found and learned about bookkeepers since I’ve been working as one is that they’re very shy. They’re incredibly shy and ...
Heather: Voyeuristic maybe.
Gayle: Amazingly talented woman and then when you give them this platform they just come alive. That’s what I like about that group. Now, there are a heap of Xero staff in there and a lot of accountants. It was all about, “Look guys, we’re the bookkeeping, you’re the accountant, we’re here to bridge the gap and help each other. This isn’t a war. That’s what we’re here for. These are our roles. Some of us cross the line and others don’t but that’s okay. We understand that but come out and just help each other.”
We can’t take on … for me it was all about I can’t take on the world and help every business but I can help someone else help 100.
Gayle: So there are about 800 of us in there now, so you know I’m hoping that group is helping at least 8,000 businesses grow. That’s kind of neat.
Heather: I always think it’s about helping the small business owner and if you can help the small business owner, that feeds on into their lifestyle, into their children being able to go to ballet class, into the freedom and flexibility to go down to the beach on a Monday when they want to go down rather than have to kind of stick to the 9-5 grind perhaps. That’s what I like to be able to do.
So, essentially, if we can do that and give them that freedom through assisting them in that way, we’re sort of moving the whole world forward.
Gayle: Aren’t we, yes.
So what activities do you do Gayle to grow your business?
Gayle: Mine is very much referral based. My growth is ensuring I go to Xerocon each year in Australia and in New Zealand, and then also attend the Accountant’s Republic workshops and there Republic Day which is they mentor accounting firms and ultimately … really accountants are my clients and their clients are who I train and help.
Because my niche was to niche down and help accountants because they have got … most of them have got a couple hundred clients each. I did try for nine months to try and talk to those couple hundred clients but I found that they were all in different niches and I couldn’t get them to see the niches I wanted to work with which was very much that creative and the construction site, which include the tradies inside of it. So I found the accountants that had the tradies and went along and helped them.
Heather: Ah okay.
So you go through the accountants, do you go and like do training at the accounting firms or do you just … they just facilitate that?
Gayle: It’s all virtual.
Heather: I should know that, sorry.
Gayle: It’s okay. But sometimes, some people want you to hold their hand, so if I’ve got accountants down the South Island and they’ve got … and I train all of the South Island clients obviously.
Gayle: If I can get to them in the North Island when they need a hand hold, I’ll go and do that. That’s okay but they just have to understand that time does get cut down for the services we offer. Sometimes it can work out really well to move some of them forward because … I mean they’ve even got clients who want to bring their accountants to the training. I mean we haven’t heard that before? I mean that’s very cool.
Heather: No, that is very cool. It is an interesting evolution in that there’s a solution out there and we see a lot of business owners pushing to move to Xero. However, their accountant still hasn’t heard about it or they’re actually bringing the accountant along for the ride. So you’re getting this accountant ringing up saying, “What do I do now?”
And saying that, rather than worry listeners out there, I have accountants who had never used Xero before and I said, “Look, I will come in and do whatever training you need so you know it.” But they picked it up and they said … picked it up really quickly. “I could see exactly what I was supposed to do and I worked through it that way so that was fine.” They didn’t feel that was … but then I’ll get other accountants who want to learn more but on a high level they’ve found it very easy to pick up. I guess that’s a good thing to know.
Now you mentioned Accountant’s Republic. What’s Accountant’s Republic?
Gayle: Accountant’s Republic is run by and owned by a woman called Viv Brownrigg. She grew her accounting firm up to over a million dollars and a global company called CCH actually bought it for its processes and systems and the library that she’d built. Now she’s a mentor to accounting firms in New Zealand and Australia.
Each year there is like a Republic Day and I work closely with them because we both agree that our ultimate is to get bookkeeping out of accounting firms. I’m like going, “I’m here with all the bookkeepers. I’ll take all the bookkeeping.” It’s kind of neat.
Sorry, aside thing, just going to a side issue for the moment is that because we’ve now got this national list of bookkeepers in New Zealand through the Bookkeeper’s Association and the group, LinkedIn group, it means that any leads coming in from her accountants through the country that I can’t get to, I can pass on to like a Bookkeepers. So being a part of that group has helped that network and we all share leads as such that we can’t get to.
That’s what I promote is if you can’t get to them someone else can so pass it on, and that’s what Viv does. We are out there helping … I’m out there helping those accountants with the bookkeeping side and the Xero side. She’s out there actively promoting the fact that you shouldn’t be doing bookkeeping, you’re an advisor, go off and do that. It’s way too expensive for you to be training people on Xero and Receipt Bank, and any of the add-ons. It’s not your core business. Move us … outsource it and use Number Nurses. So it’s been great. We’ve worked together on that quite solidly for a couple of years now. It’s working really well.
Heather: That’s really interesting. It’s really useful to make those relationships with people that you … sort of those trusted relationships with people and grow and evolve in a sort of a complementary fashion. That sounds really interesting.
So does she hold session days in New Zealand or days in New Zealand and Australia?
Gayle: Day in New Zealand and is moving … has a rather large library of workshops now which is great.
Heather: Fantastic. Excellent, I’ll put that in the show notes for listeners, a link to Accountant’s Republic. Thank you for that.
Now Xerocon is … just for people who don’t know, Xerocon is the main country’s Xero conference that’s held … I think currently it’s held … there’s one in New Zealand, one in Australia, one in England and one in San Francisco or sorry, I should say America. I’m not sure if they’re held anywhere else but I know our Australian one’s coming up, is it September Gayle?
Heather: August, okay sorry. So the Australian one is coming up in August and I think the New Zealand one is in February, is that correct?
Heather: Okay, so if people are interested, again, I’ll put those in the show notes.
Now you say that you grow your business and your customer base from attending Xerocons, so how does that work?
Gayle: Those are the accountants that I’ve met virtually. I’ll meet them, they’ll come up to Xerocon, I’ll actually encourage them to come up because of the atmosphere that the conference provides, you know, you’ve got between 800 and 1,000 people in a room over a couple of days. It’s awesome for them and their staff to come up.
As they come up, I’m sort of the link between the bookkeepers there to here and introduce them to those bookkeepers and those accountants. When the accountants can actually see that there’s a bookkeeper actively promoting relationships between the firms nationally, it’s trust, you know, you build your trust there.
The referrals will come a lot thicker that way than they will doing it any other way. I mean you’ve got a captive audience within a room and from day one I’ve always sat in the front row because I’m a bit of a geek because I don’t like anyone standing in front of me and blocking my view because I need to see everything. I’m so excited.
It’s been great for the last few Xerocons, encouraging all the other bookkeepers to come up and sit at the front. We’re sort of the rowdy guys in the front row which is kind of cool.
Heather: And Xerocon, for people who are considering attending, it’s a huge amount of information but it’s a really positive … it’s just a positive fun atmosphere. It’s kind of like Disneyland for bookkeepers and accountants. It’s just so much fun to go there and meet so many people. So much of what we do is virtual, to actually touch base and actually meet people there and have the opportunity to have some longer in depth conversation with them is sensational.
One of the things that really impressed me when I met you Gayle is you had a little nurse’s cap on.
Gayle: Yes, it is a chance to market yourself.
Heather: Branding, sensational branding.
Gayle: There’s a lot of accountants that still turn up in suits so we try to encourage them to bring weird branded t-shirts have some fun while you’re there.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely.
Gayle: You can see who’s been there two or three times. They’re the ones having the most fun I think.
Heather: Yeah, and one thing that really surprised me about Xerocon is whenever you go to conference they typically give you something. So Xerocon on the first day gave us t-shirts. I thought t-shirts, people are going to wear t-shirts so people are going to have to wear t-shirts. I remember getting up the next morning and I thought well it’s a nice t-shirt, what can I wear? So I put the t-shirt on and I’m not the kind of girl who’s actually built for a t-shirt but I put it on and it looked okay, it was actually a really nice quality, nice material t-shirt, and I put it on and I thought oh my, what if I’m the only person wearing a t-shirt.
I got down there and everyone had their Xerocon t-shirt on and I was so happy. Yeah, it was very cool. I thought am I going to cope with this, am I going to cope with this? Everyone is going to see me wearing a t-shirt but no it was very exciting. I know that everyone I spoke to who it was their first one, so I’ve been to a few now, was just blown away by how exciting it was.
I talk about a conference dance card, in that as well as being casual about attending the conference you really have to be structured and say, “Contact people beforehand. Either encourage them to go or say, “Hi I know you’re going. I really would like to spend some time talking with you. Can we do that?”” I know, for instance, I wanted to spend some time with you Gayle, so we actually walked to the conference … from the hotel room to the conference. Doing those things with people like jumping into a taxi with people, going to the evening events, actually don’t sit there and talk about sport, get out what you need to because this is your opportunity. So really work that conference hard.
Gayle: Yes, I mean it is very open to all of that. I just like the way that it all opens up with Rod Drury standing up in his jeans and his t-shirts and his sneakers, you know? That’s what it’s like and if anyone starts getting too corporate here, you’re fired, you know. It’s just so cool and I love that line.
Heather: Absolutely. What is very exciting, like you brought up Rod Drury who’s the CEO at Xero, is that he and so many other staff are available to talk to you. I know that I’ve been to accounting conferences of other providers in the past and trying to speak to anyone of a senior level, I was banging my head against a wall. As a writer I need to speak to … maybe not everyone needs to speak to people in that level but I need to speak to them to understand timelines, what’s coming out and what direction they’re going into. I’ve just found everyone so available and just sitting there talking to you.
I know that, for instance, there was a little coffee area and Rod Drury just like sat in the coffee are and just like, “Come and talk to me if you need to talk to me.” As well as running around and doing everything that he was doing, it was like so accessible which I was really impressed about.
Yeah, so that’s another good reason to come to the conference this year. You can actually touch base with so many of the staff members of Xero if you need to.
Gayle: And they’re all very real. Everyone is very real that you meet and it’s lovely. I have not come across anybody that I’ve gone and thought you were absolutely nothing like I thought you would be, you know, so it’s really neat.
Heather: Yes, I just had a funny situation in that I’ve had a virtual relationship with a gentleman I’ve done business with for about a decade. I always kind of had this impression that he was perhaps sort of a geeky, just a spotty, geeky, sitting on his backside doing spotty geeky things. He uploaded a photo of himself and he looks like Ryan Gosling.
Gayle: Oh my gawd.
Heather: I was like, “Oh wow.”
Heather: Yeah, so it is funny that when you actually do meet someone in real life it’s very exciting.
Gayle: The other thing too is I always say to everyone, “Try and keep your LinkedIn photos as current as possible please.”
Heather: Oh absolutely.
Gayle: “So when we go to Xerocon, at least we can see what you look like.”
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. People come up and they launch into this conversation with you and you’re like, “Who are you? Who are you? Remind me who you are.”
Gayle: You’re smiling trying to look at their nametag. You don’t want to be rude or anything. It’s like “Oh okay, you had black hair in your photo and you’ve got red hair now.”
Heather: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Update your LinkedIn photo, very important.
What advice do you have for our listeners?
Gayle: I’ve got a couple of things here.
Heather: Okay, what would you like to share with our listeners Gayle?
Gayle: Okay the biggest thing I found is just remember it’s okay if people don’t like you. That’s one of the … it does break your heart when you’re with a client and they just don’t like you.
Gayle: So just understand that they won’t and I went to a course, a Skillpath course once and the lady stood up and spoke about project managers. She said, “Just remember us. For every 60% of the people that you are going to meet in your lifetime won’t like you.”
So if you work along those odds, it’s great, because you just keep going and saying, “Hello, hello, hello,” and it doesn’t matter. Six out of ten are not going to like you but it’s not because of you. So just remember that. That’s okay. Look for the 40% because they’re the cream that you want anyway.
Heather: And pass them on to someone. Just like if it doesn’t work just say, “Look, this isn’t working. We’re not communicating well for some reason. Would you like me to find someone else to work with you?”
Heather: Or just say, “Look, I think you need to maybe go have a talk with ...” I know that I have a network of people around myself who I will just pass clients on to. It’s simply boundaries, you know, they might not like the way you speak, whatever. So I completely agree with you there.
Gayle: Yeah, just find someone for them. Then always be transparent and honest. It’s easy to repeat the truth.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely.
Gayle: I mean especially in the industry we’re in now. It’s very global. If you drop in … like I’m very active on the Xero blog or in any of the groups and just out there helping as many people as I possibly can. I’m really consistent because I’m just honest and transparent.
That is the part that a lot of people are going to gravitate to as well is that 40% that you want, they’re going to come and ask you. It isn’t rocket science but I find a lot of people aren’t kind of doing that. So when you start doing that then all of a sudden things just start happening for you.
Gayle: Yeah, and then always make … I’ve always said to myself, “Make sure you make as many mistakes as you possibly can and laugh at yourself like you wouldn’t believe.”
Gayle: Then get a group … what we’ve got is a group of chicks together we call the #smokinghotbookkeepers, and we just have fun. It’s okay that we’ve made a mistake. It’s great because they all come together and they say, “Oh, I’ve only done that four times this year. Oh no, I’ve done that six times this year,” and it’s good because I’ve only just done that once you know.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely.
Gayle: Laugh. It certainly helps you physically as well as mentality.
Heather: Yeah, and get that strong network around you. You did mention one thing there that I’d just like to just explore a little bit. You make yourself transparent, you’re active on social media, you actively facilitate the LinkedIn group. One of the things I’ve found with having a profile as a writer is that sometimes when people see you doing all of this they think that they can then directly come to you and seek free extended consultation with you.
Heather: You hear me?
Heather: So I probably never have a problem answering someone on social media about a question but when they do come … from my perspective when they do come to you for extended consultation, you’re moving into consultation, you’re moving into an area that I need to be insured for. Sort of you’re moving into an investment that you need to consider. People need to protect themselves from ... I think it’s really good to give out free and transparent advice and comment on LinkedIn areas and on social media but that’s sort of one of the … you have to have some sort of … do you agree that you have to have some sort of boundary there?
Gayle: I do and I learned that the hard way too. That was one of my blood noses. When I couldn’t get my workload out because I was giving away way too much time to other people and helping them, I then came across another add-on from Xero called Timely and it’s fantastic. It’s an appointment add-on which I use now. What I found is I spoke to a couple of friends in Australia and the States that were going through the same kind of thing and I says, “Look, it’s easy enough to say I’m really sorry. If we’re going to get into this, you do understand that I’m going to have to charge for this consultation.”
I had a lot of accountants giving me these lines and stuff and they didn’t resonate with me, so I just went, “Hold on a minute.” I got into Timely and it was great because I book all of my training sessions through that. Then I found this wee button and you can put the button on your email address and if anyone emailed you I just email back and said, “Hi, just book me below, click the button.”
Gayle: When they click the button, they’ve got to choose how much time they’re going to have me and how much it’s going to cost them. You know what? No one even came back. I had one person and it worked a treat because I let them down … they knew straight away and that’s the power of software. Love it.
Heather: Yeah, automation software. That’s fantastic. So that’s another Xero add-on called Timely that people can have a look at and that you can actually incorporate into your email. That’s another sensational, fabulous suggestion there from you Gayle.
Thank you very much for agreeing to be on the show here with me Gayle. I’ve just got one more question for you before you leave.
What advice do you have for you 17 year old self?
Gayle: My 17 year old self. Never be afraid to be you.
Heather: Cool, very good advice there Gayle. Thank you so much for giving up your morning and sharing so many useful tips and hints with everyone. I really appreciate it Gayle.
Gayle: A pleasure Heather, it’s lovely to spend time with you.
Heather: Thank you.
Gayle: You’re welcome.
· Contact Heather Smith