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Engine Room Blog

XERO Add-on: Thank you payroll

Monday, July 21, 2014 Margaret Holmes

A weekly blog on the add-ons we have come to know and love.

Payroll is increasingly one of the most complicated bits of being a business owner.  In recent years there have been changes to the holidays legislation around things like the calculation of holdiay pay rates and bereavement leave entitlements, not mention parental leave, and casual versus permanent employees.  Then there is Kiwisaver, student loan repayments, child support deductions and the list goes on.

For small employers mastering all this is often one job to many!  We sent our Implementation team  to check out the options for cost effective management of payroll.

Thank you Payroll Logo

Thankyou Payroll is new provider on the local scene, having been around for about 12 months.  With a social responsibility bent they bring a different option to the market.

They give you a platform to work to enter time-sheets, calculate and keep track of holiday balances and calculate all of the deductions.

As an IRD approved payroll intermediary, they will also pay your employees direct, email them their payslips, pay the IRD and file the relevant forms. And all of this for FREE ! (using their 2 day plan) If you are in a hurry, their overnight plan is only 75c per payee per pay day.

How?! I hear you asking.

The Inland Revenue provide a subsidy to “Payroll Intermediaries”, like Thankyou Payroll, for employers who pay less than $500,000 in PAYE each year. The subsidy is to encourage small employers to outsource their payroll services so they can focus their efforts on growing their business. It also  ensures your returns are filed on time and PAYE payments made when due.  Currently the subsidy is $2 per employee per pay.

This company from Dunedin has already had huge growth and it doesn't look like it will slow down. Their solution is simple yet effective, you won’t get confused with millions of options but it still feels like a robust system.

 If you don’t have too many employees and cash flow will allow you to pay the PAYE taxes together with the wages, then there is no reason not to start using a payroll solution like Thankyou Payroll.

And because of that social responsibility thing each time you use their service they will even donate 25c per person per pay (up to $5) to charity.

You can check them out here: https://www.thankyoupayroll.co.nz/index.html


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XERO Add-on: Fergus

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 Margaret Holmes

A weekly blog on the add-ons we have come to know and love.

With so many add-ons emerging under xero’s wings it can get a little confusing to figure out which one works for your business (now that you’re on Xero of course). This is where Engine Room steps in, over the next couple of months we will be going through our favourite add-ons that we not only use for our own productivity but also for many of our clients. Our dedicated implementation team know all the ins and outs of many of the add-ons, they’ll spend time on the research so you don’t have to.

Fergus is the new kid (or puppy) on the block, relatively fresh faced and bringing innovative ideas and a new approach to, what has become, a crowded job management solution market. You could be easily bamboozled when deciding which job management solution would work for your business as they all seem to offer the same functionality. Here we will list some of the great features of Fergus that make it stand out from the crowd.

Project based jobs

Fergus is designed and works extremely well with businesses that organise jobs for multiple visits, extended periods past a day and are prone to variations. These are all easy to use features that separate this software from the others.

Separation of Quotes/Actual Chargeable Amounts/Invoices

These three stages of income, although interlinked, are kept separate until they are required. This makes for a very flexible system. You are able to choose between using a quoted amount, charging actual time and parts or just creating an unrelated invoice.

Great approach to viewing jobs – where are the bottlenecks?

The dashboard is a great way of viewing all jobs at all their different stages, from sending out the quote to invoicing once the job has been completed. It can really give you an idea of what stages are taking too long, and urge you to spend more time on bottlenecks within your business.

Decent GPS tracking

We have seen many job management solutions and most of them really struggle to get the GPS tracking quite right for it to be useful enough to use in the field. This is mainly down to GPS services using up battery and field workers tending to turn the function off, or the fact that sometimes the signal can be a bit temperamental when in rural areas. Fergus seems to work at a faster pace and we can see it being used effectively.

Ability to use as full timesheet function

Lunch, travel, coffee breaks, even picking up the kids in between jobs, if time has not been added to one of these then it will be towards a job. A great way of having paperless time sheets and keeping track of unproductive time.

An effective approach to allocating costs

Purchases made while out are not added in by the field workers themselves, they take a picture of the receipt/order and allocate it to the job. The reconciliation is done back at the office meaning never missing cost allocation again.

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Funding Growth in your Business

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 Margaret Holmes

One of the biggest problems for small businesses is funding growth – as businesses grow it is very easy for the business owner to get caught up with growing sales and take their eye off the ball when it comes to managing cash-flow.  As they grow both income and expenses increase – for service business the biggest increase can be in wages, often paid before a job is completed, and well before the money is collected.

A business can only grow as quickly as it’s cash reserves will allow. (This is the reason Xero does regular capital raising!)

Business owners need to remember they aren’t a bank!  There are several options for business owners before considering external finance sources:

1. Credit check the customer before you do business with them – make sure they have a reputation for paying on time before they become a customer.

2 Change the payment terms – 20th of the month following is an NZ phenomenon arising from the farming industry where they have always been paid in arrears. 7 day terms are considered normal overseas. 

3. If the price is agreed before the job is started the business owner can request a deposit before the job is started or progress payments

4. Make sure invoices are paid on time and take prompt action against anyone who doesn’t pay. 

There are effectively four options for financing growth. 

1. Confidential debtor financing – one or more invoices are sold to the financing company at a discount of 10-20%, and the business collects the debt repaying the financier plus the fee.

2. Disclosed debtor financing – the financier undertakes the collection process and releases the balance of the funds on collection, less the finance charges.

3. Bank invoice financing – the bank effectively provide an overdraft up to 80% of the value of the debtor ledger.

4. The customer is provided with extended payment terms through an external funder at the customers cost. The business owner gets paid on raising the invoice and the customer pays it over 6-12 months, including an interest charges.

The major considerations are the costs of finance and whether your customers are regular payers, finance cost of 4% for 30 days funding is substantial.  Furthermore all private financiers insist on recourse, if your customer doesn’t pay on time the invoice will be sold back to you. Ultimate responsibility for debt collection always remains with the business owner.  

Bank funding still remains the cheapest option for business owners, but for short-term requirements the option to finance a single or small number of invoices can appeal, particularly as it is quick to action.

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Xero Add-on: GeoOp

Thursday, June 12, 2014 Margaret Holmes

A weekly blog on the add-ons we have come to know and love.

With so many add-ons emerging under xero’s wings it can get a little confusing to figure out which one works for your business (now that you’re on Xero of course). This is where Engine Room steps in, over the next couple of months we will be going through our favourite add-ons that we not only use for our own productivity but also for many of our clients. Our dedicated implementation team know all the ins and outs many of the add-ons, they’ll spend time on the research so you don’t have to.

 

GeoOp was developed in the early stages of cloud technologies just when the smartphones (particularly the iPhone) were booming. GeoOp uses the power of mobile devises to connect with workers in the field, informing them of jobs, allowing them to enter real time data while at the job, only leaving the admin for the office.  If you have workers out on the field then this is the solution for you, field workers can see, and are notified of, all allocated jobs, they can add time & parts and notify you when they are at all the different stages of a job. GeoOp connects to Xero so you are able to invoice out without having to enter information twice.

We have been involved in many implementations over the last year and have become very intimate with the software, its capabilities and it’s little niggles. We love the interface and the fact you can easily create jobs and seamlessly assign them to workers. Its simplicity really appeals to us and gives confidence to our clients to use the software, they have achieved an Apple Inc./Xero look and feel.

Since the listing back in 2013 the company have become a little sluggish when it comes to dealing with problems and software updates, but this may be down to the fact they are working on a much larger full system update. We have also discovered that updates to contacts (which have fed through from Xero) in GeoOp do not then subsequently update in Xero – no 2-way syncing – you have to update the contact in Xero first for it then to update in GeoOp. This is a real bug bear seeing that you are creating jobs within GeoOp – you shouldn’t have to go to Xero until you are at the invoicing stage.

All in all we feel it is a great solution (when combined with Xero) for your finance and job management function and we have no hesitation in using GeoOp with our small/medium sized businesses.

 

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Xero Add-on: WorkflowMAX

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Margaret Holmes

The first of a regular blog on the Xero add-ons we have come to know and love.

With so many add-ons emerging under Xero’s wings it can get a little confusing to figure out which one works for your business (now that you’re on Xero of course). This is where our Work in the Cloud team at the Engine Room can really help. Over the next couple of months we will be going through our favourite add-ons that we not only use for our own productivity but have also implemented for many of our clients. Our dedicated implementation team know the ins and outs of many of the add-ons, and they’ll spend time on the research so you don’t have to.  You are always welcome to call the team to find out more…

So, what do they do?

WorkflowMax is one of Xero’s top add-on’s, they are an all-in-one package to for the job management side of your business.  Particularly suited to creatives we have implemented it for architects, designers and engineers.

Features include:         lead management,

project management,

job scheduling,

 job tracking,

timesheets,

quoting/invoicing,

client/customer management

job costing

a powerful reporting tool.

We have been a dedicated user of WorkflowMax ourselves for some time, and have seen the efficiencies within our job management.

Impressive functionality enables you to track the progress of each job, and of course being in the cloud, you can work remotely. 

One downfall of the system is the lack of a planning/scheduling feature. To cover this side of things, however, there is an add on available – WFM Plan or WFM Touchscreen – move jobs between staff, schedule the day / week with the cool drag and drop ability.

We find some clients don’t particularly like the ‘look’ of WFM, but the great news is that a new user interface is soon to be released which is going to make it have much more of a Xero look to it – which we all love!

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15 Statistics That Should Change The Business World But Haven't

Thursday, June 27, 2013 Margaret Holmes

Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy recently blogged:  “It still surprises me, even in this day and age, how many people still need convincing that improving the Customer Experience will generate revenue and save costs.”


Below are his top 15 favourite stats from this list:

1. Price is not the main reason for customers churn, it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service – Accenture global customer satisfaction report 2008.

2. A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price or product related – Bain & Company.

3. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics.

4. For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent –Lee Resource.

5. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy.

6. 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back – 1Financial Training services.

7. A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

8. Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affair.

9. 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey.

10. 55% of customers would pay extra to guarantee a better service – Defaqto research.

11. Customers who rate you 5 on a scale from 1 to 5 are six times more likely to buy from you again, compared to ‘only’ giving you a score of 4.8. – TeleFaction data research.

12. It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience – “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner.

13. A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 – 95% – Bain & Company.

14. It costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one – Bain & Company.

15. eCommerce spending for new customers is on average $24.50, compared to $52.50 for repeat customers – McKinsey.

 

You can read more about how to improve your customer’s experience at www.beyondphilosphy.com


Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books & recognized Business Influencer by LinkedIn. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England. Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX


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Will your business work better in the cloud?

Monday, May 27, 2013 Margaret Holmes

You may have noticed that at the Engine Room we are passionate about Cloud based systems for businesses.

 

So passionate that we have started a whole new division you can check out at www.workinthecloud.co.nz.  While Xero has been our software solution of choice for several years now, we also know that many businesses need more than an ‘easy to use’ accounting system.

 

At Work in the Cloud we build full business management solutions to suit your business.  We talk to you about what you need to know to make good decisions in your business then identify the Xero Add-ons that best fit your existing business model.  Having worked on these types of projects for the last 2-3 years we know that this discussion at the beginning is key to you getting the most cost effective solution for your business.

 

Why a cloud solution?

 

One of the great benefits of cloud-based software is that there is no huge upfront cost to get started – often you get a free trial period to ‘try before you buy’.

 

You can upscale as your team grows and downscale quickly if need be.  Many solutions are great time savers and you can access them wherever you are as long as you have internet access. 

 

Upgrades and back ups are all done for you at no extra charge. 

 

Pam Shipley manages our Work in the Cloud implementations.  She provides onsite training and back up support.  

 

Recent projects have included GeoOP job management, Unleashed stock management and Xero for plumbers, Unleashed for a machinery wholesaler with over $1m in stock, Vend for a retailer in the agricultural industry, Procision Plus and Workflow Max for engineering companies.

 

We can configure Xero and two or even three add-ons to build the solution you need.  If you want to know more please give us a call.


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Happenings at the Engine Room

Monday, May 20, 2013 Margaret Holmes

All sorts of new things have been happening at the Engine Room lately and I thought it was time to give you an update.

If you think Philippa and I seem to have been missing in action a bit lately you would be right.  We have been very busy on a series of new projects, getting organised for your 2013 year end accounts and bringing on some awesome new team members.

We know that the team in Pukekohe have been looking after you with their usual care and attention.The biggest project has been the purchase of RWL Group – an accounting firm in Tauranga.  Run by Rachel Wilson, RWL Group has the same philosophies as us. Rachel was looking to grow the business and the Engine Room brings additional skills on the technology front and the capacity to support her team and clients.

 

We welcome Rachel and her team

Cherie is the resident Xero Consultant and loves technology. She is looking forward to learning more about cloud solutions and introducing them to our clients in Tauranga.

Zuleika is the friendly face at reception, and previously a Quickbooks trainer she loves learning about Xero.

Jenny, a Chartered Accountant, currently works at home so she can look after her 10-month-old son. 

For our existing clients in the Bay of Plenty we will be a bit more convenient!   If you are in Tauranga please drop in and say high to the team – they are at 24 Tenth Avenue, just off Cameron Street.

 

At the Pukekohe office things have been busy as well

Jin left us in April to pursue other opportunities closer to his family and with their first baby on the way we wish Jin and Cherry all the best for the future.

We have three new team members in the office:

Sarbina works full time and is Xero Certified. She is enjoying getting to know our clients and working with Manon on monthly and annual accounting.

Sandra is with us three days a week, keeping the IRD in line and learning about Xero and GST!  Sandra was previously an occupational therapist, but knew she always wanted to do accounting so has recently retrained.

Nicola also works three days each week – a UK accountant from the Isle of Man; she is really happy delving into the more complex annual jobs.

As you can see from the photo below we have grown a lot this year – though with at least three more enthusiastic cake bakers in the team we may be growing in other ways as well!

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Are you maximizing your return on the time you spend in your business?

Monday, April 08, 2013 Margaret Holmes

We regularly see business owners working 60 to 80 hours a week to generate their income. 

 

As a business owner you need to think about whether this is the best use of your time.  Are you undertaking high value work or busy work?

 

No matter what size your business is now, if you want it to grow you need to start thinking and acting like the owner of a business you want it to become.   If you have a business doing $1m turnover and you want it to do $3m turnover you need to start thinking and acting like it is $3m business now.


The key to this is LEVERAGE – in other words maximising your return from the effort applied.

You need to make sure that all your business assets are working for you giving maximum return for the effort applied, whether they are plant, systems or staff. And you.

 

Start by looking at what you do every day.  You might be busy but are you efficient or effective?  Are you doing the right things? You might be very productive doing jobs faster than anyone else but if you are doing the wrong thing you are not effective.

 

As a business owner opening the mail might keep you busy, but should you be doing it? (When I was a junior accountant we were taught the importance of senior management overseeing this job to prevent the risk of cheque theft – given the number of cheques used these days it seems to be a bit redundant.)

 

If you free yourself up to do the important work, like thinking about how you will make your business grow or visiting key customers, you need to stop doing the busy work. 

 

I suggest that for the next week every time you start a job, think about who else could do this job.  Start freeing up your time to do the important work.

 

It is very easy to be busy, it takes courage to do the hard work.


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Retailing on the improve!

Monday, March 11, 2013 Margaret Holmes
Recently released sales data show that retailers are performing better than expected with 2.1% growth in the December quarter.  Locally we can see this from the number of new businesses opening and an increase in foot traffic. 

While many business owners consider online retailing to be a threat to their business it can also be a benefit.  When it comes down to it – the customer is looking for good service and price. 
 
The current exchange rate has made shopping online from the US and UK very appealing but it is not always as good as it seems.  My daughter recently purchased a sweatshirt not available in NZ - when it arrived it was much too big for her but the terms of returning the product meant it would cost more to send it back than the actual purchase price.  The New Zealand Government is also helping local retailers by reducing the imported goods limit from $400 to $200 before they importeres are caught in the GST net. 

The key for retailers and service businesses is to understand what you provide that customer wants – is it advice, after sales service, or to try before they buy? Then you need to articulate that clearly to your customers.  

The old adage is that when a customer comes in to buy  drill she doesn’t want a drill she wants a hole.  Identifying and understanding what your customers want is really important. Do they want a fishing rod or to catch a fish?  Do they want a new dress or to look good?  Do they want their car serviced or to know it won’t breakdown on the motorway in peak traffic! 

How can you help your customers and give them a better experience without breaking the bank?  If you service motor vehicles you might pick it up from the customer and return it to them once the job is done, or like my favourite mechanic you could give it a wash and vacuum while they have it in for a service. 

If you are a florist – what about a reminder service for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries? Technology makes all these things much easier these days.  


What can you do to stand out from the crowd?

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