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Engine Room Blog

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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The 12 days of [business at] Christmas

Friday, November 30, 2012 Philippa O'Mara

Christmas, it’s upon us again! Yes (whether it agrees with our morals or not), Christmas retail is well under way, Christmas jingles are filling the malls and Santa’s jolly face is lining our streets.

Christmas is both a joyous and stressful time, and can be a tricky one for business owners. I recently presented at BNZ Connect in Pukekohe (a great monthly event for local business owners more details here). My topic was “How to ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ Business at Christmas”. As it was only early November, I could feel the cringe in the room when I mentioned the “C” word. Yes it seems early, but as a business owner or operator, it’s important that you’re prepared for Christmas. 

Check-off these 12 days of Business at Christmas to make sure you’ve got everything covered:

1. Annual Closedown

Closing down for the holidays? Make sure staff get at least 14 days’ notice. They are entitled to public holidays on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and paid or unpaid leave for the rest of the period. If any employees have accrued a large amount of leave, Christmas is a good time to encourage them to use it.

2. Keeping it Open

Staying open? Plan your staffing well in advance. At the very least you’ll need someone to cover the essential tasks (like payroll, clearing voicemail). Make sure skeleton staff have “emergency” contacts for relevant managers and suppliers in case anything goes wrong. 

3. Extra Staff

If you plan on keeping up a full service, start thinking now whether you’ll need to take on extra staff – casual, part time or fixed term. Even if you take on casual staff they will need employment agreements. See www.dol.govt.nz for the latest rules on pay rates and a very handy “Employment Agreement Builder”.

4. Tax: Gifts & Entertaining

Staff Christmas functions are 50% tax deductible and staff/client gifts are 100% tax deductible (just keep the latter below $1,200/year to avoid Fringe Benefit Tax). 

5. Telling your Customers

Alert customers of your seasonal hours to avoid any misunderstandings. You can use this chance to remind irregular customers of your business; send a card or email, phone or even advertise in the newspaper.

6. Managing Stock

Christmas stock orders needn’t be daunting. Prepare a stock forecast by looking at sales records or your stock system.  (Note: if you haven’t got a stock system or method of obtaining accurate sales records, add it to No 11 on this list!). Look into flexible stock options available to your business, like consignment stock or stock lines available at short notice.

7. Important Dates

January: 15th (November GST and provisional tax), 20th (PAYE), 28th (December GST)
February: 28th (January GST)

8. Bargains at the Sales

For some, Christmas is synonymous with “Sale”. Before you join in, consider the impact that discounting will have on your profit and customers: you may not get the returns you expect and your customers’ impression of your value may greatly decrease. Try adding to perceived value, rather than decreasing price.

9. Existing Customers

Christmas is a great time to thank customers and remind your customers of the bond they have with your business. Why not send a promotion out to your client database or offer free Christmas nibbles at your store.

10. Taking Time Out

At the very least, take a few days off work and recharge. If you need to keep an eye on things, Cloud systems like Xero are great for keeping in touch with the business while you’re out of the office.

11. New Year’s Resolutions

Reflect on the year that’s been, what you achieved, what changed – are you where you thought you would be? Then look ahead to 2013: where do you want to be in 12 months’ time? Set goals and talk them through with your advisors and staff.

12. New Year, New Customers

Over the holiday period think about what you’re doing to attract new customers. Why should people buy from you over others? What is your point of difference? Where are you advertising and is it working? Maximise your existing customers; how can you find more like them or upsell more? Have you asked them for referrals? 

And remember -

Keep Calm, it’s only Christmas.

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Do you have a business or a job?

Thursday, May 10, 2012 Margaret Holmes

Many business owners are technicians who go out to work for themselves… When does it become a real business?

In the words of Michael Gerber – Business owners have an “entrepreneurial seizure”.  They look at their boss and think if he (or she) can do it then so can I.  What they don’t think about is the investment in plant, premises and staff that the Boss has made, or all the other work they do outside of the technical stuff – payroll, sales, marketing, debt collection, accounts payable….

In a small business the owner becomes a “Jack of all trades” and often at little recompense for those extra hours they have to spend doing the “administrivia” for the business.  If you take the income you earn and divide it by the real hours you work in your business – what is your hourly rate?  I have seen some owners where this calculation has them earning less than the minimum wage – often their employees are earning more than they are.

So is it a business or a job?

A business is something that earns you a return on investment over and above fair recompense for the hours you work.  The business makes a profit of $150,000 before owner’s earnings, a fair salary is $120,000, you have a business.  

It should also allow you to live the life you want – taking the leisure time you would like, doing the work you want to do.  Otherwise you have a job – and probably a poorly paid one at that.

How do you turn it in to a business?

Have a really good look at what you are doing - talk to your accountant about how you can improve the performance of your business. 

Be brutally honest about whether you can grow your business to generate the profits and cash flow to allow you to live the life you want to lead.

Then make sure you have the right team to achieve what you want, up-skill yourself and your team, create an action plan and go for it.. or make the hard decision – sell or close your business, get a job and live the life you want.


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Does an employment agreement have to be signed?

Monday, June 13, 2011 Margaret Holmes

Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 mean that from 1 July 2011 employers are required to retain a signed copy of all employment agreements or current signed terms and conditions of employment.

Where an employer has provided an employee with an intended agreement the employer must retain the intended agreement even if the employee has not signed it or agreed to the terms and conditions specified. An intended agreement cannot be treated as the parties' employment agreement if the employee has not signed or not agreed to the terms and conditions.

If the employee does not accept an intended agreement, the employer should enter into good faith negotiations to reach agreement.  If negotiations are unsuccessful, the employer should record what happened and the outcome of the negotiations.  A copy of the intended agreement must be retained on file along with the current terms and conditions of employment, signed or unsigned.

Employers are required to provide a copy of the agreement on request from their employees.

From July 1 2011, labour inspectors will be able to seek a penalty against an employer who is in breach of legislation relating to employment agreements, including the requirement for all employers to retain a copy of the intended and current employment agreement or terms and conditions of employment, whether signed or unsigned. Employers will be given seven working days notice of to fix the breach. Where the breach is not remedied the inspector can take a penalty action in the Employment Relations Authority.  Click here for more information. 


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What are the employee entitlements over Easter Weekend in 2011?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 Margaret Holmes

Over the Easter period there are a lot of issues for business operators to be aware of.  Which days are public holidays?  What are the employee entitlements?  What days can I open? In 2011, there is an additional issue - ANZAC Day and Easter Monday falling on the same day.  Along with establishing what payments need to be made to employees for what days, there are also Shop Trading restrictions in operation on some of those days, under the Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990, that business operators need to comply with. 

Read more here...

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Keep your Business on Track

Friday, March 04, 2011 Margaret Holmes

Running a business without a budget is like navigating a ship without a compass. As the financial year end approaches you need to set aside time to examine and revise your budget and cash flow to know where your business is now going and what challenges lay ahead.

Think about the key business assumptions and drivers and whether they have changed - in particular, your sales expectations and margins based on your current pricing.  Analyse your spending trends and plans for purchasing and overheads over the remainder of the financial year.  Identify and cost special projects that will take place, consider the impact on sales and costs of seasonal fluctuations.

How will the Canterbury disaster and the unrest in the Middle East impact your business?

Now that you have a realistic budget and cash flow do you know what it means?  What are the implications on your cash reserves or lending facilities?  Do you need to revise expenditure and projects to a time when there is improved cash flow from customer receipts?

It’s important to stay on course and stick to it, and compare it to what actually happens.  Sharing it with your team, financial advisors and accountant can help you ensure greater success in achieving it.

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What employees need to know about this years Xmas Holidays

Monday, November 01, 2010 Margaret Holmes

 Public Holidays 2010/2011

The general rule for public holidays is that they are taken on the day they fall. There are four public holidays that are treated differently.

These are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and 2nd of January.

When any of these four public holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday the first step is to look at your employees’ work patterns. You need to determine if the public holiday falls on an employee’s ‘Otherwise Working Day’. You can use the Department of Labour’s Holidays Online Tool to help you with that. You can then use this chart to help you determine which day the public holiday will be taken.


Not an otherwise working day 

Is an otherwise working day

Christmas Day  (Saturday 25th December)

Christmas Day taken on Monday  27th December *

Christmas Day taken on Saturday 25th December

Boxing Day (Sunday 26th December)

Boxing Day taken on Tuesday 28th December *

Boxing Day taken on Sunday 26th December

New Year’s Day ( Saturday 1st January)

New Year’s Day taken on Monday  3rd January *

New Year’s Day taken on Saturday 1st January

New Year Holiday ( Sunday 2nd January )

New Year Holiday taken on Tuesday  4th January *

New Year Holiday taken on Sunday 2nd January



*If the day that the public holiday is taken on is not an otherwise working day for that employee then the employee observes that public holiday as an unpaid public holiday.

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