Greg Tuckwell travelled to Xero’s conference in San Francisco with a hunch. The MD of Xero accounting partner of the year 2013, the Poole Group, thought it might be possible to commoditise his newly launched bookkeeping service in Australia as a global player.
“I went over there and thought, Yep, it’s possible,” says Tuckwell.
ZeroBooks launched on 1 February with the ambition of being the world’s first global, cloud-based bookkeeping franchise for small businesses. It has already set up an arrangement to do bookkeeping with the Xero’s UK partner of the year 2013, the Wow Company and is looking to do the same in the US. “We’re offering a front-to-back service from receipts to management reports,” Tuckwell says.
The standalone business operates independently to the Poole Group and is focused on two areas. The first is core bookkeeping duties such as reconciliation, accounts payable invoices and debtor management. ZeroBooks uses a bunch of add-on programs to increase efficiencies.
Receipt Bank, which scans and processes receipts and uploads them into the Xero accounting ledger, is the backbone of the accounts payable service. Invitbox (recently bought by Intuit) rounds out the accounts payable service by providing individual line items or inventory purchase reports for more detailed tracking. Debtor Daddy manages clients’ debtors and automatically follows up outstanding invoices to improve cashflow.
Spotlight Dashboard produces base management reports for clients which summarise key point in their business. Fathom gives a more in-depth management report containing financial and non-financial KPIs. While ZeroBooks will prepare the reports, it won’t talk to clients directly.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from anybody, we’re just trying to create a processing platform,” Tuckwell says. “We’re trying to help clients and accountants be more efficient. The goal is to deliver all the information in a consistent format.”
The processing team, all certified Xero bookkeepers, are based in the Philippines, further lowering the internal cost of compliance. “We have a team here during business hours and if someone’s away we have people backing them up. We’re not going to leave you in the lurch,” Tuckwell says.
In Australia the company provides a payroll service too. It also employs client managers in Australia with online support handled offshore in the future.
ZeroBooks intends to go further than data processing. It will also set up add-on programs outside straight accounting such as point-of-sale add-on Vend and job management app GeoOp. A third arm of the business will provide back office support to accounting firms. This will include Xero ledgers and setting up Xero workpapers. ZeroBooks has also formed alliances with cloud integrators Rype and TradiePad to get their clients onto Xero.
ZeroBooks’ first wave of customers, mostly micro and small businesses, has signed up for between $300-$400 a month, Tuckwell says. That price range covers entering data, suppliers’ invoices, bank reconciliation and a basic report. “I still think there will be a market for personalised service,” Tuckwell says.