What I Learnt as an Apprentice at My First Xerocon

26 July 2022

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The dust has settled on this year's Xerocon, attended by over 2,000 cloud accountants, some of the country’s top business leaders, Sue Perkins, and our very own accounts technician, Beth. This was Beth’s first year at the conference, and as someone new to the industry she learnt a lot! We’ve asked her to share her top takeaways and tips for any other newbies thinking about going next year.

Beth Perry

Accounts Technician

Beth Perry

Accounts Technician

Over to Beth…

 

As I walked into the Tobacco Dock my first feeling was overwhelming – there’s so much to explore, and just when you think you’ve got the lay of the land you turn a corner and find so much more. I was lucky to have Jon, our MD, and Mike, our finance business partner, along side me so I followed them as we weaved through the crowd towards the coffee. Once we had some caffeine in hand we headed to the welcome talk by Xero CEO, Steve Vamos. He explained how things were set out and gave us a few pointers of things to look out for on our visit (including a hunt for tokens to win a football). Sue Perkins was the master of ceremonies and I realised that this event wasn’t going to be just about business and numbers. As she cracked jokes I relaxed and started to get excited about the day ahead. 

 

Next, we headed over Deborah Meaden’s talk. She spoke about the number of SMEs she’s involved with and how being sustainable isn’t just the right thing to do, but how it’s essential to success. This led me to my first lesson of the week…

Take away #1 - Being proactive about sustainability isn’t an option for businesses now - it’s required for prosperity and longevity. 

I knew this in a very loose sense, but Meaden’s talk gave me actionable ideas to bring back to FD Works. I took note and made a commitment to myself that I would explore the topic more and speak to some of our clients who are industry leaders in the field to develop some concrete ideas I can bring to the business. 

 

From here, we decided to take a walk around the convention centre. We saw some familiar faces, like Citrus HR, and made some new connections too. One really valuable chat was with Pleo who offer smart employee expense solutions. Of course, we found the Dext stand where Jon gave a ‘meet the founders’ style talk and explained the story of Xavier, from conception to today. 

 

There was a few hours of wandering around (and collecting merch) before the next talk we wanted to attend, which was all about the new version of Xero reports. The team has mixed opinions on the new style of reporting so it was really valuable to hear from Xero themselves. I picked up some good tips I didn’t know before and understand the benefits a lot better, like how you can collect reports into packs which will help us present them to clients in a cleaner format, for example. These conversations gave me my next epiphany…

Take away #2 - Thinking about tech creatively, can help both your clients and your business - the key is to not simply accept the way things have always been done. 

We talk about innovation a lot at FD Works, but my understanding around this was taken to a new level at Xerocon. Between listening to founders talk about apps that they created to solve specific problems and larger businesses like Xero explain their thinking behind certain products, I really got some perspective on how tech can be used. I will definitely be more critical about the work I do day to day and try to identify some situations that could be improved through tech, big and small. It’s encouraged me to be more ambitious about my tech use, and to have the confidence to explore solutions on behalf of my clients rather than just accept things the way they are. 

 

After a bit more exploring, we headed back to our room (kindly provided by our lovely client, Student Luxe) ready for the after party. And what a party! The drinks were flowing, there were circus performers wherever you looked, and the food was out of this world. It was a great event, but the thing I valued most was the chance to chat with Mike and Jon in a more casual setting, and meet others from the industry that I would never usually cross paths with. Which explains the third thing I learnt…

Take away #3 - ‘Networking’ might be a cliche and overused term, but getting to know people in and out of your industry is invaluable (particularly those who align with similar values to you). 

Once I noticed it, I couldn’t stop – almost everywhere we went someone recognised Jon! They greeted him warmly, asked how he was, and seemed genuinely happy to see him. Over his years in industry it’s clear that Jon has taken the time to really listen to people and help them whenever he can. That builds up over time, and I’m sure is at least part of the reason FD Works is where it is! It was great to see him in action and I will definitely take every opportunity I can to meet new people and see if there’s any way I can help them. 

 

Day 2 involved some more exploring and a talk from Rachael Powell, Xero’s Chief Customer Officer talks with Alasdair McGill, co-founder of Ashton McGill, on how to step up your advisory game with clients rather than just stick to compliance and tax. Between all the new people, information, and ideas going on in my head I felt pretty at capacity at this point and was happy to head home knowing that I had gained plenty more than what I bargained for. 

 

If you’ve not been to Xerocon before then I definitely recommend it, even if you are right at the start of your career. You don’t have to understand every aspect of the finance industry to benefit from the wisdom shared and I think you’ll be surprised by what you learn. 

 

Top Tips for Your First Visit

 

  • Go to the welcome talk – they give you loads of info that you wouldn’t get anywhere else and it’ll set you up well for your visit.
  • Don’t feel obligated to get involved with every conversation offered – too many people, not enough time!
  • Plan to go to two or three talks a day – the speakers are fantastic, but there are so many things to discover away from them that you don’t want to miss out on.