Subscribe to Episode 29 of Cloud Stories on iTunes 

Heather: Matt – what actor would play you in a biopic of your life?

Matt: What actor would play me in a biopic of my life? Charlie Chaplin.

Heather: Oh very good. So does that mean you’re a very quiet person?

Matt: Oh yes initially. But when I’m in the office with the team maybe a bit louder after a wee bit of time. But yes, initially quiet.

Heather: He’s quite animated as well isn’t he? Very good.

For our listeners who are listening in, what does BlueHub do?

Matt: BlueHub, we assist businesses with implementing or selecting and implementing elements of the eco-system around Xero essentially. So we’re looking at helping people complete a tool selection because there’s a lot of good add-ons out there now so people do need assistance with choosing the right system to go with their process and business sector.

Heather: So how do you go about that selection process?

Matt: Initially we go into businesses and run something called a business process review. So it can take a couple of hours to a full day depending on the size and how much process is involved. We then look at and digest what we’ve got through during the business process review and then we look to recommend the options going forward.

Heather: Do you find that the business process review, say like a one day session, does that give you all the answers? Does that give you the true reflection of what’s actually happening in the business or do you find that as you go along further things keep unravelling?

Matt: It gives us enough of a view to know exactly where we should be going and what type of system. We may have more questions at the end of that to say we need to do a bit more delving within this area or this area, but we do get a better reflection having done that. Some companies will naturally fit into some sort of system and others are a bit more complex.

Heather: Absolutely. Do you find that when you do that process it actually surprises the business what the actual processes are happening in their business?

Matt: Yes and I think when we demo some of the systems just to give them an idea of what’s out there that can link into Xero and really fulfil the jigsaw if you like, that’s where they start to see how far away they are essentially.

Heather: Absolutely. That’s really interesting. For our listeners who are perhaps working or considering working in this space, can I ask when you put the map together, what sort of tool do you use? Do you use like a mind mapping tool or do you have a specific tool that you put together and show them visually or show them with words etc. What their business processes look like.

Matt: We tend to use Visio and do workflow showing decision points and maybe systems overlaying on top of that that they’ve currently got or maybe not systems that haven’t got but spreadsheets etc. So we do try to work more visually than wordy.

Heather: Yes that would be really interesting. I’m sure I’ve heard of Visio before but I’m sure a lot of people can go out and explore that product. So how many staff do you have working at BlueHub?

Matt: We have 4 client consultants who are non-technical, because originally we were a bespoke software development we’ve got 5 developers as well. Techy developer types.

Heather: So what do you deem to be a cloud consultant?

Matt: The cloud consultancy is understanding the business and what they’re looking to get out of it, the overall strategy and then the implementation points to get to there and then the technical people allow us to fulfil that essentially. So we’ll do more of the configuration between a cloud consultant and a technical but we do also have points where we write with the almost add-ons to the add-ons for small bits of extras that require linking into the APIs of Xero and all of the other add-ons.

Heather: Well that’s very interesting. So you can really provide a really complete solution if you actually have developers on board as well.

Matt: Yes so it can be that an add-on will only provide 90% of what they’re looking for, we could write that additional 10% and we have done with a couple of the add-ons.

Heather: And when you’re saying that and we’ve got listeners all over the world, can you work with businesses all over the world or are you primarily working only in your own area?

Matt: No obviously with cloud based technology now it pretty much means you can work all over the world. We are across Europe. We’ve got to Holland and then we’ve had some enquiries from Malta. So that’s only been the last 3-4 months, so yes, we’re quite open and used to being up all hours so happy with that.

Heather: Fantastic. My husband was once offered a job in Malta. He didn’t take it. It’s a very tiny tiny place, bless it.

Matt: It is. So it just shows that Xero is everywhere.

Heather: Absolutely. So how do you go about acquiring new customers?

Matt: Two forms really. We have Xero end users who find us using standard search by the internet and then we have referrers normally through business consultants or it might be accountants, bookkeepers.

Heather: Yes it sounds like you’re a great person to actually have on your team. I know that when I wrote Xero for Dummies I just constantly talked about your team because it’s unlikely a business has every element of the team that you actually need when you’re moving to this. So it sounds like you’ve kind of got those external team members who are sending you clients and you are also good to partner with.

Matt: Yes well hopefully we can help it…we are helping accountants for example where a companies looking to move to Xero but then asking around stock systems or workflow management systems or CRMs or all the whole thing and that’s where we can really enable that movement to Xero to demonstrate what is possible.

Heather: Absolutely. So there are so many add-on solutions out there, I think goodness about 6 weeks ago they said 450 so I’m sure it’s something like 475 by now, how do you go about learning them?

Matt: Essentially we have a look, we keep a weekly eye on what’s coming in and what we’re looking at and maybe some of the trends that we’re seeing in terms of we’re not seeing enough in this type of add-on. So we’ll have a look. So training and management, there’s not a great deal in training management from what we’ve seen from especially the UK. There’s a couple of good ones so we do keep an eye on that in that space but essentially we’ll try and take a demo of the system. We then try and work with the support people just to see how it works. Obviously we’re in the UK and we’ll never…as we’re neutral to any of the add-ons what we’re looking to do is to give a potential customer a true reflection of how it will be to work with this add-on. So it may be this add-on is really good but you have to expect that we won’t get support response for 3 days so that’s the sort of thing we’re trying to find that this is the good parts of the add-on and this is maybe the bits that need to be improved. And actually with some of the add-ons we gave them that feedback and they’ve worked to that feedback.

Heather: Yes I find that as well, that they do evolve and they do, if they’ve got the resources there they will try and built it in. So it’s interesting. There are two points in there that are interesting about the training solution that you said you were looking at that scenario that also interests me as well. I saw that New Zealand has a training solution coming out of there as well. Have you seen it? I felt it was a bit expensive and I noticed that Timely now does class bookings so you can actually do class training bookings through Timely. So it sounds like you don’t specialise in a particular industry and you do offer bespoke services. Would you agree to that?

Matt: Yes absolutely.

Heather: And how do you, with such an open offering there, how can you price for a job?

Matt: Essentially we’ll try and work on a…if there’s an R&D element to the job, so it’s an area we haven’t worked in or looked at or an add-on area that we haven’t look at at all, we are honest with the customer and say we haven’t looked at this but we will go and do some due diligence. So we may cost 2-4 hours, talk to the vendor and review what the options are so it can be that different. Other elements really of an actual full implementation of a system, for us there’s the consultation, the configuration, the implementation and then the training. Now it hasn’t got to take all of those elements because we find some companies already have somebody who’s already in the mindset who can take a lot of the work from us and we can be more of a sounding board, or they just want us to go in and steamroll the implementation and get it there and then get the people on board with it. So it’s quite different there is no kind of set price to it, it really depends how much effort you are wanting from us in terms of the implementation of the systems.

Heather: Yes that’s really interesting. I totally hear that, oh they just want you there as a sounding board because businesses call me and I think oh this is going to be a nice exciting juicy cloud integration and then I tell them everything they need and then they’re like, okay I’ll go and do it and they go off and do it. And that’s fair enough. I charge for a scoping session but I’m like, augh {disappointed-sound}. But sometimes they’re so easy they can implement them themselves.

Matt: Yes absolutely. If it’s a one-to-one between Xero and an existing add-on that’s got a standard integration it can be quite simply done, if it’s a person with the right mindset in the business. Or there’s where we’re linking 2 or 3 add-ons and finally into Xero, obviously that’s a slightly different set up.

Heather: Oh absolutely and depending on how much resources they’ve got to invest in it and their skill base. Excellent. So you’ve actually answered basically my price about how do you price for time researching because you kind of incorporate that into everything.

Matt: Yes we try to as much as possible. The ones where we have to do specific R&D is where we’re getting the system which doesn’t naturally integrate with Xero so we’re going to have to write some sort of bespoke integration between the two.

Heather: So your business is based in Telford. Telford was named after the Civil Engineer, Thomas Telford, who engineered many roads and rail projects in Shropshire. Telford is famous for the Iron Bridge that crosses the River Severn and it was the first bridge in the world to be made of cast iron and Telford was also considered to be the birthplace of industry and a significant town in the Industrial Revolution. So with such a rich heritage, how welcoming are the people and businesses of Telford to Xero, to cloud business platforms and the technology that comes with it?

Matt: Well it’s an interesting question. We have pockets of the county which are picking up on the new way of working. But being a very traditional area like you say with that sort of history, there are some sort of set ways of working which I think will take a wee bit longer to unravel. So the uptake is not as high as we think it should be in this area but we are seeing a curve that means it probably is going to be that way. But we are probably about 12 months behind the rest of the UK I would say.

Heather: Oh goodness that’s not good is it. I did wonder because it’s such a famous place I was thinking mmmm….

Matt: Well there’s lots of manufacturing engineering around here which has been the core of the area for some time and there’s some real inherence and processes in there that people have worked to. So I think it will come good it’s just going to take a wee bit of time.

Heather: Oh absolutely. At least you’re on the cloud and you can service clients all over the world, including Malta and Holland. So what Xero add-ons have you seen recently that you would think might benefit our listeners?

Matt: There’s some really good ones at the moment actually. We’ve been working primarily with the WorkflowMax, the TidyWork group, Dear, Unleashed, Shopify, Airsquare, Deputy Vend and a lot of those we’ve been working as a group. So Vend into Dear into Xero and obviously no Vend and Shopify started to have this Epos/e-Commerce front as well. That’s quite interesting. So we’re finding that where 3 years ago we might have done a Magento from 10D commerce system, we’re seeing that less and less and we’re seeing people hop onto these types of systems a lot easier because the management and maintenance of these systems are a lot simpler than a bespoke type of website that you might put forward. In the job management area your WorkflowMax, your TidyWork, there’s some really good systems there. There’s a couple of others, you’ve got the likes of Cin7 etc. and then in the stock area Dear, TidyStock, Unleashed…all really good systems.

Heather: Excellent. So you mentioned Airsquare there. What is that solution?

Matt: Airsquare is a website essentially. So a bit like Rocketspark, very similar to ours. Our site is built on Airsquare.

Heather: Oh okay. So like my sites built on WordPress, Airsquare is like a WordPress?

Matt: Yes its cloud based and essentially got an integration into Xero if you want to do events or e-Commerce.

Heather: Oh that’s interesting. I hadn’t heard of that one. Cool. You will please all of the people that you mentioned in that session.

Matt: Yes, absolutely.

Heather: So some integrators have gone down the path of developing their own add-on solutions. Is this something you hope to explore?

Matt: I don’t think so in all honesty. I think it’s so quick that add-ons are coming out I think the route to market is probably quite slow in terms of bespoke development. I mean for us we’d be writing add-ons, client based add-ons, particularly for Sage and actually just one-off particular clients. That’s how we feel it’s been prior to the Xero world for us. So we’re used to that world. We do get asked to write add-ons on behalf of people who’ve got ideas and we are looking at a couple at the moment but it’s nothing that we’ll ever actually market or product ourselves.

Heather: Oh okay, fair enough. So what do you enjoy doing most on a work day?

Matt: At the moment I like to go in, check Xero, reconcile, check Chasers have got everything in hand and then go into Receipt Bank and check all that’s running. So we are true users of the Xero ecosystem. We don’t just talk a good game, we’re actually using it. So I love all that and we use the forecasting like Float etc. to have a look and see how the worlds going. But in terms for us I think it’s the movement of, if we implement a system for somebody, its how game changing that can be in a relatively short period of time so I think that for us is where we’re really seeing the value and that’s the real satisfaction from the job now. Where we used to do bespoke it could take 6-12 months to get something in and then implement it. Literally within 4-6 weeks we can probably have a new system in, company training and they’re working on it and you see that difference very quickly. It’s really good.

Heather: Oh yes absolutely. So you mentioned in your own business you’re using Xero Chaser and Float. Are there any other add-ons you’re using in your own business?

Matt: Yes, Receipt Bank and we also use WorkflowMax for the consultancy side of the business and will be linking into a CRM sometime very soon.

Heather: What CRMs do you like the look of out there?

Matt: Well we had a look at Exsalerate about 3-4 months ago and I quite like the look of that. We’ll have a look at that. Capsule always springs to mind. We were on Capsule about 2-3 years ago, very early days. So we’ve had some history with that but we are reviewing at the moment what we might go to. Again with CRMs there’s so many coming through.

Heather: It’s difficult to know what you need to get out of the CRM as well. Because I look at a few of them and the guys from Exsalerate are awesome and I’m actually on Capsule but I don’t understand how to use it.

Matt: Let me consult to Australia then. That’s fine.

Heather: It doesn’t do anything I think it should do. It just seems to go off on its own way to do things. So can you maybe pick out an awesome case study of a business that you have done some implementation for and describe it to our listeners?

Matt: Yes so we have a wine company, wholesale and retail – always good to work with. Essentially they were on Sage with the inbuilt Sage stock system. Their Sage Epos was also on there so they had a Magento online. Magento online, Sage stock system, Sage Epos then finally into Sage 50. Very manual, lots of spreadsheets really fill in the gaps for the whole process. So we reviewed this, looked at what they really needed, had a review of the market for them and what we’ve actually put in is Vend. So Vend e-Commerce, Vend Pos system into Dear which will do the operationals and then in Xero. The next step for them they will probably look at something like Receipt Bank and Chaser so there we’re looking at the full taking the sale, managing the stock into Xero then the financial controller ran that as well so that’s quite a good case study we’ve just been working through.

Heather: Fantastic. How much time do you estimate it’s going to save them?

Matt: Oh even to cash it up on the old manual till they had took them half an hour. I think that takes about 30 seconds on Vend now so it’s a real game changer. The guy actually said that he was a bit worried that things weren’t working because it was going too quickly because he was used to sort of hand cranking the majority of the data.

Heather: Yes absolutely. So was it a retail store? Is it a shop as well?

Matt: Yes it’s a retail store and it does wholesale wine out to other outfits, restaurants and bars etc.

Heather: Oh right. So it’s not like an online wine market place?

Matt: It’s got online, it’s got in-house, there’s a full stock store that they use and they’ve also got the warehouse element into it as well.

Heather: Wow so it’s everything. Oh my goodness that’s a really comprehensive integration so they must be very excited with you. Did you get some nice wines out of that?

Matt: Not yet but I’m due back next week so hopefully. I’ve emptied the boot of my car so hopefully they can fill it up for me.

Heather: I used to work for a brewery and they make bespoke ginger beer and chilli beer and stuff like that so it was always a nice visit for me.

Matt: Wow. Absolutely.

Heather: So what do you hope to achieve with BlueHub in the next five years?

Matt: I think we just really like to grow with the Xero world to be perfectly honest. We’ve found it so enjoyable to be involved, the ease of use, the quick implementations and for us we’re really excited, as a business, and we can certainly see some growth opportunities. I think it’s just all about the UK really understanding the full extent of where the eco-system can take their client and take the business really.

Heather: Excellent. So who is your…do you have a particular Xero account manager?

Matt: No because we don’t have a client integration partnership set up over here so we’re waiting until next year. But we do deal with James Coleman who looks after the developers because obviously we are just about to become part of the development program because we do do some API work.

Heather: Oh fantastic. Well a shout out to James Coleman then. That’s interesting we now have here in Australia, it seems to be an evolving thing so every time I talk about it it seems to change, but now if you’re a Xero adviser you can’t become a cloud integrator. You have to kind of set up a separate business to become a cloud integrator and that has an exam associated with it. So it’s interesting because I already know people who’ve gone out and done the exam so they’ve got one website set up for being the Xero adviser person and one set up for being the cloud integrator. One of the complexities we have here in Australia which I don’t think you have in the UK, is people have to be like…where you have a tax agent and then you have something known as a BAS agent which is kind of like a registered bookkeeper which is the simplest way to do it, but you can’t be, and that’s with the tax office, so you can’t get Xero adviser accreditation unless you’re registered with the tax office which is interesting. But you know, it evolves and we can sort of see the wave of it evolving all over the world.

Matt: I think what’s interesting is we don’t actually, in terms of Xero, we’re not accountants or bookkeepers, we now actually have to use it from a high level and we know to integrate with it, but we will almost always do actually, leave the element of the setting up Xero from a financial element to those people so we’re not looking to work with the financial folk, the bookkeepers and the accountants.

Heather: Awesome. Thank you so much Matt for talking with me today. I’m sure the listeners will have really learned a lot from you today and I’ll put up the links to your site in the show notes but if you want to get in touch with Matt he’s at BlueHub in Telford and servicing the world.

Matt: That’s great.

Heather: Thank you so much for that Matt. Sorry about the…I’ve got to go and investigate my recording system now. But that was great and I think hopefully you’ll get a lot of contacts from it, people listening in, because we’ve got a good few people in the UK listening but it sounds like you’re going to be a really good resource for businesses who are over here who are doing the integrations and need people on the other side helping them.

Matt: Right, okay. That’s interesting. Because we’re really pretty fresh to this in total. It’s only the last 6 months we’ve really got engaged with it and obviously where we used to write software we are just recommending software now. We still do the odd bespoke piece but it’s pure bespoke as opposed to reinventing the wheel. But we’re really enthused and absolutely love the Xero world. It’s so good. It’s so enjoyable.

Heather: Yes it is, definitely. It’s just an amazing tool. I’ve been kind of on the journey for a little while now and it’s really exciting to see the wave of it and how its improving people’s lives and the implementations as that guy said. It seems like it’s all going too quickly I must be doing something wrong.

Matt: Absolutely. You’re waiting for this big day where you switch everything on and you know, it’s almost it’s not there, it just happens and you’re into it really so we found that had been a bit of a change. I think the other thing we’ve got over here which is quite interesting we never actually looked to moving to the financial add-ons so your Receipt Bank, Chaser, Satago, all those type of things. That was never our intention but what we’re starting to find is a lot of the accountants especially don’t know anything about them so where we thought that would already be a done deal in terms of understanding from an accountants, we’re actually finding people are just saying just go to Xero but don’t really understand from an accounts perspective, they don’t really understand the other offerings which really start to make it superb so we are finding that all of a sudden we are giving almost business consultancy so it’s how do you do bookkeeping at the moment, how do you manage that, how do you do debt collection and these are very simple questions and we always engage with the client before we start a project to see what their level is as some are really on-board and obviously want all the receipt bank and all the bookkeeping and all of that type of stuff – brilliant. But we’ve got others who literally don’t know anything.

Heather: Oh yes, absolutely. I completely agree with that in that sometimes it’s the actual small business owner or in your case a cloud integrator going back and educating the accountant how to do these sort of things.

Matt: Are you seeing that over your side as well?

Heather: Yes. Look there’s a good lot of accountants who are still doing it the old old way and obviously the ones you see doing it the new way they’re the ones in the media who are savvy about marketing and pushing themselves out there and then there’s the sort of a whole wave of wonderful wonderful accountants who are doing exactly what they need to be doing when it comes to tax, very old school, but just not aware of what is going on. They don’t go to networking meetings, they don’t worry about technology, they don’t go to conferences and you know they’re just kind of set in their ways and it’s the business owner going to them and saying I want this and they kind of go oh, that’s cool, that’s pretty cool, okay.

Matt: It’s interesting because we’ve actually just, I mean I never mentioned it on the call, but we’ve just put an add-on helpline in place because when we marketed ourselves and did a bit we got absolutely hammered with queries which just took hours and hours. Some of these were answering questions for people who aren’t really interested. It’s almost like tyre-kickers as we call them.

Heather: Time wasters, yes.

Matt: Yes, absolutely. So we put a £75 cost in. You’ll get a couple of hours of research from us. We’ve got a big database of stuff that we’ve learned anyway so we can give quite quick responses but we’ve almost had to put something like that in place because we are finding people are really just milking it and taking advantage of it as opposed to being, happy to partner with people and accounts and bookkeepers when they see fit, but a lot of them were literally just saving themselves a few hours and maybe billing out a few hours for the time we’ve spent, so that’s been quite difficult really.

Heather: I’ve sold like 10,000 copies of Xero for Dummies so I get that all the time. People are like I bought your book, can you explain page 63 to me and I’m like …thank you, thank you. Yes so I think it is actually a big issue and you can only have so much kind of support on your page explaining stuff because there are so many bespoke questions there and how to manage that…that is a regular issue. Again they could turn into £10,000 clients or they can turn into nothing.

Matt: Yes but I think that’s where we were receiving it. When we started looking at it the problem for us was we weren’t starting to service the requests because there’s nothing set in place so we might get a call or an email from an accountant asking, “I’m in this scenario what do you think we should do?” But we had so many at one point, especially about a month ago, we were taking nearly 3 weeks to get back to people. So if your service seems as poor, that’s its poor, but there is no service there because it’s not a costed exercise so we’ve got projects and fee paying clients that we’ve got to service first and foremost and ensure they’re happy and then we’ll pick up anything so we thought well actually, we can say we’re the first UK client integrator but if people can’t hold of us or aren’t getting a timely response then actually the view that is going to go down quite quickly.

Heather: Yes, absolutely. So it’s actually a good lesson for people to learn is don’t over-advertise when you first start up because it can be overwhelming.

Matt: Well I don’t think we were expecting the response to be honest, when we started touching base with a few of the accountants and bookkeepers we got quite a hefty response. I’ve got this question, I’ve got that question. So yes it will be interesting to see where it goes but we will certainly see the growth of Xero.

Heather: Oh well that’s excellent. That will make Roger very happy and Gary Turner it will make him very happy, and you can tell them to go and buy my book if they’ve got questions.

Matt: I will do.

Heather: Just settle down to some night time reading.

Matt: Yes I’ll just send them a hyperlink of where it’s on sale.

Heather: So that’s always a good answer and I guess it’s getting those frequently asked questions up and on the site and if you have an account manager to an extent they may well be able to help you with that but it’s kind of an interesting area. Thank you very much for talking to me. If it’s okay I’ll include the remaining conversation in there, I’ll cut and plonk it in if that’s OK.

Matt: Yes that’s fine.

Heather: Because you didn’t say anything too scandalous. Sometimes I get people and they go, “and this person he’s really rubbish” and I’m like, it’s going out to everyone we can’t say that so I have to go through and trim all the words out.

Matt: On the whole it’s been a positive experience for us so we’re hoping that continues.

Heather: Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time Matt.

Matt: Great.

Heather: Awesome. Cheers. Bye.

Matt: Thanks for your time now. Cheers. Bye.

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