Almost a quarter of invoices are paid late simply because businesses are disorganised Gary Turner, Xero MD EMEA, told attendees at Xero’s 2017 South Africa Roadshows last week in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
New research from Xero has also revealed that getting paid late is the biggest financial challenge for half of South Africa’s SMEs. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and technology could significantly ease the burden of late payments for SMEs – but one of the main barriers is a reluctance to embrace tech.
This can be seen in how South Africa’s small businesses manage their accounts: Excel is still the most popular accounting software. In a meeting with Gary, well-known researcher, media analyst and commentator Arthur Goldstuck noted that people’s lack of trust in technology will be one of the biggest obstructions to future growth.
But while some SMEs might not trust technology, they do trust their accountants, meaning that these professionals have a real opportunity to make a difference, and this theme of accountants supporting SMEs to achieve was present throughout the roadshows. The speakers, Colin Timmis, Marnus Broodryk, Paul Bulpitt, Craig Hudson and Neil Sheehan, urged accountants to endeavour to help boost SME growth and productivity. SMEs account for 52% of South Africa’s GDP and will be crucial to helping the country meet its National Development Plan job creation goals.
Colin Timmis, a practicing accountant and Xero’s SA Head of Accounting, observed that accountants rarely have the capacity to put as much time as they’d like into advising their clients. But technology can change this, as the right tools can boost efficiency and drive productivity. Using cloud accounting software, accountants can save time by automating routine tasks, and ensure businesses spend less time chasing payments.
While some may be worried that technology could one day replace accountants, Paul Bulpitt, Xero’s UK Head of Accounting, said that this was unlikely. Instead, accountants will have access to more data than ever before, which in turn will help them do more for their clients: “This will help us with predictive accounting. We’ll be able to know when our clients might have a cashflow problem and can help them avoid it, which will lead to stronger relationships with clients.”
Marnus Broodryk, CEO of The Beancounter, Xero Gold Partner, and investor on the M-Net series Shark Tank South Africa, encouraged the audience to consider their mindsets, and whether they have the right way of thinking to achieve success. Change is coming, and accountants can either refuse to change and ultimately be disrupted or embrace it and become the disruptors.
The presentations sparked healthy debate amongst those who attended, and accountants, Xero partners and small business owners alike left with an increased sense of excitement about what the future has in store.
The days of spending time doing meaningless admin and chasing payments can be brought to an end using technology, leaving professionals with more time and energy to do what they really love.
See photographs from the South African roadshow event and read what we got up to here.
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