Trailblazing online accounting firm Xen Accounting — one of four Xero platinum partners in Canada — was recently acquired by Equiom, a global firm that serves international corporations and high-net-worth individuals.
For Equiom, the move marks its entry into the cloud services arena. For Xen Accounting, it represents the culmination of years of work developing a new business model that has pushed the boundaries of industry expectations.
Deep expertise in technology is at the core of what has made Xen Accounting stand out — the firm offers accounting services to business across Canada, while specializing in workflow automation and systems integration. But the driving motivation for founder and CEO Ryan Lazanis has always been a distinctly human mindset that aims to help entrepreneurs succeed in all aspects of their business. Â
Lazanis draws inspiration from the experiences of his father, a lifelong small business owner who ran a print shop. Ironically, this deep immersion in the nuts and bolts of running a print shop would lead Lazanis to create a completely paperless accounting practice.
â€œI always wanted to start a business, and was always drawn to helping entrepreneurs succeed. I worked in a traditional CPA firm and in a corporate accounting role, but neither of these roles were satisfying. I was disillusioned with the process because I didnâ€™t have any opportunity to connect with my customers. It was just about transactional services — get their taxes done and then move on to the next.â€�
â€œI always wanted to start a business, but didnâ€™t really know what to do. My training was mostly in a traditional CPA firm and the corporate accounting gig I had following that was too repetitive. I was disillusioned with the overall accounting firm process, so I decided to re-invest the process to help improve the experience customers would receive from their accountant.â€�
From the outset, Lazanis had a vision to deliver a complete, end-to-end, and pain-free accounting experience. He wanted to be able to see the entire picture of what was happening in a business so that he could help them thrive. This focus on customer service and advisory challenged the conventional wisdom that a practice should be built on the foundation of tax.
Of course, conventional wisdom was backed by a fair degree of logic. When Xen Accounting started in 2013, Lazanisâ€™ vision was well ahead of what the available technology could do. Cloud accounting was very much in its infancy, with Intuit still focused on its desktop offering and newer players, such as Xero, just starting to emerge in North America (Xero had 157,000 customers in 2013, a far cry from the current tally of 1.6M!).
â€œWhen I started out, I quickly realized that my clients absolutely hated doing bookkeeping. I actually didnâ€™t even want to offer bookkeeping services at the start. It was generally not what a CPA firm would focus on. But by being able to pair modern tools like Xero with professionals, we were not only able to handle the process efficiently, but were also able to better round out our service to reduce the accounting pain that small business owners faced. I saw early on that cloud accounting would open up the possibility for me to design an end-to-end experience for my clients.â€�
This customer-centric approach led Xen Accounting to pioneer a model by which they advise clients not just on their financials or business strategy, but on the optimal technology to use to run efficiently. Lazanis explains that focusing on workflow automation and systems design is a virtuous cycle — it helps the client run more efficiently, and it helps Xen Accounting spend less time on data entry and more time adding strategic value.
Equiom was drawn to Xen Accounting precisely because of this ability to leverage technology to deliver on the end-to-end needs of clients.
Global CEO at Equiom, Sheila Dean said: â€œThis is a very exciting acquisition for Equiom. Advancing technology has already enabled us to have a better conversation with our clients, engaging more often and actively. Equiom will leverage Xen Accountingâ€™s experience with a view to adopting their model of next generation accounting solutions. This will ultimately allow us to focus on adding value through timely reporting, analytics and forecasting, rounding out a proficient virtual service.â€�
For Lazanis, joining Equiom is a unique opportunity to apply the customer-first, tech-first model he and his team have built on a global scale.
â€œFive years ago, firms were primarily serving clients within a 20 mile radius. Today, with the power of cloud accounting platforms like Xero, firms have the incredible opportunity to deliver that same deep customer service for customers all around the world.â€�
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