TSBK - Episode 78 - Keri Gohman.png
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Small businesses.

It’s the heart of the global economy.

Our guest, Keri Gohman, President of Xero Americas, is passionate about helping small businesses grow and thrive by enabling entrepreneurs to work toward their financial goals.

For bookkeepers, Xero automates many basic functions allowing you to do tasks quickly and easily while maximizing your time, build relationships with your clients and have instant growth results.

Xero is helping over 1 million subscribers worldwide transform the way they do business and they’re just getting started.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • The importance of bringing together the “Financial Web” for business success

  • Tips on how to grow your clients, team and profits

  • How being a trusted advisor will attract great people

To learn more about Xero, visit this link.

To sign up for a 30-day free trial, click here.

For Keri's LinkedIn page, explore here.

For her Twitter, discover here.


EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

Michael Palmer: 01:22 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a terrific one. Our guest is the president of one of the fastest-growing software as a service company in the World Xero Americas. She is passionate about helping small business owners and entrepreneurs succeed as well. Has An incredible story of her journey and her career that she's going to share with us today. Keri Gohman, welcome to the podcast. 

Keri Gohman: 01:54 Thank you so much, Michael, thanks for having me. 

MP: 01:57 Yeah, it's great to have you in it. Really thankful that you devoted some of your day. I know it's a super busy day running a very large organization like this, so we all appreciate it and I know our listeners do. 

MP: 02:08 Excellent. 

MP: 02:10 Now before we get off to things, can you give us a little bit about yourself and tell us how you came to be heading up Xero Americas? 

KG: 02:20 Yeah, I'm happy to. You know, I have spent my career in financial services and while it wasn't exactly where I thought I was going to spend my time, what I found myself doing is that I was attracted to these incredibly complex industries that are deeply in need of transformation and yet incredibly important. So I found myself attracted to industries like insurance and investing and banking and lending and now accounting. And these are spaces that really matter and they really need to work for both and business owners. And in particular, I really found myself excited about supporting entrepreneurs because I was always just so inspired by their dreams and ambitions, their risk-taking, their tenacity. And I found that I could make a big difference because financial services was really broken for business owners. And a, I spent the last eight years actually at capital one leading small business for the bank and I got to know zero as a partner. And I was blown away by the way that technology made doing business simpler. And it brought together all the key pieces of the financial economy. So the banking with business management tools and most importantly with advice, which we often forget, it's not just about the technology, it's often about advice. And I wanted to be a part of the journey. I got to know rod and I said I got to be a part of this. I think I can make a real difference for business owners here in the Americas and particularly in the US. 

MP: 03:57 That's great. I love your story working in, you know, from an executive-level but for working with really large organizations, but those organizations that are helping small business owners and entrepreneurs, which is a really cool angle as well. You know, doing a little bit of research on you as well. You, you've, you've worked with supporting small business owners from micro-lending and nonprofits as well as being a leader, a leader on the council of Kiva. That's, that's really outstanding.

KG: 04:25 Okay. 

MP: 04:26 Has, has that always been something that you have been passionate about? 

KG: 04:30 You know, it's interesting. I grew up in a corporate family. And, um, I had the opportunity as many of us do to get to know entrepreneurs that were either family members, they were friends. And I just started to hear more and more stories of the complexity and the challenge of financial management. In fact, the bigger businesses get, the more complicated it gets and how difficult it is to make it. And, uh, in particular, I have one very good friend who makes jewelry and she has been enormously successful, but her big challenges are all around dealing with the finances because she's an artist and it's those kinds of stories that really inspired me. And you know, you hear these stats that half of the small businesses in the Americas fail by five years and they cite financial management is one of the key reasons they struggle. And this is the place where, you know, I really felt like my understanding of financial management and the kinds of companies that I joined could, could really make a difference. 

MP: 05:33 Mm. I, I completely agree. They, everybody here would completely agree with that statement. And so it's, it's, uh, it's exciting to have somebody that's working on, on a, on it, on that level. Tell us a little bit about your duties as the zero America's president and how, how does that impact our audience, our audience of bookkeepers? 

KG: 05:55 Yeah. I, um, I had a job because I get to bring this amazing technology, you know, Gero was the first cloud-based accounting software and I guess to bring this great and latest technology to accountants and bookkeepers and small business owners here in this part of the world because the company was started in the southern hemisphere. So I get the opportunity to bring it to this part of the world and then support the technology with real people that are helping drive transformation both for the accountants and bookkeepers and for the small business owners. And so we have software that supports the business side for the small business owner and to the accountants, a whole suite of tools to help a bookkeeper work with that small business owner on a shared ledger and connect all the parts of their financial ecosystem. And what I'm really inspired about here in this part of the world. 

KG: 06:46 I mentioned a stat that has a small business owner sale within five years. Part of the reason I'm so excited about bringing this technology to the Americas is that I know and all of our data, both here in this part of the world and in our markets within the UK and Australia, New Zealand show that if we have a small business owner and they are connected to a bookkeeper or an accountant and they're running on zero, 85% of them, 85% make it past year five and they grow profits 23% faster than businesses that aren't taking advantage of latest technology and aren't connected to an advisor. And that really becomes a key thing. We strongly believe that it is critical and a driver success, that a small business owner have a relationship with a bookkeeper or an accountant who can help be an advisor to them. And here in this market, only 32% of small business owners have that relationship. So we're all about creating technology that can bring that advising together. So then an accountant and a small business owner together can increase the odds of success. So it's a really cool opportunity that I have to bring something so powerful to this part of the world and really make a difference for, you know, 

KG: 08:05 my neighbor, my friend, and our community providers.

MP: 08:16 Yeah, You made an incredible statistic and I mean from a perspective of your messaging really is encouraging business owners to, to develop a relationship with their bookkeeper, to be, to be an advisor. And I think that that's exciting. And uh, I think it's a fresh look on how technology are a part of vendor really in the marketplace. You're not just a vendor, you're looking to be a partner, not only for the businesses that run your software, but the ecosystem of those businesses. So I think that's exciting. And listen, I mean here, I believe that small businesses, you know, they're the reason why our countries are great. You know, it's why, why we have the freedoms that we have, right? They create new jobs, they provide innovation and they build thriving communities. And so any, anyone who's standing up taking a stand for small business, they're friends of me and friends of the successful bookkeeper. So, and I just love your attitude towards that now. 

KG: 09:18 Yeah, absolutely. 

MP: 09:19 We talked a little bit about your personal life and what you, you know, as a woman executive, what you've had to deal with and there's, I want you to share more of, it's not just being a woman as a, a family, a husband and lots going on. I'd love to hear your take in terms of how you keep all of it together and still able to lead this, this company forward. 

KG: 09:41 Yeah. Well, obviously I take my day to day inspiration in doing work that makes a difference, like many of your bookkeepers and listeners, you know, the reality is when, you know, you go to work every day and you've got the secret sauce that can help someone really be successful, who's pursuing their dreams, that's motivating every day. But as you and I know to have a successful business life, it also means that you want to have the right support in your personal life. And you know, I'm a wife and a mother of three and I feel really fortunate to really do two things. One is I've been lucky in life to have a teammate and a partner. My husband actually is a stay at home spouse, which I know not everyone has the luxury of doing. We did an early in our lives and made the necessary financial adjustments, but it's been wonderful to have that partnership. 

KG: 10:26 Other people have support through family and friends and you know when you're running a business, when you are an executive or a leader, having the right support network is key. I think the other thing that's been, you know, really a great unfortunate in my career, particularly this last move to zero is choosing a company to work with and to be a part of. Whether you know, whether you're leading your own company or you're joining a company that really is supportive of having a full work-life kind of integration and balance and one that really supports you doing the things you need to be successful in both life and work and, and having that sort of full picture put together. It makes a huge difference in zero is exactly that kind of company. We actually have a 50, 50 board a and Rog is our CEO. 

KG: 11:15 Roger Rory is really passionate about making sure we have female representation all the way at the top. We have 50, 50 executives in the company leading the global organization. Uh, and then all throughout the company in that sort of diversity and balance is really important and we want to make sure that we represent our community that we serve are accountants or bookkeepers and our business owners as well. So it's been wonderful to both be able to see you, uh, set myself up in life but also to, to the company that's very supportive of the things that, uh, that are important to me and to our employees here at zero. 

MP: 11:50 Hmm. That's fantastic. And thank you for sharing a bit about personal life and, and, and how your, some of the things that you're, you're doing and leveraging to, to make it all work. And it sounds like one of those, I mean zero was a very supportive and an environment really, that all enabled that to actually happen, which is, which is not the case for every single company out there. That is for sure as we're hearing, right? 

KG: 12:15 Yes, unfortunately.

MP: 12:17 But things, things are changing and to change comes, but speaking about people's lives and how, how they're impacted, let's talk a little bit about what a bookkeeper who has maybe not used zero, what can they expect the impact to be on their life when they're using a product like zero? 

KG: 12:34 I'm so glad you asked that because you know when you're using and taking advantage of technology, it allows you to both be successful in your business, but it also creates great opportunities to build the kind of business that really works for your lifestyle and your needs as well. And zero definitely does that for our community of bookkeepers and accountants. And it also really dramatically changes the way a small business owner runs. And the way I'd like to think about zero and remember at it's core, it's a great and beautiful accounting software instead of tools for the small business owner and the accountant to work virtually together. But it's also a platform that connects banking and business management apps and that sort of day to day virtual interaction with an accountant or bookkeeper. And so zero really drives both efficiency in how you work on a day to day basis in your workflows. 

KG: 13:28 But it also creates some tools and some insights so that if you're a bookkeeper or an accountant, you can also serve back to your business owner. Incredible insights on how they can do work better and more efficiently within their own business. And I think about that on really two parts. One, and I'll share some stats with you that are just mind-boggling and then I'll share an example or two as well. And again, we do all the work, you know, we're developers and engineers and accountants and so we're looking to really apply the latest technology, AI and machine learning for towards those workflows. And so we see that when bookkeepers and accountants move 100% on the cloud and they take full advantage of the technology and the linking, all of these apps that I just met at mentioned, they see 80% faster growth in their own businesses. 

KG: 14:21 Their employees get so much efficiency that they can see they can take on five times the clients per employee. So that's straight efficiency. So we would expect that. I know it's just incredible. And so this is on the bookkeeper side. That's not even thinking through what the impact is to the small business owner. And as I mentioned, it's helping their small business owners be more efficient. So the bookkeeper can take on more clients and a lot of the tasks get automated that historically were really, really time-consuming. Then we want to take all of that great sort of new time and see, you know, bookkeeper can apply that to doing things differently in there and balancing out their business or their personal life. But we also want to create opportunities for many bookkeepers and accountants to add advisory services. And when you add advisory services, you see twice the revenue per employee and 90% more revenue per client. And so our focus is on creating not just the tools to do that and to see those kinds of gains, but also the community and the like the support, the people that can help these, you know, bookkeepers and accountants transformed their practice. So that's really what a bookkeeper and accountant can expect. Now. It still takes a transition to change the way you work. We get that. And so part of what we provide is a lot of support from real humans to help bookkeepers and accountants take advantage of that technology. 

KG: 15:56 I'll share an example is if you don't mind, one of our clients I, we do too. I have tons of them. So one of our clients is being counted for higher. In fact, they just won one of our awards for partner of the year and what they told us is they essentially use zero and hub doc, which is a way to automate a Canadian firm that automates all of the entry right from all your bills and things like that. For your clients. That's the core of their service. And they use payroll. They use folks that are integrated into zero, that are in our ecosystem, Gusto and t sheets, and that allows them to service their customer at a very low price, right? So it doesn't cost them much. They're able to send some savings onto their small business owners, but they're also able to do things like get really specific in e-commerce. 

KG: 16:50 So they're able to customize an e-commerce stack using a two x Shopify tax jar and streamline their accounting and increased transparency to e-commerce customers. So not only can they provide base services, now they're able to offer specialties and verticals, which you just can't do if it cost-effectively without the latest technology. They've gone completely to the cloud. And so they're getting the kinds of benefits I mentioned from efficiency and they're able to interact with the only interact with their customers virtually. And that allows them not only to serve their clients more efficiently, but they can serve clients all over the United States and Canada. So they're not limited to just their geographic location. So we have lots of examples of this. And you know, what's amazing about our community is that folks like being counters for higher, are willing to share their learning with other bookkeepers or other accountants who are looking to transform their practice. And we try to bring those folks together to learn from one another, but just an exciting story of efficiency and growth all wrapped into one, just taking advantage of the latest technology. 

MP: 17:54 Wow. So exciting. And you know, as you mentioned, there is work to be done to, to, to, to do anything really. And yet the outcome, the gain, the benefit is just so big main, we're talking about 80% lift in, in productivity, um, as one of the numbers that you, you stated. So no, it's exciting. I mean the community, the technology where it's all going helping not only bookkeepers and accountants, but also business owners do a better job of what they're trying to do and, and keep the finances clear and up to date and intelligent. So that's exciting. Now a little bit about, you know, there's other, there's other products in the marketplace, right? Like QuickBooks online. How do you set yourself apart from QuickBooks online? 

KG: 18:45 And there's three things I would point out. First is we are really a first cloud-based accounting software out there and we really believe in taking advantage of the latest technology. And so with us you're going to get the most innovative, the most up to date technologies, really taking advantage of things like that. Sounds scary like machine learning, but where we apply it is to do things like account reconciliation, making those tasks simpler and easier. That historically has been very time-consuming. So we're really truly the first innovator in the accounting space and continue to be. The second thing is we know that changing technology can be tough and so we provide the support, both the people within zero to help convert and adopt the technology and take advantage of it, right? Because finding out this is just step one and also the community of support for one another. 

KG: 19:39 And the third thing I mentioned, which is really important is that we believe in the bookkeeper and the accountant and we believe that that advice is critical and working together on that shared ledger is important. So when we get a client or a small business owner that finds that for zero and they don't have an accounting relationship, our number one focus is to get them together with someone who can support them because we know it will increase their odds of success and in fact help them thrive. And we believe that's really important. And that community helps enable that entire thing. And that is about accountants and bookkeepers sharing best practices together. We have many events that we host that zero is not even involved in. We sometimes use our offices, but we have folks that host things like zero hours in 21 cities. And what happens in each of these is that people get together that are, you know, likeminded and help each other on their journey. 

KG: 20:32 And one of our advisors gave a set of quote yesterday that I thought was so great that it is the most tangible real-world forum for advisors. And when we get people together, they start sharing and helping each other to have our clients that are in Canada barrage allowed from positive accounting. And Chad Davis from live ca, they shared a story with me and I shared it actually at our annual event called Xerocon. And you know, Raj had reached out to Chad through the network when he signed up for zero in the first place and wasn't sure how to get started or how to take advantage of chat, actually spent time giving them all of his tips and tricks, sharing the process of getting set up. And now that they've gotten to know each other, they regularly call on each other. But really interestingly, and you don't always see this happen in these communities outside of zero, but the zero community, this happens a lot. Raj and Chad actually passed each other business. So when one of them's too busy or it's a better fit for the other firm, and that happens everywhere. So this sort of idea of how do you create a community where accountants and bookkeepers help each other, not just zero helping, but also a community like the one that you have created really get together and support one another. So it's just exciting, but really is what makes euro special and unique and it is very tangible. 

MP: 21:55 You know, it's great. It's very, I mean the community brings true so powerful when you can have people acting that way in a community. You know, it's exciting. Tell us a little bit about, cause you mentioned zero con, tell us a little bit about Zuckerman and, and you know, why should people be buying a ticket and coming along there?

KG: 22:16 Kahn is a really fun event, first of all, and it's a really educational event and we find that we just had our last Aerocon in December in Austin, Texas. Our next one's coming up, actually the summer in Atlanta. Actually, tickets just went on sale. But what's really cool is folks get together. These are folks who either are incredibly modern, they've been using Xero for a while, they're really at technology forward. Or sometimes they're folks that are an bookkeepers and accountants that are just starting to think about their journey and want to learn more about zero or more about technology and tips and tricks. And so we think about Xero as a place for folks to get to spend time with each other to build that community that I mentioned. It's a place to learn about the latest technology, the latest vendors. It's a place to be inspired and excited and it is also a really fun group of people and it's often been referred to as the Coachella for accountants as well, which is really funny. But it is, it is very fun event. Recreate both formal and informal opportunities for people to get to know each other and people really are doing incredible work through that event. And if some of your listeners are already zeros, I'd encourage them to come and, and learn more. And then for those folks who are even thinking about and wanting to learn about the latest technology, it's a really easy way to hear from other people who've been on the journey about what works and what doesn't. 

MP: 23:44 Now you called Xeros. These are the community members there. 

KG: 23:50 Hey members and our team members, we're all in it together. 

MP: 23:54 No Zeros. We're all zeros in. 

KG: 23:57 I, um, before I joined Xero, when I was with capital one, I actually had a chance to speak at a Xerocon and I walked the floor and I was like, man, these people are, they share my passion for small business. They're accountants and bookkeepers who are just really interesting as they have innovative business practices. I was blown away and that certainly didn't hurt my desire to be with zero. I wanted to be a part of that community. And yeah, it feels really special when you find a group of people who share the same values, the same interests, and why help each other. 

MP: 24:31 Well, I think it speaks to the innovation and disruptiveness of the organization that they can have the world in their community wanting to be called Xeros. I mean, that's all right. It's so cool. And uh, it's the one time in one's life that you're going to say, yeah, I'm a zero and be proud of it. So it really, I mean I've, uh, met a lot of Xeros and they are really committed community.

KG: 24:55 And so I, I echo that and we're really excited because we're, we're actually putting together standard operating procedures for Xero, both in Canada and the United States, which we're launching this year. So it's just about providing streamline workflows, process improvement. So not only the lift that you're gonna get from using a great technology like Xero, but as well productivity, lift and improvement from using standard operating procedures that had been tested by hundreds of other bookkeepers. So we're, we're really excited about that, putting a lot of effort and investment in doing that. 

MP: 25:28 Oh, it's fantastic. 

MP: 25:29 We'd really love to hear, I'm sure the audience and especially the Zeros that are listening, any secret product updates that you can give us that are coming? 

KG: 25:40 Oh my goodness. Well, I have an amazing list for many of our heroes who really have ideas or thoughts that they want to incorporate. And also just like your standard operating procedures. We look for the best, most innovative firms and put that right into the software so that we can take full advantage of it. So I can't give away any secrets. We had an amazing set of launches in December with new expenses and projects and a new self-employed Xero plus c offering. So what I can tell your listeners is that I promise you will not be disappointed if you join us in Xerocon Atlanta as to hear what's next. But I am absolutely not going to spill the beans quite yet, but know that many of your fellow Xeros are actually giving us our list. 

MP: 26:30 Beautiful. Well that's exciting and I mean I will say about any industry event like this and I know I've heard great things about zero con just attending an event like that and hanging out with people like the zero community and is an incredibly smart investment. So listener, if you are a zero or you want to be one, I highly recommend planning this for your year. Get their to this big community. It will give you a shot in the arm for your business, for your confidence and for your desire to, to be great at what you do. I mean, being good, good, but being great. It's awesome. Right? So, uh, so, so great. So Keri, this has been absolutely great. I've loved getting to know you and I, I just have to say, you know, we talk about all the time to our community and in many, many podcast episodes, we've talked about how to attract great people into your business as customers. 

MP: 27:26 And one of the key things is they need to know you. They need to like you, they need to trust you. And I think it's been great sharing yourself here on this community and on this podcast because I think that's what we've accomplished today is really you're a great person doing some really great things in the world and that's the type of people that work at a, at zero. So what a great opportunity for our listener to get to know you and as well for, uh, you know, Xero and yourself to have our audience be aware of what you're up to. 

KG: 27:54 Thanks so much, Michael. I appreciate it. Thanks for having us. 

MP: 27:57 Yeah, well, thank you for being on the show. That wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast and what a fun one it was. To learn more about today's guests and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com until next time, 

MP: 28:15 goodbye