The interview

Gary Turner

Managing Director, Xero

Q. Who are you and what do you do?

A. I’m Gary Turner and I’ve been managing director at Xero in the UK since 2009. I tend to spend most of my time coaching and supporting the UK team while we’ve grown from three staff in 2009 to nearly 100 today.

Q. What is it about The Pitch that made you want to get involved with the event?

A. At Xero we’re dedicated to helping small businesses become more successful and personally speaking, having spent 25 years in the world of small business technology, I just LOVE small businesses!

Small businesses are much more interesting and dynamic than big corporate behemoths, besides which they contribute half of the UK’s total GDP in terms of productivity, so small businesses are very important to the overall economy.

Q. If you had to give three tips on making a successful pitch, what would you choose?

A. My three tips for a successful pitch are:

   1. Know your numbers

    If you are in any way wooly about your financial workings and assumptions, cash needed, first two years revenue and cash projections, forget about convincing anyone to support you. Nail the details, know your numbers inside out, and then inside out again - test them       out on others before pitching.

   2. Keep it simple

    A good pitch doesn't try to be all things to all people. Rather, present your business in a manner that's short, sweet and to the point.

   3. Practice, practice, practice

    The first few times you try out a pitch it may be a bit uncomfortable, but it gets easier. After a while, it will become second nature, and when it does, you'll be pleased you practiced.

Q. How important is it for your company to engage with SMEs and new businesses?

A. In terms of focus, by design Xero is 100% focussed on serving small businesses, so small businesses are about as fundamental to the success of Xero as it gets. There are five million small businesses in the UK and most of them are time poor and often can’t dedicate the time required to take proper control of their financial affairs until things blow up and cash flow becomes a problem. Our job is to take advantage of new technologies like the cloud,  and design new, low cost tools that small businesses can easily get to grips with to help handle the basics of managing business finances.  

Q. It’s clear that The Pitch attendees can learn a lot from the event, but what about larger companies like yours? What do you hope to gain from being part of The Pitch?

A. Alongside the obvious stuff like helping to build our profile as a key supporter of the British small business community, I find that all my best learning happens when you’re not stuck in the office, shackled to your desk, but when you’re face to face with the community you’re trying to serve. Without fail, every time I meet with a small business owner or a customer, I always come back to the office with three or four new insights I didn’t have before. So, getting out there and in front of our target customer audience is actually a really key thing for us to keep our ideas fresh and responsive to what’s important to small businesses.

Q. What advice do you offer small businesses for managing their accounts?

A. Ha! How long have I got?

Well, apart from using Xero to manage their bookkeeping - obviously! - I’d say there’s nothing much better than having a great, close working relationship with your accountant. For small businesses, great accountants are like having your own financial director, only they’re not on your payroll costing you a fortune.

Another key nugget of advice is something we found by analysing debtor payment performance of a staggering 12 million Xero invoices raised by our customers over a year or so. The rule of thumb we saw is no matter how many days credit are shown on an invoice, your customers always take two weeks longer to actually pay you - so if you want to get paid inside 30 days, make sure you only give 14 days credit.

Finally, while spreadsheets are a quick and dirty way to throw together your numbers and keep track of things, they are prone to typos and errors and there’s not a great deal a spreadsheet can do for you in terms of getting your cash in sooner or keeping on top of your finances. So, I’d recommend that small businesses ditch the spreadsheet as soon as they can in favour of something simple but structured. And today, apps like Xero cost as little as the price of a cup of coffee every day to run.


More advice from Xero, supporter of The Pitch

  • How to build the right team for your small business
  • Fair pay? Working out your small business salary
  • Your business finance options: The pros and cons