By Jimmy Forward
2020 has been a pretty interesting year for a lot of industries, but Aussie accountants and farmers have faced some of the most trying times in years.
The raft of stimulus packages passed to get the economy through the coronavirus pandemic threw an enormous curveball at our accounting partners. At a time of year they would normally be finalising returns, and entering tax planning, their attention was forced towards navigating overnight legislative change and nursing panicked business owners through some dire times. In an industry that has traditionally been completely office based, add on the challenge of working remotely, and it’s not surprising that many of our accounting partners told us (very politely) that Figured and farmers were not at the top of their priority list.
Farmers, whilst not immediately impacted by the pandemic, have had to adjust to challenges of their own this year. As food security concerns skyrocketed, access to meat processors dried up, creating gaps in sales and cashflow. The Australian governments’ ongoing tiff with China delivered real impact with tariffs on barley and wine forcing growers to pivot to different products and markets, and sending prices south substantially. Seasonal labour has dried up, so Harvest 2020 across the country will look very different for a lot of farmers that have traditionally relied on working holiday makers to bridge the gap in regional employment.
2020 also marked my 4th year at Figured. Reflecting on my time, the changes are subtle, but representative of amazing trends.
Those accountants who chose to embrace a cloud tech stack clearly survived the challenges this year a lot easier. Those that were forced to relocate servers, and setup home VPNs surely questioned their decision to wait.
The needs of the agri-accountant have also moved beyond simply quantities on reports for a livestock trading statement. Instead farmers and their advisers are seeking deeper connection, around high quality, up to date data. Profit per hectare and DSE are being asked for more and more, as farmers look to grow their way to success. Cash is still king, but those who manage it well are instead able to focus on profit and growth, leaving the less efficient in their wake.
The younger farming generation are well and truly here as well, and with it a concept of work life balance not historically seen in farming. We regularly hear stories of farming mums reconciling their bank account on the Xero mobile app waiting for the school bus, or reforecasting in Figured on the iPad whilst kids run around the park. Dealing with data incrementally is here, and the days of saving up a pile of paperwork for a rainy day are well and truly gone.
For us internally, no travel, and death by zoom meeting had a significant impact on morale. As much as we all tried, the virtual meeting will never be a true substitute for pressing palms (or bumping elbows), having a open conversation or challenging presentation, and then sinking a beer or two after to get a real understanding of the people we are working with.
Through all the challenges thrown at us, we are incredibly proud to pass the milestone of 4000 Australian farms connected to Figured, every one of them backed by Xero’s single ledger vision.
As we look to 2021, the vision I signed up for 4 years ago becomes a reality. The last 2 years have seen amazing product improvements in Figured, with revamped planning and cropping interfaces, powerful what-if scenario building, and streamlined user workflows. Incredibly proud to work with a team that stays true to the vision, but listens to its users to learn from mistakes and iterate successfully.
The most exciting part of 2021 is our Insights platform. Giving advisers the opportunity to aggregate farms for reporting, or segment farms to isolate those who need help more than others.
There are several places in Figured where we have seemingly been stubborn or overly rigid with our settings, but it is evident now that this is for the greater good.
Building a plan on a controlled software platform creates consistency, allowing those interpreting the plan to get straight to analysis, instead of having to interpret a custom spreadsheet each time.
With consistency, advisers can create systems, to onboard staff and farmers to these more modern methods.
Systems create scale.
Scale creates growth.
And in 2021, Figured Insights will pull all this together into the complete, cloud based, farm planning and reporting solution.