-David Kirby, Figured UK Managing Director
This week’s agri day saw around 60 leading accounting partners and cloud specialists coming together at Xero HQ. As our first event with Xero, it was a great validation of the desire within the accounting community to provide business and technology leadership to farmers. We wanted people to come together and have a chance to discuss and debate issues and challenges, not just receive a pitch, hopefully, this was the feeling in the room.
Glen Foster from Xero lead the day, sharing Xero ’s view of the opportunity for Figured and Xero in the UK, before setting out the technology landscape, and the extent to which cloud and the associated ecosystem of app partners is supporting small business. This provided great context for getting into the business of farming with Armstrong Watson’s Head of Agriculture, and major Figured supporter, Andrew Robinson.
Andrew took to the stage amongst peers from across the country to put forward his perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, and the role accountants can play in leading clients through change. Aside from the challenging medium-term legislative picture post Brexit, the opportunity Andrew presented was for accountants to lead the change for their clients. We are facing the “most challenging period for agriculture since, possibly, World War Two” In this context, the opportunity for accountants was “to lead, not be led” by events and technology advancements. Andrew’s perspective was that data will be the strategic advantage of the future and that their technology platform choice with Xero & Figured will open up new opportunities in the future.
With great peer to peer discussion, lunch may well have been the highlight, with attendees sharing their progress with Xero, Figured and differing approaches on leading farming clients through changes. Lunch was followed by a session from Xero UK MD Gary Turner on his views of how the UK economy is developing in relation to small business, and how Xero plays a role in supporting that sector. Gary also reaffirmed his commitment to Figured and its proposition for UK agribusinesses.
The afternoon was all building towards the panel discussion, with presentation prior from Figured on our ideas for driving change, how to overcome challenges and make progress in the practice. Here we focused on our learning so far in the UK market, but recognized that we are still early stage and working flexibly with partners. Our focus is making the process work, and whilst we have a model of how to do things, we also need to tailor this to each practice and situation.
A real high point was the afternoon panel discussion, which saw innovators and leaders from across the sector taking to stage to discuss their different perspectives on leading change in agri. Gary Brockway (Cogital Group), Sam Evans (Kite Consulting), Andrew Robinson (Armstrong Watson), Nick Banks (Scrutton Bland), Diane Holden (Xero)...expertly facilitated by John Gibson.
Among a wide ranging discussion of how to initiate, support and maintain change in the sector, there were three key points which stood out:
- How to drive tech change - driving change requires a major investment in alignment and buy in around the top table. Without this, the structure of partnership businesses means that you’ll really struggle to gain momentum. Need to plan this carefully and sometimes going slower can pay dividends in the longer term. Also, the need to carefully plan your approach “plan the clients you are going to start with” Nick Banks
- Collaborating with others - Accountants need to demonstrate the collaborative behavior they expect from others, to enable the farming team to add value to clients and not be defensive “being open brings real benefits to clients, when clients are at the centre” said Nick Banks. Working with other experts to clients can add real benefits, and “Figured enables that to happen virtually” says Gary Brockway
- Working with farming clients - bringing farmers on the journey is sometimes challenging, but the accountant is uniquely positioned to support them “if we don’t lead them there, who will...they need honest conversations and good advice, early” Andrew Robinson. Motivating and influencing the farming base involves thinking about influencers, and ensuring that the change can be supported “ensure the team is really capable, and able to show the way” Sam Evans, Kite.
What happens next? Xero has launched their first Agri advisory playbook, with lots of great info and support material and we’ll be holding a follow-up webinar including a full product walkthrough. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.