xero-logo-hires-RGBIt’s winter and in Louisiana that means one thing- Gumbo season! My first pot a few weeks ago disappeared instantly. (Funny how it takes so much longer to cook than it does to be eaten.) Tax deadlines had just passed, which is exciting for me as I get to help small businesses save money, and I had put in many hours in the final weeks. My brain was still on overdrive and I was in need of cooking therapy.

 

To make a gumbo, first you make a roux, which incidentally, is the first sentence of every good Cajun recipe.  If you make your own roux, you know you need a spoon and some time. Standing and stirring, stirring and standing until you get just the right color you are looking for. Too little stirring and too much heat can result in burning, too low heat can result of more standing. It’s a skill developed over many years.

 

On this evening, as I was letting my head wander, I began to think about how two things I love very much- Cajun food and small business consulting- were related.

 

In the Southwest heart of Louisiana is what is affectionately called “Cajun Country” or “Acadiana”. Acadiana was built on a mixture of several different cultures, the twice exiled French Europeans from Nova Scotia called Acadians, the existing Native Americans living in the region, small German as well as Asian populations which had settled in the area for some reasons I have since forgotten, and of course African American slaves. One day they got together, as we all do in Louisiana, and contributed to a feast, as we do here, which we now call gumbo. The Acadians contribution was the roux, a cooking technique brought with them from Europe, a mixture of flour and oil. The Native Americans added some sassafras leaves which they used in their own cooking, also known as file. The slaves brought with them an old tradition of thickening their soups with okra, which is where the name gumbo is thought to have come from. The Germans would be remiss if they couldn’t add some of their fine sausage, and the Asians added their staple of rice which was so easily grown in Louisiana. Throw in a chicken or two, and of course some seasoning, and that my friends is a gumbo. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing a little in the story and I’m also sure if you searched the internet you would find many variations on this story, however it’s the one that has stuck with me all these years.

 

I thought about this story as I continued to stir. And then something struck me. All of these great people came together with their own expertise and their own contributions and made this wonderful, delicious meal to nourish everyone and share with their community and like minds. Without the roux, it would just be a thin broth. Without the flavors of the okra or the sassafras it would be bland and tasteless. Without the protein it would not be filling or as nutritious. Without the rice, it would be just a soup. All the ingredients together make it what it is, incomparable to any other dish. If you’ve ever had gumbo then you know exactly what I mean.

 

I consult often on small businesses and start-ups. One of the great things about starting a business today is the number of software applications available to owners. Whether their business is in product or services, there are many applications to help them in their goal. They are easy and affordable, and most importantly, allow owners to focus on running their business. They are excellent at what they do and the software they provide – their expertise. Not many of them try to be everything to everyone. They know they can focus in their wheelhouse and they do it very well. What I find I come across mostly is the need to explain the necessity of an accounting package, which sometimes is an afterthought. These modern day entrepreneurs know so much as about what they are selling, how they are marketing, cloud and internet connectivity services and how many employees they have, they often forget about the back office stuff. This is where Xero comes in. It’s like the roux of the gumbo. It brings it all together, it’s the foundation of the back office.

 

How many employees do you need to pay? Maybe that’s that your sausage in your gumbo, choose an add-on and add it to your mix. It all feeds into Xero and records it for you. Have ten thousand widgets? Maybe that’s your rice. Xero has excellent choices for add-ons to maintain this, add this to your gumbo in whatever quantity you like. Project Management? That takes time, like adding some chicken to your gumbo, you need to plan it out and make sure it cooks long enough. Need a CSM so you can keep up with your customers or special lists? That’s like adding a little seasoning, so you can tailor your business to your target demographics.

 

All of these add-on’s are great at what they do and what they provide, and they make your gumbo delicious. They sync beautifully to Xero and pull in the transactions that are the lifeblood of your business. But will your inventory module tell you how much you spent in fuel last month? Will it tell you if your biggest customer has yet to pay you? Will it tell you your cash position on a daily basis so you can know if you have enough money to run payroll? Probably not. This is where Xero comes in. It pulls all your data in and compiles it for you. Real information on your business as a whole, not in pieces. It’s the foundation of your information. First you make a roux…..

 

So, how do you want your gumbo?