Accelerate - April 2016

From Xero to hero

open this image in new window: Julie Reddish

Give people the space to express their own culture, and they will call themselves Cheese Weasels and thrive, says Xero’s Julie Reddish.

With 1300 employees across 20 offices globally, Xero is an unequivocal Kiwi growth success story. In less than a decade, the Wellington-based accounting software firm has doubled in size annually.

It’s gone from a handful of local SMEs to well over half a million users worldwide, reconciling $300b a year in transactions through the company’s “beautiful” cloud software.

So how do you keep the start-up mentality alive in a company where, among other challenges, their employees are working in seven different time zones?

Julie Reddish, Xero’s Happiness Engineer, works in the Global Product Team – where the developers make and improve the aforementioned beautiful software. It’s the guts of the operation, or as Reddish puts it “without a product, there’s no company”.

Xero tolerance: Xero makes a conscious and deliberate effort to increase, promote and celebrate diversity. They do this because they believe it is good for business, with Reddish referring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study where they found the biggest predictor of team performance and success is an equal split of men and women.

Also helping to retain the culture of innovation as the company grows is the belief at Xero in the Holy Trinity of employee engagement – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

In particular, paid time is routinely given over to allowing employees to explore their own ideas. As other software companies have found, this internal hack can often yield improvements, fixes and new products that may otherwise have never seen the light of day.

This all adds up to a company that has opened the doors in Australia, the US and UK, but retained the ethos and culture of an idea developed in a Wellington living room.

The level playing field | Index | Creating innovation cultures

Updated: 8 April 2016