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How Xero drives its employees to innovate and why that’s important

Thursday, 21 January 2016 | By Angus Norton


For a global startup to win the market, it has to put the customer at the centre of everything it does and innovate and iterate their product at a dizzying speed.


This is a process which inherently benefits the economy.


By challenging your workforce to do better, they usually improve their skills and problem-solving mindset which over time contributes to increasing personal incomes and sustainable economic growth.


Employees where I work, Xero, work on a meritocracy, where their salaries reflect their successes and talent in the business. It’s a system which drives product innovation and ensures our engineers, designers and developers consistently do beautiful work which delights our customers.


Over the past 12 months, Xero has released more than 500 product updates and features.


In two years, we’ve also spent more than $100 million on building out a beautiful platform which makes life easier for small businesses, allowing management to focus on growth and products rather than the time-intensive tasks in accounting.


Building a beautiful product, at pace, with the customer at the centre of everything we do, means there’s no room for the traditional IT software company model and the complex processes which slow down decision-making and product development.


For innovation to have its full economic impact, changes need to happen swiftly and decisively.


We’ve been building a new-age tech company with an agile structure and highly productive teams situated all over the planet, so there’s always someone online - and it’s paying off.


Benefiting the country’s economy


Innovation, like that happening at Xero, is ultimately hugely important to the wider economy — history has shown how the long-term success of a developed economy is directly linked to the innovation of its organisations. Think back to the impact Henry Ford had on the US economy, or how Apple and Google have changed Silicon Valley.


With Atlassian’s recent IPO in the US, Australia is now finding itself in a position where if it supports these technology companies, it too can benefit.


But not just any company can innovate - it takes a smart workforce, a crystal clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve, the availability of capital and a market which wants to interact with what you’re offering.


The rise of the cloud


With the explosion of the internet, mobile tech and the cloud, more tech companies are trying to break through by providing innovative and different solutions.


The evolution of cloud-based services is helping small businesses all around the world by taking the onus off owners and freeing up their time to get the important stuff done.


Xero isn’t the only cloud-based service giving small businesses some time back. My favourite US service is Postmates. They deliver anything you need, at any time, to your home within 60 minutes. Their couriers collect the item, charge your credit card and you can track the whole journey on your phone.


While it’s not available in New Zealand or Australia yet, it’s an example of just how big an opportunity cloud is for small businesses, especially ones which want to create a more connected world.



Angus Norton is Chief Product Officer at Xero.