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‘I had no off switch’: Rod Drury reflects on time as head of Xero

‘I had no off switch’: Rod Drury reflects on time as head of Xero

Former Xero chief executive Rod Drury reflects on his time at the helm of the software company, urging accountants to set up a succession plan to avoid his work/life balance mistakes.

Technology Jotham Lian 10 September 2018

At Xerocon in Brisbane, Mr Drury spoke of his decision to step down as chief executive earlier this year, noting his struggles to push for scale and product strategy development.

“A lot of us are founder-led businesses and we’ve just charged on and gone ahead,” said Mr Drury.

“What was obvious for me and kind of hard for me was as that founder, you’re kind of used to doing everything, but you just can’t scale like that.”

Mr Drury also reflected on the toll of leading the software firm for the past 12 years, admitting to being unable to find optimal work/life balance.

“I flew every week for the last two years and, really, for the last 15 years, I’ve flown at least every week or two. While I like to think I was a good parent, what I realised now with the hindsight of a few months is that I was never present, I always had an email or a phone call because our business is a 24/7 business,” said Mr Drury.

“I didn’t realise for 12 years there was no off switch and it was really only over the last couple of months that I’ve gotten used to not having to work every day because other great people are running the business, that I realise how not present I was.

“My big advice will be that you have to be working on the business and not in the business and that you are building people in there so that you can actually take time off. I didn’t and I’m trying to catch up.”

With new boss Steve Vamos now leading Xero, Mr Drury said he was now able to focus on the “fun parts”, including developing new products as a non-executive director.

While Mr Vamos officially succeeded Mr Drury on 1 April this year, he had been previously working with Xero’s executive team for the past 18 months.

Speaking to Accountants Daily, Xero managing director Trent Innes, who previously worked for Mr Vamos at Microsoft, spoke of the differences between the two leaders.

“Rod Drury is the smartest person I’ve ever met without doubt and that’s what a founder and visionary does; he’s thinking three, four, five years out and that’s why he’s still helping us with product vision,” said Mr Innes.

“Steve, on the other hand, is amazing at getting a big organisation together and to focus on the right things and driving them to outcomes and they are different skill sets, and at the moment the combination of both is perfect, so I don’t think we could be in a better place from a leadership perspective.”

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‘I had no off switch’: Rod Drury reflects on time as head of Xero
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