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“Strong company culture is important…we encourage the right appetite for staff to learn” – CEO Q&A: Gary Turner, Xero UK & Ireland

By Business & Finance
21 August 2019
Gary Turner, Managing Director & Co Founder at Xero UK & Ireland

In our latest CEO Q&A, Gary Turner, Managing Director & Co Founder at Xero UK & Ireland, speaks to Business & Finance about cultivating the right environment for employees as the platform grows.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I look after Xero’s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Xero is an online accounting platform used by millions of small businesses and their advisors around the world to manage their finances.

I’ve been in this role since we launched in the UK in 2009 when it was just a three-person start-up. Globally, we now have over 1.8million subscribers. And it’s great to see a growing number of Irish businesses and their accountants getting on board.

I’m a big advocate of small businesses and helping business owners run their companies more efficiently. So in Ireland, our goals are to make life better for people in small business, their advisors and communities.

What are your biggest challenges as a CEO?

The biggest challenges came during the scale-up years, roughly around the time that staff numbers hit the 60 mark. That’s when you stop having the same degree of intimacy with everybody. You can’t know everything that’s going on in the business anymore because there’s too much to know.

Our global growth has also presented challenges. But it’s also proved empowering, with teams able to pass problems they’ve run out of time to solve “onto the night shift”, who are plugging in on the other side of the world as they power down.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

A strong company culture is really important in keeping staff motivated. I truly believe that choosing to work at a company should be considered as a life choice.

A fundamental part of our culture is that we encourage the right appetite for staff to learn. Rather than trying to teach everyone everything, we cultivate an environment in which employees have the headspace to learn what’s right for them, whatever their age or experience.

For me, it’s also hugely important that I get to know the team. So even though we’re growing in size, I’ll still make an effort to get to know everyone.

Another way of keeping the team motivated is offering up a flexible environment in which employees can try different roles and move within the business.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

As technology evolves and automation becomes second nature, small business owners can struggle to keep up with the pace of change. We need to support small business owners to digitally transform their business so that they can work smarter and more efficiently.

Similarly, accountants are faced with the challenge of establishing how they can offer the right guidance to their clients. Xero equips accountants with the tools to support this shift and empower them to offer valuable insights.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Digitisation has opened up huge opportunities for businesses. It’s now almost as easy to start a business as it is to order a taxi on your phone. Technology has played a significant role in enabling entrepreneurs to compete with big business.

As technology develops further, it will be even easier to start and sustain a business. The number of small businesses in Ireland could double in the next five to ten years.

Another trend we are seeing is smarter ways of accessing and understanding data. The data has always been there, but it’s now possible to use it to provide some very clever insight in areas such as forecasting.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

With so much uncertainty around what form Brexit will take, it’s hard to predict the full impact. At Xero, we’re optimistic that the need for accounting software will remain regardless of the economic conditions. Good cash flow management and visibility becomes even more important in a tougher business climate.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

My advice to small business owners would be to get a good accountant. As well as helping you build a solid financial plan, a good accountant can also steer you towards making better business decisions. For example, the government’s commitment to offer small businesses tax breaks could be hugely beneficial and would be a law that an accountant would advise on.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

I’m immensely proud of our team so it’s got to be watching them continue to go from strength to strength. We’ve gone from a plucky start-up to market leader, helping millions of small firms manage their finances. And we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the people.

What’s next for your company?

We are looking to build on the success of our most recent financial year. As we continue to expand our product offering, we’re looking to drive cloud accounting forward, grow our small business platform by improving our app ecosystem and build on our existing global presence focusing on product, technology and strategy.

Rather than trying to teach everyone everything, we cultivate an environment in which employees have the headspace to learn what’s right for them, whatever their age or experience.

Gary Turner, Managing Director & Co Founder at Xero UK & Ireland

Gary Turner, Managing Director & Co Founder at Xero UK & Ireland