From XU Magazine, 
Issue 28

Q&A with Joseph Lyon, MD (Aus/Asia), Xero

XU: How have you found the first few months in your new role as MD, Australia & Asia?

JL: I started my role as Managing Director for Xero Australia and Asia at the turn of the new financial year in Australia. It’s been exciting and fast-paced so far.

From a leadership level right throughout the entire business, we have a high performing and incredibly capable team. So I feel grateful to have taken the helm when I did. We all share a common purpose and naturally align ourselves with Xero’s values, which shows through the genuine care we have for our customers and each other.

That empathy factor has been especially important in recent times, as many team members face rolling lockdowns and ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic. It’s been tough for our community, but despite the challenges, the way we’ve collectively supported our partners and small business customers has been impressive to see.

XU: How long have you been with Xero, and what has your experience with them been like so far? 

JL: I joined Xero the week before Christmas in December 2019. Ever since, I’ve continued to be struck by the authenticity of our people. Everyone that works at Xero is proud to be here, and what’s more, they believe in the value of our products and services for our customers and partners.

I spent my first eight weeks in the company getting to know our partners and teams – not just here in Australia but also across our other global regions. As you can imagine, this stint on the road was short-lived due to the pandemic’s arrival in early 2020.

In fact, I can remember being in Denver, Colorado when the reality of COVID-19 hit. As borders started closing and flights were being cancelled, we immediately realised that our priority had to be getting our people home safely.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to work across Xero’s more established and emerging markets. We’re continuing to grow and develop our teams, bringing in talent with new capabilities and experiences that enable us to continue to stay ahead of the curve.

It’s been an interesting and very rewarding 18 months here at Xero, and we won’t be slowing down any time soon. 

XU: You used to be the EGM of Global Sales, what did that role entail? 

JL: In my early phase with Xero, I worked in our newly established global customer team. So I had the benefit of working alongside our teams in customer experience, marketing, operations, communications and other functions. Our goal was to align each region to improve our systems, tools and processes that would help partners and small businesses operate more effectively. My role within that vision was to unify our sales leaders and teams around the world to improve the level of consistency in our service offerings for our partners and customers. By aligning Xero’s sales function to one vision, we have been able to set up our teams for future scale and growth around the world.

XU: What will change with your new role? What new responsibilities will you have?

JL: I previously worked across all of Xero’s key regions as EGM of Global Sales. In contrast, my new role now focuses primarily on Australia and Asia. I split my time between several functions, working with the local leadership team on realising our strategy, growth ambitions and plans. We are constantly looking for ways to improve how we support our customers and bring new Xero product innovations to market.

My responsibilities have evolved beyond maintaining great relationships with our partner community to now including small businesses as well. We have established relationships with key government, media and industry bodies that I’m also picking up with the view to strengthen our ongoing partnerships. 

XU: What were you doing before joining Xero?

JL: Before Xero, I was the Chief Commercial Officer at REA Group, a digital media business specialising in property across three continents, with the flagship sites being realestate.com.au and realtor.com

Although property advertising and cloud accounting software couldn’t be more different on the surface, the two companies have more in common than you might think. They share a similar culture and set of values, live by a growth mindset, and have built well-loved and widely used platforms. Both organisations put innovation and technology at the core of their businesses, so the transition to Xero has been a reasonably smooth one. 

XU: What led you to first joining them? What drew you to the company?

JL: I’ve always been drawn to purpose-driven companies like REA and Xero. Many Australians, myself included, are passionate about property. Similarly, there are over 2.3 million small business owners in our country, representing a great number of people who are forging their own path. Both REA and Xero are driven by making these two great Australian dreams – of owning your own home and being your own boss – more rewarding. And it’s exciting to play a part in that journey.

Another factor that has motivated my career choices is joining innovation-led organisations. Firstly with REA, we disrupted the traditional way of advertising property from print advertising, transitioning the market to a digital format. Again with Xero, we were the first accounting software to create the cloud-based ledger. What’s more, REA and Xero were some of the first in their respective sectors to responsibly share data-led insights in order to better serve their customers and communities.

XU: Looking back on your past experiences, has there been anything that you think will be of particular help in your new role?

JL: Leading many large cross-functional teams over the years – both here in Australia and around the world – has taught me to empathise with how different people work together to achieve a common goal. Xero’s purpose is deeply ingrained in everything we do, so I expect this learning will serve me well in my new role.

I also understand the importance of collaboration between customer-facing teams and product, technology and engineering functions (to name a few).

Extending this beyond an internal environment, I’ve also collaborated with several kinds of critical stakeholders through my time at REA, from real estate agents to property developers to media agencies. Translating this in the context of Xero’s ecosystem means I had a strong appreciation for our app partners, advisors and small business customers from the outset. In particular, I recognised that Xero’s bookkeepers and accountants are our brand advocates in similar ways property agents and developers contributed to REA’s consumer awareness and growth.  

XU: You’ll have taken over from Trent Innes who held the position for over five years - is there any particular work/projects he started that you’re looking forward to continuing and seeing through?

JL: Trent played a huge role in putting Xero at the forefront of industry innovation both in Australia, and more recently, across Asia. In particular, he led the company through significant regulatory changes, securing our place in the future of e-invoicing, Single Touch Payroll, and the Consumer Data Right (CDR) scheme. Trent positioned Xero as a tool and platform with invaluable data assets that help us better understand and support the small business community, which I look forward to carrying on.

I also think Trent did an incredible job supporting our partners, particularly since the pandemic’s arrival. As a company, we’re firmly focused on helping our customers pull through this challenging time with information and product experiences, all of which Trent laid the groundwork for. I hope to continue this good work as we navigate our way out of the uncertainty, and the significant bounce back and further digitisation of our economy we all anticipate.

XU: We were so excited to see that there are now over 1000 apps that integrate with Xero! How important do you think this milestone is for Xero?

JL: Reaching 1,000 connected apps in our ecosystem is a significant achievement. It’s a milestone that proves just how far we’ve come in the 15 years since Rod Drury (Xero’s founder) shared his vision of creating an open platform.

The Xero App Store extends our reach well beyond what we can achieve internally. Each integration represents additional teams of innovators working hard to build solutions to all kinds of problems that small businesses and partners face.

An open platform also encourages innovation. As other companies build on our core products, we’re continuing to strengthen and refine customer solutions. Pair that with improved search functionalities in the Xero App Store, and it makes for a seamless, intuitive user experience which we are very excited about. 

XU: What has been your best experience since working for Xero?

JL: When I first joined Xero, I had the opportunity to head over to the UK. It is a key growth market for us, so spending time with our partners there was an important part of my role early on. I remember going to a wonderful pub lunch in Milton Keynes with Xero partners Nikki and Nigel Adams of Ad Valorem Accounting. They told me that Xero had revolutionised their business, unlocking a kind of growth potential they’d never previously imagined. It was a memorable experience for me because, for the first time, I truly understood the tangible impact that our platform has in the lives of accountants and bookkeepers, and the value it brings to their advisory offering. Nikki and Nigel are big believers in what we do, so it was a privilege to meet them so early on in my time with the company.

Since that lunch in Milton Keynes, I’ve been lucky enough to have many similar experiences in our local markets. Building these connections is also a chance to hear feedback that enables us to continuously improve our offerings. There’s a strong sense of collaboration and trust between Xero and its partners, which we really value as we continue to grow and evolve. 

XU: How have you found working through the pandemic over the past year and a half? How do you see it impacting your new role?

JL: Transitioning to a work from home environment has been tough on everyone in the past 18 months. I have three young children who have all been home-schooled during lockdown periods here in Melbourne, and my wife also has a busy and demanding role at her work. Despite the challenges, I feel grateful for the quality time I’m spending with my family. In previous roles, I was travelling every other week, so it’s been a chance to stay close to home and help support my children more with their education and for us to keep close as a family. This likely wouldn’t have been possible before the pandemic.

Being remote has also created opportunities for Xero to engage with our community in new and exciting ways. From an internal perspective, the pandemic reinforced that we don’t need to be in the office all the time to do great work. Although we’re looking forward to our new Australian headquarters in Melbourne opening later this year, flexible work has always been a part of our culture, and recent times have only strengthened our belief in that. 

XU: What are some of the highlights or amazing moments that you have seen over the last 18 months that show how important Xero and the Xero team are with everything going on in the world right now?

JL: Looking back to our content, particularly the business continuity hub in the early days of the pandemic, I was amazed to see how quickly we churned out information, webinars and resources to help our customers navigate uncertainty.

It was also impressive to see how quickly Xero adapted the way we share insights and announcements. We created a virtual customer series in 2020, Xero On Air,  and delivered our first fully-online Xero Roadshow Australia in 2021. I’m proud of all of these examples, as they kept our community connected during a pretty isolating time for many people.

XU: What is your vision for Xero? Do you have any plans for the future?

JL: I always come back to Xero’s purpose: to make life better for people in small business, their advisors and communities. I’m focused on ensuring that remains what drives us here in Australia, and accelerating our presence across Asia.

Our reimagined Melbourne office will bring about a new wave of change and collaboration, attracting skilled talent, and in turn, strengthening our brand position and trust among partners and small businesses. 

XU: Have you seen any cool new apps recently that you feel could be real game changers within their industries?

JL: I know Spotify has been around for over a decade, but I’ve always been impressed by its continuous innovation. I love the way it curates personalised content, seamlessly manages payments, and nails in-app communication.

In Xero’s ecosystem, I’m a big fan of Halaxy, a medical practice software that reduces admin associated with maintaining patient records and appointments. Two other forward-thinking apps are Vonto (for small businesses) and Aider (for partners). They each bring together insights from other apps that businesses connect to – such as social media or banking platforms – in order to help users make smarter, data-led decisions. Lastly, I’d have to call out Everperform, an app that allows partners to track employee wellbeing to empower leaders to make positive changes in their firms. Of course, I could never play favourites with over 1,000 apps to choose from, but these are just a few that I’ve been impressed by lately. 

XU: Outside of work, who is Joseph? What can we find you doing in your down time?

JL: My three kids (and two puppies) keep me very busy. Before the pandemic, my wife and I would encourage our children to play all kinds of sports, which would typically fill our weekends. I do love the outdoors, so on the rare occasion when I have a moment to myself, I like to exercise, spend time in the garden and listen to a number of great podcasts.

XU: And finally, is there a person, quote or experience that has inspired you and helped you to keep growing day after day?

JL: My dear old dad, who passed away a few years ago, was quite an inspirational man. He was always there for me as I grew up, and taught me the importance of staying connected as a family (I’m the youngest of six). Throughout various milestones in my life, he offered the best advice – never giving me all the answers but guiding me in the right direction. He was incredibly loyal to my mum and our family, which taught me what it means to be a good partner, dad and member of my community. 

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