XU: It is amazing to be joined by the new CEO of Xero, Steve Vamos. I’m sure you have been asked this so many times now, but how does it feel to be the CEO of such an amazing company?
SV: It’s fantastic to be at Xero. What Xero has achieved over the past 10 years, and the community of customers and partners that we have around the world is remarkable and very special. The opportunities ahead for Xero are huge when you consider that less than a quarter of small businesses around the world are in the cloud.
XU: Before we talk through all things Xero, it would be great to know how your journey so far has led you to this point?
SV: My career in the tech industry started at IBM working across various sales, marketing and general management positions for 14 years, before leaving to join Apple as managing director Australia and New Zealand & Asia Pacific.
My time at Apple overlapped with the return of Steve Jobs as interim CEO. It was during this period that I learnt the importance of the focus and the tough choices he made to turn Apple around.
I left Apple to become CEO of ninemsn, an online media industry startup that was burning about $3 million cash a month, with little to show for it, in a market for digital advertising which was completely new. When I left 4 years later in 2002, the company had the largest audience of any online advertising media business in Australia and was growing revenue rapidly.
I then joined Microsoft as managing director for Australia and New Zealand, where I worked with my team to increase our growth from low single to double digit growth rates.
Over the past decade, I’ve continued to be heavily involved in the tech sector as a Board director; coaching and mentoring tech-leaders to cultivate effective leadership and management practices.
I had been working with Rod and the Xero leadership team for 18 months on the businesses global operating model before stepping into the CEO role.
XU: You are still fairly new to the job, what do you feel you can personally bring to your newly appointed role?
SV: My experience leading and working in organisations that are changing fast. I have been involved in the technology field for the past 30 years and have seen a number of large shifts. I’ve seen these changes take place at tech start-ups and large multinational corporations.
Today the world is changing more than ever. Managing and navigating change effectively is a core competency that leaders in business must have. An open mindset is also vital. This is an area I am passionate about.
At Xero, I’m working closely with the leadership team to navigate change, as we continue to grow and drive adoption of new platforms for small business and our partners.
XU: Have you set yourself any personal goals to achieve whilst in the role of CEO?
SV: I’d love to see every small business in the world benefit from cloud accounting and I want to see Xero become the best international technology company it can be.
XU: Who has been your biggest inspiration to help lead you to this point in your career?
SV: Definitely in my earlier years, my Dad, who I followed to IBM at the beginning of my career. Having him as a mentor helped me enormously in my career. There have been many great people I have worked with over the years who have taught me a lot and supported me in my career - too many to mention here.
XU: With you taking over as CEO at Xero it feels like the start of a new era. What vision/direction do you have to take Xero forward?
SV: Our founder, Rod Drury, had great vision and we remain committed to the purpose and mission that sits behind that. This includes bringing the benefits of cloud accounting to as many small businesses as we can around the world. Also, helping small business grow by better connecting them to those they do business with and making everything they do easier to do with Xero. Working closely with and enabling accountants and bookkeepers to be the supporters and coaches of small businesses is a big part of that.
XU: What are the positives and negatives that can arise from a large company, such as Xero, changing their CEO?
SV: I have great respect for Rod and all he has achieved with Xero. There is continuity in the work we have done together over the past 2 years, which has made transitioning to our new roles (me as CEO and Rod as a non-executive director) very smooth and much easier than people might have expected.
XU: Xero has had an amazing year of growth worldwide. How exciting was this to be apart of and how was it achieved?
SV: It is great to be apart of Xero and to have observed what has been achieved. We now have 1.4 million subscribers around the world in 180 countries. We have a lot more to do and we will constantly look for opportunities to do everything that we do better going forward.
XU: It was great to meet you at Xerocon Atlanta, how did you find the event?
SV: It was great. I love Xerocon and the energy we see in our partners for helping small business. Xerocon is all about what makes Xero special - celebrating the bond we share with partners and growing our relationships.
XU: Xero seem to be more specific with the ecosystem app partners that you now integrate with. What is the future vision for the ecosystem?
SV: The ecosystem is going to become more and more important to us over time if we are to realise the opportunity of Xero as a platform for small business. We need our app partners to provide a broader range of services that build on our core accounting engine to make that a reality.
XU: Is there any exciting news or new developments our readers can expect to see from Xero in the next 12 months?
SV: Every aspect of our business is constantly changing but the principles that guide us won’t. We are committed to our people and partners. We are committed to our vision, mission and purpose. These won’t change. The way we operate will continue to change - it must so we keep on doing beautiful business with our customers and partners.
XU: When you’re not busy with Xero what can we find you doing?
SV: I love travel (lucky for that, given what my job demands), reading (author Robert Harris is my favourite), watching sport on TV (especially American Football and my team, the New York Jets), exercising (I love walking), and spending time with my family.