Xero’s Rod Drury on Succession Plans
Succession planning is critical to the ongoing health and longevity of a company. New Zealand-based software company Xero’s succession plans were put to the test with the unexpected announcement that chairman, Chris Liddell, was leaving to take up a role in the White House. Xero’s CEO and founder Rod Drury discusses in the Huffington Post.
“With little notice, we were able to quickly manage what could have been a significant hit to our governance structure, all without missing a beat,” Drury explains. “Successfully managing such an important and visible change demonstrated the importance of continuously looking to the future and scenario planning for unexpected changes, so we are prepared for sudden exits, accidents or to seize opportunities.
“We were officially notified of Chris’ new role on [the] Wednesday, when the announcement was made by the Office of the President-Elect. By [the] Thursday, we had convened a board meeting, talked through our options, made a decision and announced to the stock exchange that Graham Smith, long-serving Xero Board member, would step into the chairman position.
“For us, we are constantly thinking about succession, even at the board level. In this situation, our plan was for Graham to step into Chris’ role when he eventually retired or should a situation arise prior. At these times, we assess the combination of expertise and experience of our board of directors and make appointments to complement the team as a whole.
“It was interesting to explicitly have the conversation with key people of ‘what happens if you can’t turn up to work tomorrow?’ Often it’s just not talked about but having that conversation was very healthy, and all of our team quickly embraced the concept of identifying successors.
“The smoothness of the transition shows just how deep our leadership bench is and how to adapt our teams are with making the calls needed to keep the business forging ahead.
“The succession plans that we have in place are combined with a key emphasis on leadership development. We actively develop potential leaders rather than just compile a list of employees that we see potential in. For example, succession is an opportunity for our emerging talent to benefit from international experience. We regularly relocate emerging leaders in the company to gain international experience and step into roles to strengthen local teams, while building milestones in their careers. This becomes even more critical as we scale globally and want to ensure we maintain the unique culture that Xero is known for.
“With more than 1600 staff my top priority is to ensure every person at Xero feels valued and is given the resources they need to do their best work. If our people are thriving, so too will the business, which ensures our customers’ too can be delighted.”
Original article by Rod Drury, The Huffington Post, February 15, 2017.