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Rod’s 10 tips to make it as a world-class entrepreneur

Posted 7 years ago in Small business by Beeny Atherton
Posted by Beeny Atherton

Here at Xero we’re lucky to be led by globe-trotting serial entrepreneur, Rod Drury. Like many entrepreneurs, Rod began his career doing something else – in his case, as an auditor. Since then he has started, built and sold multiple companies. He’s served on the board of directors of major corporations and invested his own money in some homegrown startups. If there’s one thing Rod knows, it’s how to be a successful entrepreneur.

Like any entrepreneur, Rod has had his share of ups and downs over the last 25 years. In honor of World Entrepreneurs’ Day we asked Rod to share his top tips for success – here are his secrets to making it.

Fail quickly and cheaply.

Don’t be afraid to abandon something that isn’t working. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means an idea didn’t work out. New ideas aren’t as hard to come by as people think. Take what you learned from failing and turn it into something new.

“Always be aware of your opportunity cost. If you’re working on the wrong thing you’re losing time on doing something better. So pivot or cut your losses and move on.”

Fake it ‘til you make it.

If you don’t know what to do, think about someone who does and do what they would do or at least do it with confidence! (Here at Xero we do a lot of WWRD – what would Rod do?).

“When I was growing up I read all the Silicon Valley books. All about HP, the early Apple and Microsoft stories. That was my mindset. Success for me as a technology person was to take a company public. So that was my plan. As I sold my last business that was a stepping stone to the next. Each business allowed me to build networks, team and capital.”

Don’t be in it for the money.

Love what you do. That passion has to get you out of bed in the morning. It has to drive you to put in the time to make your business successful. If you don’t love it, you won’t work on it.

“My first few companies it was about making money and proving I could do it. As I hit those goals I found what’s more important is doing something that is good and has purpose. For me, what gets me out of bed in the morning, is our vision at Xero. We want to make small businesses more productive. That in turn will drive the economy. I’m always telling people I’m in this for better schools and hospitals. That’s what a growing small business economy will give us. I know we can make a difference and that’s why I’m in it for the long haul. And it’s so fun!”

Be in it for the money.

If you love what you do, but you’re losing money, get out. Or find a way to make it profitable. Bringing in cash is what’s going to keep your business (and your family) thriving.

“Money is the ultimate scorecard. At the end of the day, you have to sell things. It’s a huge reward to do the hard work and see the money come in. Last year we crossed $100m of revenue, which is a huge milestone. It’s a big validator of the business, which in turn makes it easier to raise capital so we can grow as big as we dream.”



Disrupt or die.

If you’re looking for an area to start a business, look at what’s old and inefficient and needs to change. The pace of technology innovation can dramatically alter the playing field. Find a way to do it better and get to work. Even if you’ve been in business for a while, keep looking for ways to disrupt. If you don’t, someone else can come in and eat your lunch.

“For a long time we let a lot of industries dictate to us how they wanted things to be done. All that has changed with the Internet. Just like Xero is disrupting the way people do their accounting around the world, Uber has changed the taxi industry. AirBnB accommodation. Netflix is disrupting global TV, Amazon has disrupted retail. Change is happening everywhere, but there are a lot of industries that are ripe for disruption. Those are the places I would look if I was going to start another business.”

Know what’s going on.

Take the time to learn about every part of your business and industry. The more you know the more confident you’ll be when it comes to making decisions for your business.

“I’ve had RSS feeds for 10 years now and so every day I get firehosed news about my industry. Overtime you build a mental model that facts attach to, either reinforcing or challenging your model. Over a few years you will be an expert and you’ll grow confidence to make big moves. I seldom get surprised by technology news anymore. You can generally see what’s going to happen. The fast pace of our industry often validates your thinking allowing you to have confidence to make your bets. ”

Think big – think global.

Don’t let some preconceived idea of how far you can go hold you back. Global doesn’t always mean setting up an office in a far-flung location. Technology has made the entire world your domain.

Thing Industries is a small company (and a Xero customer), but they’re out there globally. They’re represented in five countries. They’re two people doing some really neat stuff and they’ve found a way to scale that to a global business. You don’t need to have a massive production line or sell a million items to go global. It’s all about your mindset. If you want to contribute to your local economy, get the tools that allow you to sell anywhere. If you don’t do that, someone else will. Entrepreneurs should be thinking globally or you’re limiting your growth. ”

Make it happen.

If you want something to happen, you need to make it happen. Pick up the phone, get the meeting, write the article. Each journey starts with a single step.

“Too many times I hear an entrepreneur make excuses as to why they haven’t started their business, or why their business hasn’t taken off. Whatever you want to do, just get out there and do it. Of course you may fail, but that’s part of it. You can dream big all you want. But you’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t put in the work.”

Pay it forward.

Many people have helped you get to where you are today. Thank them, but also pass on the help. Find an entrepreneur out there who is in the same position you were and pass that knowledge along.

“When I network I’m always thinking how can I help this person. Very often, just a few days later I find an opportunity or person that might be useful. Sending a person an opportunity, even if nothing is in it for you, is the best way to network. And it comes back to you times ten. And it feels so good to help others out. “

Stand for something.

Leaders lead. Take a position. Have an opinion. Make change happen. You’ve (probably) only got one life so make a difference and leave things better than when you found it. Imagine how great the world would be if we all did that.

“Advocacy is a great way to build your profile. As well as doing good, people notice those that make things happen and drive change.”

Do you have your own secret to success? Head over to @Xero on Twitter and share it with us. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #tipstomakeit to enter to win some great prizes from Xero.



Heather Smith
August 21, 2015 at 9.33 am

Thank-you for taking the time to write this; I loved reading this – and it aligns with many of my philosophies in life. After years banging my head in politics, I finally realised that small business productivity drives the economy, and puts money into the local community. And once you have the money behind you – you actually can have a bigger influence in politics, than the minion giving up hundreds of hours running campaigns (insert me).
Can I ask you some further questions?
How many times do you think you’ve pivoted in your career?
What books or philosophies do you recommend on negotiation?
When a technology company is being disruptive, and forging a new path, what pricing philosophies they turn to, when there’s not a heard around you offering comparable services?
Between an idea and a business – when should the founders push for a contract to define equity?

Heather Smith

Clayton Oates
August 21, 2015 at 10.43 am

Thanks Andrea (for posting) and Rod (for sharing)

A fantastic read for anyone, whether in business or not.

Having had the priviledge to chat with Rod on occasion it’s fantastic how you have captured the essence of the man in this piece (brilliant!). There are so many gems of wisdom in there and as I was reading I could hear Rod’s voice throughout, it was like sitting in on a conversation between two friends.

Nothing is so inspiring as someone who has decided to make tomorrow a better day than today. Rod and his team are testament to this philosophy and the world is a better place for it.

Thanks again for sharing what is a great reference point for those of us on the entrepreneurial journey.


Clayton Oates

Rod Drury
August 21, 2015 at 10.59 am

Thanks Heather

Pivots. Haven’t really, always had a clear idea of what I was wanted to do. I did to a document management startup we closed down quickly as we realized it would not grow fast enough.

Books on negotiation. I learnt how to negotiate with experience and try to create win, wins by thinking from the perspective of who I’m negotiating with.

Pricing. You do need to think about what people pay now for the old service and sell the benefits. Often there are many hidden costs that you need to highlight to show your true value.

Defining equity. I cover this a bit here https://www.xero.com/small-business-guides/business-management/business-idea/ If you started the business, best to capture the IP in your business plan early to minimize early dilution. The shareholders agreement is that contract.

I also recommend getting on Xero early so you can capture all time spent and costs. Time can be collected as shareholder loans for cleaning up on first funding. The loans don’t get paid out but form a good basis for the equity discussion.

Pam LoPiccolo
February 3, 2016 at 6.44 pm

Thank you so much writing this article and allowing it to be shared with us. It really motivated me to get my head back in the game and make my store the best that it can be. I needed a good “pick me up” or maybe even a “kick me in the butt” article to bring back the whole reason I started my business which, was the passion I have for making ALL women feel good about themselves.

Thank you again, I loved your article and advice.

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