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The company you keep

Posted 2 years ago in Small business by Erin Smith
Posted by Erin Smith

You have a burning business idea; you may even have a business. The concepts are there waiting to come to life, but you are only one person. So how do you grow with integrity? How do you take your business to the next level, knowing you have the tools to stay on course?

That was the question Xero Australia’s MD, Trent Innes, was asked to explore at Collective Hub’s Kick. Start. Smart event in Melbourne, a one-day inspiration bomb designed to aid entrepreneurs. The line-up included speaking sessions from Daniel Flynn of Thankyou, artist and TV personality Natalie Bassingthwaighte, and The Collective’s own Lisa Messenger – three big minds (and Xero customers) with career-defining advice about doing things differently.

“I’m not an entrepreneur,” Trent said when he got up on stage. “I’m not the person that went out and started a business — and that takes guts, there’s no doubt about it. But what I do know is how to build a great team.” Trent joined the Australian team when it was 30-people strong and now leads more than 300 people.

So what was his answer? It’s all about the company you keep.

You don’t have to get it right from the get-go

Trent started by telling a fake story about how he excelled at university, landed the job of his dreams, made millions everywhere he went, and was begged to come to lead Xero Australia.  

“In truth, I made many mistakes along the way and didn’t work out what I really wanted to do until I was in my early 30s,” he said, as the room heaved a sigh of relief.

“I can still remember when it happened. I was sitting in a room while Steve Vamos, the Managing Director at Microsoft at the time, spoke about purpose,” Trent said. “He didn’t talk about numbers – he talked about why the business was doing what it was doing and the impact this could have on the community at large.

“People weren’t saying that kind of stuff back then – especially in tech. That’s when I realised I wanted that job. I wanted to create jobs and growth and have a real impact. That’s where my leadership journey began.”

The magic of mentors

That moment changed the trajectory of Trent’s career – and turned that moment with Steve Vamos into a long time inspirational goal.

A mentor can transform your career, if you find the right person. Look for someone who shares your values and purpose – and who you can talk to like a human, without feeling overawed. A mentor should be someone who can listen, and inspire and motivate you to achieve your goals.

And clearly, it works. Statistics show that if you have a mentor:

  • You’re three times more likely to become a top performer
  • 5% more likely to get promoted
  • 20% more likely to get a payrise.

Surround yourself with purpose

Despite the fact that Xero Australia is almost 300 people strong, Trent still interviews every new starter – even if that means holding six or seven 30-minute interviews a week.

“By the time they reach me, I know they have the right skills,” he said. “By that point, I’m looking for attitude and purpose. Do they actually want to make a difference? Do they offer to take their empty coffee cup back to the kitchen?”

Plot your own path

And throughout all these interviews, Trent is asked one thing time and time again: What will you do to develop my career?

“You have to own that journey yourself, Trent says. “It may take a while for you to realise what your path is, but it’s really important you own that journey. No one else is going to do it for you.”

Find a mentor, drive your journey, take some risks and build relationships. And, importantly, never give up.

Photo: Collective Hub.

One comment

Peter John Gordon.
December 4, 2016 at 11.27 am

Great story and really what people in business is about.

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