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How Xero inspired a global staff swap

Posted 5 years ago in Advisors by Erin Smith
Posted by Erin Smith

Some weeks back, Shannon Smit received a simple request. Her colleague, Hayden Winter, asked if he could save up additional annual leave for some overseas travel – and his query sparked an idea.

“The average millennial is going to have six or seven careers over their lifetime,” says Shannon, Director of Victorian-based Smart Business Solutions from her office based on the Mornington Peninsula. “We don’t want to lose great team members with solid experience.”

So the next day Shannon asked Hayden how he would feel about working overseas for a few months instead. “His jaw just dropped,” she laughs.

Making things happen

That night Shannon sent an email to a UK-based partner.

“I said to him in my email, ‘I’m just throwing it out there as an idea, here’s what I’ve got. Would you a) be interested in taking Hayden for a period of time and we can work out all the numbers and logistics and all that and b) if you were interested, we would be happy to take one of your people for that period of time – as an incentive for your staff.’

“He responded overnight saying, ‘definitely – this is amazing, incredible, just perfect.’ Board approval was needed but the situation was pretty much good to go, and it’s been tied up quickly from there,” Shannon says.

Challenging mindsets

What has been interesting is people’s reactions to Shannon’s decision. “When I tell people what we’re doing, their first reaction usually is, ‘yeah but he may not come back’. And I say, ‘yeah but he may’. It’s a mindset thing. Then people usually say, ‘but why would you do this?’ and my response is that he could leave tomorrow anyway, so why not?”


Shannon is philosophical but practical. “At the end of the day I’ve got two possible outcomes. My team member could stay on, or they could leave. There is a huge shortage of good accountants with experience, and if you want to keep these people you need to give them global opportunities that can enhance these careers, while still obviously benefiting your firm.

“These are calculated risks, but at the end of the day if you don’t take these risks you could lose the person all together. And the costs in finding, onboarding and training a new staff member far outweigh these risks.”

So much more than software

Without Xero in the picture, Shannon says she couldn’t have taken this step.

“Xero should be commended, because they’ve gone from being a software company to being so much more than this. We’re talking about a worldwide community that has enabled us to give staff incentives such as this global secondment – simply through the Xero network.

“By using Xero, we literally all speak the same language in our roles, wherever we are in the world.”

A global future

Her decision has opened up scope for interesting future conversations. “While this plan requires an open mindset, the possibilities are there to roll this out as an annual global secondment opportunity.”

“And not just to the UK,” she continues. “But to New Zealand, the US and other places too. All thanks to the network that Xero has created. When you peel back the layers of Xero, there is an incredible global community bubbling away – and similar opportunities are there for the taking.”

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