I have always been skeptical about the idea that big companies need to organise employee and partner conferences for the purpose of driving business value.
Perhaps due to some subconscious envy, I can’t help but feel that these events are mostly to do with the leadership team wanting to get a little glimmer of what it might have been like had they been a rock star.
In spite of my own prejudice, having already worked with Xero for several months I decided to head to London and approach Xerocon with cautious optimism. And I’m very glad that I did.
Given that Instafile partners with Xero it does seem a little inappropriate for me to be offering up too much public praise. That said, it was only when I found myself telling my family and friends about the brilliance of Xerocon that I realised I had something at least genuine and perhaps even worthwhile to share.
So here it is, why Xerocon London worked for me:
The Right Audience
Unsurprisingly, this is the cornerstone of Xerocon’s success.
The Xerocon audience is made up of enthusiastic Xero Partners from across the ecosystem including Accountants, Bookkeepers, App Developers, and Cloud Accounting Experts.
All of these partners are hugely invested in the strategy and success of Xero but, at the same time, they are also essential to it: Xero’s ability to leverage the knowledge and goodwill of this audience is a fundamental driver of their growth.
And there you have it, the perfect host and audience dynamic with both sides completely invested in properly understanding and supporting one another.
Real Insight, at the right time
What the leadership team shared at Xerocon was their current thinking, vision and strategy for Xero and its products.
It was ‘hot off the press’, it was detailed, and it contained content that Xero could quite reasonably have chosen to keep from the public domain.
Now, it’s true that you could wait a few days and then just watch the videos online afterwards but here’s why you shouldn’t:
Firstly, as we all know, everyone running a business should regularly spend some time away from the day-to-day to just think about the bigger picture. For a Xero partner, Xerocon represents a perfect opportunity to do this in an immersive environment while simultaneously discovering essential new information to inform that thinking process.
Secondly, and most importantly, if you’re consuming the content live at Xerocon then you can immediately act on what you’ve learned. And you can do it face-to-face with (almost) any member of your market’s Xero team (plus a significant international contingent too).
And this is not hypothetical. This is what we did. In response to the vision set out by Rod Drury and Gary Turner, I caught up with a senior member of the Xero team who helped me to further understand Xero’s objectives and how our own business strategy could respond to them.
It is impossible to put an exact value on that experience but, whatever it is, it’s some orders of magnitude higher than two days of my time and the cost of the trip.
Variety of Relevant Content
For me, the prevailing themes from Xerocon were the rise of Artificial Intelligence and how automation and digitisation could, perhaps counter-intuitively, help accounting practices to increase the value of their people.
In addition to the overarching vision and strategy content, Xero also included several new product feature demonstrations along with an excellent mix of relevant third party content.
The latter added a welcome change of tempo and tone to each day and also provided valuable and actionable insight in relation to broader industry themes. Here’s a high-level summary of some of what was shared:
Richard Susskind provided an easy-to-digest, authoritative and slightly scary account of the role of AI in professional services;
Emma Jones from Enterprise Nation delivered an insightful talk about what business owners are now looking for in their trusted advisors - and they were things that you probably wouldn’t have guessed;
And finally, Tim Lebrecht, shared a romantic’s account of how to run a beautiful business in the age of machines to heart-warming effect and much applause.
Xero’s Secret Sauce
Xero users and Xero partners love Xero. To the extent that you can love a software product, they really do. And that gives Xerocon an atmosphere of excitement, opportunity and cooperation.
One of the many ways that this was made clear to me during Xerocon was via a phone call from a Xero customer who was looking for me to help him with a particular problem.
I expressed that I might be a little bit slow to assist because I was at Xerocon.
Far from being disappointed he wanted to know everything about the conference and wished me every success for my time there. Clearly he felt a connection to Xero that was sufficient to feel part of what Xerocon was about. I would not expect such a positive response from telling a customer I was otherwise engaged at a random accounting trade show.
A Final Thought
While I’m sure that the on-brand catering and refreshments also contributed to the event’s success, there must also have been countless other tangible and intangible factors that ultimately resulted in me feeling that Xerocon London was a great success.
But am I sure it was a success? Well here’s the best indication I can give you: As I travelled back to the airport to begin my journey home I genuinely thought to myself ‘I need to buy some Xero shares’. My first Xerocon... and I am literally buying into the company!