How a one line email from Steve Jobs changed the way Xero’s CEO does business


“He sent me a one-line email: ‘We must save the Mac’,” Mr Vamos said. “Particularly if you are in a startup or any organisation, you will come up with 10 times more things that you can do than you should do. It is always easy to say a little bit of yes to everybody than a real yes to two or three people.”

Xero’s half-year results released in November 2019 show it recorded a 32 per cent increase in revenue to $338.7 million, with the company’s stockmarket valuation almost doubling over the past year to $12.31 billion. The platform’s main competitor in Australia is MYOB, however Xero is more than double the size of its rival, which last year reported it had 628,000 subscribers.

Xero chief executive Steve Vamos said he learnt from Steve Jobs how to make tough decisions. Credit:Brook Mitchell

“It’s about making sure that our strategy is clear, and that we align our operating plans and budgets with that, and making sure our product teams are well supported and well connected into what we’re trying to accomplish for our customers,” he said.

“We operate around the world now. So you’ve got to have a really smart way of making sure that, globally, you’re really good at what you do. But also within each region you operate, you are well connected to that and actually learning from it.”

Mr Vamos said courage was needed to make tough decisions.

“Tough decisions are choosing between bad and badder,” he said.

“There are people who win or people who perceive that they’re losing or missing out … and that’s  always hard because you want to say yes to everybody,” he said.

“You want everyone to be happy. But unfortunately I learned a long time ago that that’s the right pathway to not doing anything particularly well.”

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