CEO trust and profile audit: Rod Drury, Xero

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Rod Drury is the founder and CEO of the small business accounting software Xero, one of the largest software companies to come out of New Zealand.

In the following presentation, Thought Leadership Partners analysed Rod’s profile as a CEO and looked at the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for Rod to build profile and trust at scale:

Like many founder/CEOs, Rod’s preference for thinking and reasoning from first principles can occasionally get in the way of the message. As a result, there are opportunities to incorporate more examples and stories to support Rod’s messaging.

Rod’s language choices are generally well balanced- with a preference to simple conversational copy.

One red flag is Rod’s language and tone can vary slightly from piece to piece. Combined with the lack of story-based personal evidence, readers may question whether written content is authentically Rod.

Rod’s CEO scorecard

Interest benchmark: 82%

Trust benchmark: 63%

Visibility benchmark: 58%


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Our recommendations for Rod:

  1. Rod is a strong communicator (but could benefit from more frequent storytelling)

    1. Rod’s authenticity, directness and strong opinions are a great platform for building interest and trust. Despite being a generally great communicator, there are opportunities for Rod to include more story based content.
  2. The narrative is a key strength for both Rod and Xero

    1. Relative to competitors (and most other similar stage companies) the narrative is a competitive strength for Xero.
    2. Rod has a strong and well balanced CEO narrative that’s told consistently. Regardless of your entry point, it’s easy to understand why Xero exists and how the company will succeed.

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  3. Most of Rod’s current communications target the partner community. There are opportunities to make this content more accessible to other stakeholders.

    1. Similar to most growth-stage CEOs, there’s a reasonably large number of important stakeholder groups right now for Rod and Xero
    2. Most of Rod’s current content appears targeted at the partner community. Small changes to make this content more accessible would open this up to a broader set of stakeholders.


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  4. More focus at the company and society level will improve reach and profile.

    1. Most of Rod’s current content is focused at the product level. Based on the suggested audience prioritisation, we’d recommend that CEO communication from Rod should be allocated in the following themes/proportions: Product/service level 33%, Company level 25%, Industry level 22% and Society level 20%


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  5. It’s important to allow more of Rod’s personality and excitement to surface in his written content.

    1. Compared to his spoken word communications and social media, Rod’s written content can appear muted. Allowing more personality and excitement to surface will improve engagement, authenticity and consistency.


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If you’d like a template of this audit so you can conduct your own, contact us and we’ll send one through.


Investor relations doesn’t need to be so boring

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Can you remember your favourite investor communication of all time?

Stupid question? With a couple of notable exceptions like the Amazon and Google IPO letters, investor communications tend to be unnecessarily dull and corporate. There’s no real sense of excitement in taking investors on a path with you. It’s dull!

Investor relations shouldn’t be so damn boring. There’s no sense of excitement, no sense of momentum in what the business is doing.

Why do we use dehumanising, boring language and buzzwords when speaking to investors? There’s no really good reason, other than that’s the way it’s always been done.



Merry Christmas / Summer Reading List

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Before I wrap up for the year I wanted to take a few minutes to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

It’s been a big and exhausting year for many of the people we work with – so I hope you all have the chance to rest, relax and enjoy some well deserved time with family and friends.

I love a bit of time reading over the summer break. So I’ve collected some of my favourite things I’ve read and written over the past year.

Maybe you’ll find something to read and enjoy over the break. I hope so.

Merry Christmas,
Steve Pell

A Summer 2016/17 Reading List

Published @ Thought Leadership Partners

My main adventure day-to-day is building the profile of CEOs – most of whom run fast growth technology businesses. As part of this work I write regularly on CEO comms and marketing. Some of the pieces that have resonated this year:

Published @ Management Disrupted 

Many of you will know Management Disrupted as a side project where I interview interesting Australian CEOs. There were a bunch of fun interviews this year including: Martin Hosking (Redbubble), Collis Ta’eed (Envato), Simon Lee (PromisePay), Tim Fung (Airtasker), Didier Elzinga (Culture Amp) and Jason Wyatt (Marketplacer)

Some broader reading I really enjoyed in 2016: 

Three articles that made me rethink my perspective and changed the way I look at the world in a small way:

Two newsletters that I’ve loved this year are

  • Nextdraft – A daily newsletter that’s never boring
  • Marketoonist – Weekly cartoons on marketing and communications

Two books that have kept me thinking all year:

  • Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. Perhaps the best business book I’ve read in the past five years. A powerful reminder that strategy is much more than a buzzword or synonym for success. Simple, practical and more insightful than most business school courses on strategy.
  • You Are the Message by Roger Ailes (founder of Fox News). Even if you deeply disagree with Ailes politics and personality, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of Fox News on the media and political landscape. A practical guide for how to communicate in the current environment.
Let me know what you enjoyed – I’d love your feedback.