Why is Xero Boss Rod Drury – And High Achieving Kiwi Men Like Him – So Modest?

Had the pleasure of hearing EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Rod Drury speak at the American Chamber of Commerce a few days ago  . . . and came away asking myself what it is about New Zealand men that they seem so reluctant to own their own success.

Serial entrepreneur Drury is doing a fantastic job being the tallest of tall poppies.   Xero, the company he built from scratch in seven years now has a $3.5 billion market cap, making it one of the largest Australasian companies. Through years of capital raising he still manages to retain a 17 per cent ownership, and Xero is now being described as “the definitive software platform for small business worldwide.”

Only Ordinary Blokes Please

He dictates his own life style, wake boarding from his Hawkes Bay home base while actively involved in building the cloud-based small to medium business accounting software which now draws 70 per cent of its $100 million annualised revenue from overseas.

And so I ask myself why, when interviewed by EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award Director Jon Hooper, before an audience of a hundred or so at EY’s Britomart office, he chose these three words to describe himself: “short, fat and bald.”

A man very much in the “I’m just an ordinary bloke” mould of NZ Prime Minister John Key, he has risen to international prominence from modest beginnings, and along with Key he’s a leading exponent of  the Kiwi art of self-deprecation.

From Crime to Cars

Much of the rest of the interview showed just what an interesting and original man he is. He’s as happy to wax enthusiastic about his passion for Scandinavian writers like economist-turned Queen of Crime Camilla Lackberg as he is about Xero’s plans for world domination.

A car nut – he owns an Audi RS6, a Mercedes SLS Roadster, and an Audi Q7 V12 –  he also fulsomely admires Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk.

From a “middle class” family with Ngai Tahu connections, he was the first to get School Certificate (the minimum school-leaving qualification in those days.) It’s clear he’s the quintessential “self-made” Kiwi, using electronics instead of  No 8 wire; who asks “why not?” when told it can’t be done, with a talent for creative thinking and building things.

Admirable And Achieving

So the “short, fat and bald” comment jarred.  “Driven?  Grounded?  A Risk Taker? Individualistic? Inventive?”

Any or all of the above much more accurately describe a man plenty of the world’s other short fat and bald men would envy.

Somehow they’d also elevate the conversation to a more interesting level. . . something above preoccupation with physical appearance..

And – just for the record – Rod Drury is an interesting, slightly-rounded middle-aged man with a mildly receding hairline sure – and a sparkling smile and winning personality.  Someone tell him quick.


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