Boss It Like...

How To Boss It Like… Gary Turner, UK Managing Director of Xero

By Alex Wood 8 September 2016

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. From Anil Stocker to Gadi Amit and Tracy De Groose, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time. 

This morning we’re talking to Gary Turner, the co-founder and managing director of Xero UK & EMEA, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

With an extensive digital background – ranging from being managing director of Pegasus Software to product group developer at Microsoft – Turner co-founded Xero, the global leader in online accounting software in 2009.

Turner was also a mentor for the 2016 cohort of the Accelerator TechStars, and he currently serves as an IT Faculty Technical Committee Member at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Turner how he gets it all done

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

My routine sees me getting up before 7am. I then drop my daughter off at school and calendar permitting, I’ll jump into my local coffee shop at around 8am most weekdays for a light breakfast and a coffee.

I then spend the first hour of my working day there catching up with any overnight email or communications from my colleagues in New Zealand and Australia, and checking in on what’s happening in the world via Twitter.

This means that by the time I arrive at the office, I’ve usually got a head start on the day and can make the most of my time with the team.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

I’m big fan of Inbox by Google, which manages to combine a slick mobile email experience with really intelligent task management features.

These features enable you to defer responding to an email until another time, or even better, using geo-fencing, for example once you’ve arrived at your office.

I can set an email to be re-delivered to me the moment I arrive at our London office, or any other location of my choosing — I’ve found it to be a really smart way of getting your inbox in order.

What smartphone do you have?

A Silver iPhone 6s Plus.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

We now have well over 150 staff in the UK, and it’s important to me to be present and available to as many people as possible during the day, even if it’s just to briefly chat in the kitchen about how things are going in their team.

In terms of scheduled meetings, I do typically three to four meetings a day, with perhaps 15-20 people in total.

Given our globally distributed structure, perhaps a couple of nights a week you’ll find me on Google Hangout video calls with colleagues around the world — I usually meet with as many people virtually as I do physically.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

The business book that probably inspired or enlightened me the most was The Cluetrain Manifesto, way back in 2000 which for the time was incredibly prophetic about the modern world of digital and social we’re now all living in.

It completely inspired me to start down that journey perhaps five years earlier than most people, which I think gave me a huge advantage.

And lately, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is probably the most recent book that’s really inspired me.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Read up on where things are heading in terms of digital automation, machine learning and AI.

After 25 years in software, I’ve come to recognise the need to anticipate change is such an important survival skill because in technology nothing stands still for long, and the forces of change can be brutal if they catch you out.

Therefore it’s often the case that your grasp of what’s likely to be coming down the pike five years from now is what will influence many decisions you’ll need to make today.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

Most days I try to leave the office just after 6pm and then a couple of nights a week I might have an hour of video calls in the evening.

In the early days of getting Xero going in the UK, I used to be on many more late night calls than I am today with the support of a great management team around me.

These days I like to listen to podcasts on long walks on the weekends or in the evenings if I can, and I’m a die hard videogamer which also helps me unwind.

I also have a good routine for finishing the week by heading to my favourite coffee shop early on a Saturday morning before the family is awake to tidy up any loose ends from the week, and to clear the decks so that I can have a weekend clear of all work responsibilities.

So if anyone was wondering why they sometimes get a bunch of email replies from me at 7am on a Saturday morning — now you know.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.