I snuck away from the #ATSA16 conference in Melbourne yesterday to head to the Xero office in Hawthorne and hang out with a good friend, The Sky Guy, Jamie Johns from Sky Accountants in Ballarat.

I showed up unannounced to the reception of Xero, which was everything I expected – seriously funky and stylish. The lady and gent at reception greeted me with big smiles and friendly chat and asked how they could help me. Given they weren’t expecting me, they did have to go out of their way to track down the person who could lead me to where Jamie’s meeting was being held. For some, this would have been considered too much effort and a hassle but these guys were genuinely more than happy to help me and make sure I was taken care of. I was asked to take a seat and relax whilst they found the right person. They offered me a drink “you can have anything you like” they said. Whilst I sat and waited they included me in their general conversation and made me feel comfortable and welcome. I also observed a buzz of energy from other team members walking into the office. Each of them were smiling, chatting away and seemed generally happy to be at work.

All of a sudden, a cool looking guy by the name of Jamie (Xero Jamie) came down the stairs to greet me. He introduced himself, again with a big friendly smile and asked me how he could help me. Turns out, he was the wrong Jamie reception had sought out but not to worry, he disappeared and then turned up a minute later to escort me to where I needed to be. There was no doubt that he was taking time out of his day to help me out, but was genuinely happy to do so. So he escorted me over to a part of their office where all the tax Xeroes are stationed. The office was SUPER funky, an office of my dreams…. There was a big open kitchen, tables to sit and talk at, ping pong, video games, the works. But aside from the fun and cool stuff, there was a serious vibe of productivity and hard work.

Xero Jamie sat me down at the kitchen table and we talked about the profession and ATSA conference amongst other things for a good 10 minutes. I told him he could leave me and get back to his office, but he insisted on keeping me company until Sky Jamie was available. Finally after about 15mins he had to run off as he was late for a meeting. We bid each other a great day and I proceeded to sit at the kitchen table watching team members pass in and out of the kitchen, each greeting me with a friendly hello and smile.

Sky Jamie finally arrived and we basically acted like goofy tourists taking a few photos around the office because it was totally photo worthy. Team members were happy to take some for us and wouldn’t leave until they got their perfect shot (hard to do with 2 ugly mugs as you can see above).

So why do I tell you all of this… I have always believed Xero to hold a special culture, based on workshops and Xerocon experiences. However, this experience allowed me to see first-hand the culture that Rod, Trent and the team has instilled right throughout the company of Xero. It was truly refreshing to see and it was honestly an enjoyable experience. They have created an environment where their team are happy to come to work, they clearly feel safe to be themselves and they are housed in an inspiring environment. It’s also clear that even though there are all the fun and games that can be had, this isn’t taken for granted, serious work gets done.

Developing your culture is such an important aspect of growing a successful business and one that normally gets overlooked and put in the “we’ll work on it when we have time”. As Trent (Xero MD) mentioned in his talk during the ATSA CEO panel on day 1 of the conference, you can have all the best systems, processes and technology in the world, but you will not achieve any success from it if you do not look after, develop and provide for your team.

So what are you doing to build your culture? Do your team feel safe and inspired at work? Would you team be proud to invite their friends to your office?

Culture is key.