I don’t imagine there are many Xero fans in the UK who have been lucky enough to look around Xero One in Wellington, New Zealand. But the last working day before Christmas, I stepped through the doors and into this hallowed space, the Mothership of Xero.
To be honest, I hadn’t travelled all the way to New Zealand just to visit Xero; I was part way through a fortnight holidaying in my home country and Wellington had more than one draw for me - catching up with extended family and spending time at Te Papa New Zealand’s national museum, only a 10 minute walk away from Xero HQ.
That morning, with my partner and two sons we had driven a couple of hours from our gorgeous holiday rental in Nelson to Picton, the tip of the South Island where we hopped on the Interislander ferry for a scenic 3 hour crossing through the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sounds and across Cook Strait to the capital city, Wellington.
The Xero building was not hard to find, situated on a corner, not far from the seafront. Xero’s newly renovated home had recently been sympathetically converted from a two story heritage building to a five level building using external construction technology new to Wellington.
The long building, which dominates a full block, was once the home of Manthel Motors, one of Wellingtons most successful car dealerships and was converted into offices in the 90’s. The building has been sympathetically renovated and expanded with the old heritage façade pinned to the outside of a new inner structure housing the 5 floors which have been built for earthquakes. The top three floors have been framed in steel and aluminium and covered with a special fabric. This semi-transparent layer acts like a mesh blind that is almost opaque in bright sunlight but becomes more transparent in low light, the idea is that it doesn't detract from the character of the original building.
Once inside the doors we were whisked up to the 3rd floor where the lovely Sarah Reading, Xero facilities manager, arrived to meet us for our tour. I checked in using the ipad registration system and just to prove I was there, this is the email I received to confirm!
If you were paying attention at the beginning of this blog you will have noted that my visit coincided with the last working day before Christmas Day. By the time we disembarked our ferry, made our way across Wellington to drop our bags at our apartment and walked to the corner of Taranaki and Wakefield streets it was mid afternoon and by now the office was in full flow party mood!
Stepping into the reception area, the first sight we were greeted with (apart from the smiling receptionist of course) was what can only be referred to as a playroom, separated from reception by a wall of glass. The playroom was full to bursting with Xero employees enjoying a game of pool or table tennis or watching said games… with a glass in hand! This sure seemed a happy place to be.
Next stop was the ‘kitchen’ this is unlike any staff kitchen I've come across before. Think chic open space, barista coffee and a work top covered in bottles of alcohol. Sarah is quick to reassure me that they don’t usually have so much wine and beer available, but of course it is Christmas after all. The wine doesn’t seem to be quite as popular as the riggers of beer, this could have something to do with the weather . . . it's a balmy 22°C outside and there is plenty of heat in the sun. Christmas in New Zealand is usually a warm affair, but Wellington is known as windy Wellington for a reason and doesn’t always enjoy the best of weathers. Today, though, we have been treated to a perfect early summers day.
Moving away from the heaving kitchen area and the copious amounts of beer my sons spy a couple of vending machines and are impressed to discover that you can vend any snack or drink you fancy, without making any payment. Sarah tells the boys they can choose a drink, they are reluctant at first (probably can’t believe their luck!) before they both dive in and each come up with a can. Surely it’s every kid's dream to have an unlimited and free vending machine available at hand.
Having toured the social areas we moved into the serious zone and admired the funky meeting rooms. Each has a different name and theme and as you’d expect of a company familiar with technology, the doors are equipped with digital systems for room scheduling. I helped myself to a room to use as a photo opportunity (just to prove I had actually been there, you see).
At the heart of the building lies the open staircase, this encourages staff to take the stairs rather than the lift. Sarah explains that wood from the internal structure of the original building has been recycled into the design of the new building to create a feature wall which runs up and down the building to house the staircase.
Here is Sarah with Miss Sybil (read more about the significance of Miss Sybil here) and part of the recycled wood wall. See how festive she is in her Santa hat, all ready for Christmas!
Having explored the areas open to us we made our way back to reception where I admired the specially themed Xero Christmas tree (those baubles sure look like eyeballs, don’t you agree?).
Note the angel on top of the tree . . . that’s founder Rod Drury looking angelic.
So, that was my visit to Xero HQ, as I write this back in North Devon with rain pelting the office window and a storm raging outside, (not to mention also suffering from jet lag, peeling sunburn and excruciating itchy sandfly bites) I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to see a little of the inside of a globally successful Kiwi company. A huge thanks to the team at Xero for allowing myself and my family through the doors.