When Rod retired as CEO from Xero in 2018, he was determined to set two new objectives.
One of them was to participate in and lead a number of community infrastructure projects. The other was to find something he was passionate about, something that would challenge him and something that he could enjoy most days of the week.
“For the first time in my life I wanted to achieve goals that were not work-related,” he explains. “That was around the time I discovered mountain biking.”
The sport was a catalyst for Rod to relocate to the Queenstown Lakes District in 2019 and, today, he is now well entrenched in the local mountain biking scene.
Although he currently spends about 60% of his time in Queenstown and the other 40% in the lower North Island, he is 100% committed to the region and its future. Rod is deeply involved in several large-scale initiatives, including the continued development of world-class mountain biking infrastructure, environmental activities and economic diversification projects such as attracting a digital film studio and promoting Queenstown as a global test lab for small electric busses.
“It’s been great getting to know the local community,” he says. “Without the tourists at the moment you really get to know the locals and soon discover there are a lot of interesting and stimulating people in Queenstown. Everyone who is here chooses to be here; everyone has to hustle and take their own action to be able to make it work.”
While the hustle is undoubtedly a positive thing for business and innovation in the region, Rod hopes that career progression will be somewhat less challenging in the future for skilled workers who want to move to Queenstown and enjoy the lifestyle while advancing their careers.
“Covid has certainly accelerated remote working in NZ and that proves to us that location doesn’t matter – you may as well have the best-possible lifestyle. That is our competitive advantage,” he says. “We need to encourage clusters of skilled people to live and work here and have multi-office companies establish a presence here, even if remote working. Creating these hubs is a good way to jumpstart diversification and broaden the business and employment opportunities in the Queenstown Lakes.”
International and domestic interest has already been expressed in expanding the tech, gaming and film production industries in the Queenstown Lakes, which is an exciting prospect for high-value economic growth. These industries and many others can all be exported to the world remotely, a practise that NZ is only just catching up on despite the likes of Silicon Valley working this way for many years.
This globalisation through technology – combined with the fact that the pandemic has made health and lifestyle #1 personal priorities – means it’s never been easier to do business in the most beautiful place in the world.
But, says Rod, the key to success is making the Southern Lakes life work for you. He schedules his day to tackle work, Zoom calls and emails in the mornings and evenings, and blocks out the afternoons to get amongst the great outdoors.
“It’s a sustainable and productive lifestyle,” he says. “Being here has enabled me to get out there and be healthy, spend time with the kids, set goals in biking and snowboarding and do multiple activities in one day. Then I fit the brain work and video calls around those activities, which also aligns well with international time zones.
“Life is calmer here, and exercise is a great way to reduce stress and give your brain time to think – the quality of thinking and work we are doing is so much greater when you have time to enjoy life. But it is difficult to achieve this when you are working as a full-time executive in the city.”
As for those mountain biking goals, Rod’s taking them down one by one.
“I try to go almost every day,” he says. “A jump I couldn’t do last month I’m now soaring over. It’s a great feeling to nail those achievements.”
Hear from those who have already made the move.