Behind the Mask talks to Keran McKenzie about Michelle Obama, wanting a mullet (or any hair for that matter) and sharing drinks

Keran McKenzie
Founder & CEO of Unemployed Futurists
Keran McKenzie Consulting


So, who are you anyway, and what do you do?
Well, I’m Keran and I’m a product, tech, sales, marketing, people, culture and transformation leader. What do I do? I find that the less I do, the better really - what I mean by that is, I love to enable. Enable people and teams to achieve the impossible. Technology is most powerful when it’s invisible, and I often think my role is to be invisible and let teams, tech or processes reach their potential.

How did you get into this job?

Did you not get the memo? Darn I’ll have to talk to accounts about that. I’m currently between gigs :) … how did I get into this space where I operate? Well I’ve always been inquisitive, taking the top of things and seeing how they work. I realised early on that I had the ability to join the dots that others often couldn’t. So now I spend my time helping companies, leadership teams, product teams, business owners join the dots - specifically focused around future technologies and its impact in day to day lives.

What song from your past still gets you moving today?
So many songs … Knocking on Heavens door, Amazing Grace, This is me (oh wait that’s not in the past) …. I think the one that’s caught me off guard is our local radio station started playing Thunder Crashes by Live recently and I had forgotten how much I love that song.

If you could go to one concert from the past, what one would it be?  And what would you wear?
I never went to any big concerts - if I was to go to one… U2 maybe, and of course I’d wear jeans, leather jacket and a mullet! 

A socio-economic question, but feel free to answer from your gut.  If AI, automation and robotics are going to replace repetitive and laborious tasks, what impact will this have on your industry and profession?
None what so …. Actually hold that .. HUGE. AI and Automation will be the product developers of the future - so in my space the impact will be revolutionary and huge - possibly more so than in any other industry.

What other challenges face accountants, bookkeepers or SMEs today?  And, how should they meet those challenges?
Mindset shift is the biggest challenge. (okay this is harsh and likely to get me flamed online) … In the past 12 months more than ever before have I seen the walls and barriers go up and people are starting to push back on the vendors, app providers and change. People fear the unknown, they fear change and I think now that we’ve seen the 20% of leaders/early adopters embrace digitisation and the app-economy, we’re now seeing a rising up of the 80% who don’t care, don’t want to change and are stuck - this is the change we’ll see in the industry, the slow death of so many accounting practices and bookkeeping firms through slow, stubborn refusal to change. Too many people are comfortable with the “I don’t have time to learn new things” mindset - it’s a crutch for them to lean on. Being busy doesn’t mean being productive and growing. 

With all of this change, comes some opportunity.  What opportunities do you see presenting themselves already?

Massive opportunity - those who are keen to embrace change and move from traditional models to new client/customer centric models are the ones that will win. I think we are very much at the start of technology revolution of this space and we will see many of the existing services and tools morph or merge and a whole raft of new amazing apps and tools arrive.

The software vendors are all moving - but I don’t think they are moving anywhere near fast enough. They have massive platform and legacy code issues to deal with. New vendors are coming and for me the interesting opportunity here is some very VERY big industry players are entering the accounting space slowly but surely and they will erode the traditional accounting software/bookkeeping space - with this however will come the need for stronger insight, process, activity oriented tools for business and smart bookkeepers and accountants are already moving their products and services away from traditional accounting solution vendors to process, activity and insight focused products - client pleasing products.

I don’t know about you, but I need a drink after that.  If you could buy anyone a drink in a bar and chat to them about anything, who would it be, what would you drink, and what would you talk about?

Oh, that’s a good one - let’s see … I’ve had the pleasure of sharing drinks with some incredible people around the world, including the Gregg brothers. Umm let’s see, Elon, Jack Ma, Tim Cook … hmm, no I think, I think I’d want to share a drink with Michelle Obama, and I’d just shut up and listen. Michelle is an incredible person who I admire greatly. I’d be comfortable just sitting and sharing a drink with her, I know that whatever she chose to talk about there would be wisdom there for me to learn.

And after you had that wee drink, if you could walk up to anyone, kick them in the shins and shout something at them, who would it be, and what would you shout?  Go on...get it off your chest!
Meh, life is too short for that - if I haven’t told them already to their face, having a drink and kicking them isn’t going to help.

What advice would you give to yourself at age 18?

Never stop learning - seriously!

If you could retire now, what would you do? Or not do?

Look for places of impact and plug myself into them - be that creating jobs locally, fostering SME growth, helping in a garden or teaching C-Level how to transform and embrace tomorrow … I just want to make an impact.

Oh and food, wine, coffee - all of that!

What do you want to achieve that you haven’t as yet?

See answer to the question above.

What’s next for you, and your business?

I grew up in the deep south of NZ, I struggled at school, I’m a uni-drop out. I led one of NZ’s biggest advertising companies impacting hundreds of thousands of businesses., I helped transform MYOB and the AU/NZ Accounting/Bookkeeping market impacting over a million businesses and now I am looking for a true global play to allow me to impact more and do cool stuff …… or … maybe I’m looking for a way to keep paying the mortgage & having fun in life :)

Liked our interview? Read more in our Behind The Mask series.