Get the energy up and great things happen

By Mark Weldon

New Zealand business needs to work harder to succeed in global markets, says Mark Weldon.

Mark Weldon starts his working day with half an hour of reading.
Mark Weldon starts his working day with half an hour of reading.

Can you tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I had chronic asthma when I was young but my mum kept me out running and playing despite being short of breath. She was a very smart woman. My best friend at school was Barbara Kendall, and I think we often missed more school than we attended through playing sport.

What is a typical day at work like?
It's very different now from my previous life at McKinsey, or at NZX. But I still start each day early with half an hour of quiet reading time and I try to mix meetings with strategy time throughout the day. A lot of time is spent growing Terra Sancta and chairing GeoOP, which I've invested in and is shortly to list on the NZX.

What has been a highlight of your leadership journey so far?
After the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, John Key asked me to help raise money for communities there. We built a great team of volunteers and raised just over $100 million.

Who's a leader you admire?
A friend in Venezuela, Alberto, has used rugby to bring gangs from the slums together. He convinced the gang leaders to join the programme by going into the heart of the slums and taking them through a powerpoint presentation about rugby on the bonnet of a car, all the while rifles were pointed at him. By teaching basic skills, and treating them with respect, the murder rates have dropped massively. An incredibly brave guy who has driven massive changes. That's true leadership.

What's the secret of getting people to support and share your vision?
My view is that if you are working on something that has an aspect of "good" to it, or you are building something exciting, people will be energised by it and when they are energised great things happen.

What could Kiwi businesses be doing better?
New Zealand businesses tend to be world class at creativity, innovation and identifying opportunities. What they could be doing better, and this will not be too popular, is working harder and being a bit tougher. We are in a global marketplace, and our competitors do not sleep and are obsessed. To win on a global scale we need a bit more of that and to be tougher.

What do you think will be a significant business or societal issue in the next decade?
In New Zealand it is water. Our economy runs off water. Its beauty drives our tourism industry, it is critical to our national brand, it is the key input for the dairy, wine and other industries ... but it is deteriorating in quality and we have no national plan for it.

What is the best part about being a Blake Leader?
The Blake Leaders, as a group, sit across all sectors of New Zealand society. When that group is harnessed to integrate the energy that exists in all sorts of strange and wonderful places, it can help accelerate New Zealand forward.

Mark Weldon
Mark Weldon owns and runs Terra Sancta winery with his wife, Sarah, in Bannockburn, Central Otago and is also chair of GeoOP, which offers online software for job costing and scheduling via mobile applications. Weldon was chief executive of the NZX from 2002 to 2011. He was also an Olympic swimmer, competing for New Zealand at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, as well as at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. He is a director of board software company Diligent and in 2006 received a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award.

- NZ Herald

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