One-time Vodafone global chief financial officer Mark Aue became 2degrees' first home-grown boss last year. Here's how the Whanganui boy saw 2019, and what he's got in-store for 2020, including a contrarian take on the 5G upgrades being pushed so hard by Vodafone and Spark.
How would you describe 2019 for your business?
2019 was a year of milestones for 2degrees. We celebrated our 10th birthday and took our brand back to its challenger roots, being a little cheeky and irreverent.
• 2degrees makes after-hours switch-off permanent - but there's one staff complaint
• Government reveals reserve pricing for 5G auction
• Auckland startup Spoke Phone raises $11m for its disruptive internet calling software
• 2degrees caught cheating with broadband tests
In doing, we reminded New Zealanders of the competition, value and simplicity that 2degrees has brought and irrevocably changed the industry. We're proud to be the market value leader across service, innovation and price and continue to grow at pace in mobile, and in broadband we crossed the 100,000-customer mark and are the fastest-growing broadband provider in the country.
What do you think 2020 will bring?
We'll continue to extend the leadership in value and simplicity we offer in the business market, providing a genuine alternative to our competitors while solving some of the bugbears small and medium sized businesses are telling us about.
There will be more noise and marketing hype about 5G, and while we'll have announcements on that soon, we know customers are more interested in the quality of the service they get today, not the one of tomorrow that will realistically take several years to deliver ubiquitous change.
Going into an election year, what are the three biggest issues the Government needs to solve?
• The digital divide is real. And while there are more ways to be online, for those who can't afford connectivity, it creates a disparity. The things many of us take for granted like the kids being able do homework online, being able to access government services or do your banking. There's a role for government and industry here, and at 2degrees we are committed to making a real difference – watch this space in 2020.
2degrees makes after-hours switch-off permanent - but there's one staff complaint
• Certainty is crucial. Businesses are keen to invest in infrastructure – in our case 5G – so we need to avoid any sudden changes or ambiguity in an election year, so we can get on with it.
• As a country we need to keep talking about, and working on, the significant stigma around mental health. We need to make faster progress, especially to eliminate some of the ridiculously outdated views that still exist and make people reluctant to ask for help. It is okay to not be okay, and people need to feel safe in asking for help.
What was your favourite corporate stoush of the year?
I'd rather give credit where it's due - to new Sky CEO Martin Stewart's refusal to lie down, instead bringing significant changes to their operating model, pricing and content, and thinking outside the box in partnering with NZ Rugby. Competition is a good thing for the market.
What should be uninvented in 2020?
Clickbait. I love quality writing and well-thought through stories. It's really frustrating to see misleading headlines that exist to get people to click on a link.
What do you want to fix in 2020?
We all need to take a concerted and significant change in addressing climate change.
What was your first job?
Cleaning up the local mechanics workshop at $5 an hour. I still can't figure out how week to week it looked like a tornado had blown through. But it was work, and I was happy to be paid.
What was your worst job?
I don't really think about the jobs I've had like that. Sure, some have been less enjoyable than others, but those experiences - the good and the bad – are the ones that make a full life and provide opportunities for growth. I was rapt to make $5 an hour cleaning up at the mechanics.
If you could change one thing about the workplace what would it be?
Work should be a part of life, not the main element, but the lines continue to be blurred.
At 2degrees we focus on employee wellbeing and last year, we introduced a "Screens Off" policy. This means when people down tools at the end of the day, they have no obligation to read, review or reply to any email or text until the next day. It's important our people fully enjoy their lives outside of work. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
How do you stop yourself from working during the holiday period?
I commit to looking at updates in the morning before the family are up and responding to anything urgent. Then my screens are off! It's important my family get the best of me too during the holiday break.