It’s no surprise that Canon’s country manager Mike Johnston is a keen photographer, but it wasn’t until he joined the vendor three and a half years ago that he took up the hobby.
The father of two young children says they are often the subject of his snaps, but sunrises over Rangitoto Island and the Waitakere Ranges come a close second, while the Sky Tower, as a “photography cliche”, is avoided.
“I do take a lot of photos of my children, which is understandable, but I’m more of a landscape photographer than anything else. I’m a bit of a traditionalist because I try and do everything with the camera. I don’t own Photoshop.”
However, Johnston started in the tech industry with a vendor less known for its association with photography - NEC - in 1990.
“I was roaming the globe working in the NEC telecommunications area. There was a lot of demand being a Kiwi in that environment because of our dexterity. We could work on a number of parts to a project, whereas in other parts of the globe NEC would only have specialists.”
Johnston worked for NEC locally as well as in the Pacific Islands, America and Jamaica.
“I was employed on a project management basis so I’d go away for six to 12 weeks at a time and come back to New Zealand.”
The exception was Jamaica, where he worked for a year, which was a friendly business environment but could be frightening away from the office.
“In Kingston it was not unusual to see the military driving around with M16s [assault rifles]. All the police were armed and you’d hear gunshots a lot as well. But the people I worked with were very welcoming and took us into their home. It was a scary environment, but pleasant at the same time because of the people we were involved with.”
After NEC, Johnston moved to Clear Communications, now TelstraClear, in 1995.
He worked for the company for 11 years and saw it evolve into a fully fledged telecommunications operation.
He describes his career with
TelstraClear as akin to doing a Master of Business Administration, because of the diverse experience gained.
“I started out in project engineering, went to a business consultant role and then into sales. My last role was in customer service and faults, where I had 150 staff and contractors [working for me]. That’s where I learnt about leadership and management in a practical sense.”
However, after 11 years Johnston says he realised he had covered most aspects of telecommunications, and spent six months looking to make his next move.
He decided on Canon because of its culture.
“The culture is challenging because we define ourselves on service. It’s very focused on providing the best service. With that comes a mentality around doing things differently.”
The Japanese firm’s value system is called San-Ji. “San-Ji talks about the three selves, which is self motivation, self awareness and self management. It’s all about how as a company we benefit from individual efforts and everybody [having] the same values base.”
Although this is Canon’s global philosophy, Johnston has strived to bring a New Zealand perspective to it.
“We’ve recently translated the values into Maori. They are values that people gel with very easily because we’re an egalitarian society.”
According to Johnston, the challenges Canon has as a service company are similar to that of the IT industry overall.
“In the print market we’ve become reliant on devices and so customers need it fixed immediately. Meeting those service needs faster than our competitors and faster than the customer expects are the same challenges as [those in] the telecommunications industry. We don’t want the device to fail, but of course they always do so it’s how you make things better to keep the customer happy.”
Johnston first came to Canon as general manager of customer care. He was promoted to the country manager role in March, and has since been kept busy meeting the company’s resellers, business customers and photography dealers.
“Understanding their business, challenges and ways they go to market has been a focus over the past six months.”
Sustainability is a key aspect for Canon’s print business, and something Johnston is keen to develop further.
“Printing customers are talking about how [they] reduce the cost of business through less paper. We recently rolled out a print solution for TelstraClear throughout the country and they increased the number of multifunction printers they had with us. And yet they’re saving around $200,000 annually on printing costs. The overall return on investment is significant, yet they’re spending more with us on hardware to get that outcome.”
His goal as country manager is to continue to live by the Canon values. “These are long-term sustainability and to do things that are smart for our customers and smart for Canon. We also want to grow our people through training, encouragement from within and internal promotions.”
Johnston is kept busy outside work, juggling the very different demands of his daughter and son.
“I have an 11-year-old daughter and a 16-month-old son. My family takes a huge amount of my focus because of that age gap. My daughter wants a mobile phone top up and my son is trying to walk,” he jokes.