Conceptual thinking, creative action drives Scott Green

Conceptual thinking, creative action drives Scott Green

Axon CEO Scott Green is often asked why he has stayed with the company for almost 20 years, all but three of its existence. Yet, he says coming to work each day he’s surrounded by things he has stamped his mark on, from the systems and tools he uses to the teams and structures he is part of.

Initiating and completing exciting projects is a hallmark of Green’s career there.

“I always like to have something that’s new that I can help to foster through to a living, breathing thing. It’s the challenge of taking something conceptual and then seeing it realised – that has a great degree of satisfaction in looking at our business today.”

Having held many roles at Axon, including overseeing its marketing, finance, IT and operations prior to being CEO, he has established e-commerce and online procurement systems, and worked on ISO certification. He’s now part of an investment drive into new service management and project management systems and ITIL, along with processes to work with these.

Green even likens this implementation of big changes to having children. “You see them change and the difference you’ve had in their lives. It calls on all the skill sets you have when you start something from new, you can’t just be a good marketer or HR or process person, you have to think pretty holistically about it.”

As CEO, he enjoys instilling a culture of innovation and teamwork, something he says is a necessity for privately owned firms (Green is a part-owner).

He became its seventh employee in 1989 joining founders Matt Kenealy and Greg McKeown in watching it grow to multiple locations and more than 100 staff.

He cites a quote from New Zealand scientist Ernest Rutherford, who when asked why he experimented and innovated, said he didn’t have the money so he had to think.

“We don’t have the unlimited chequebook some of our multinational and even national competitors have,” Green says. “You have to think more than just writing out cheques and thinking: ‘Oh well that didn’t work’. You have to apply the brain cells a bit more effectively.”

Green first met Kenealy and McKeown while working for Quasar Corporation, which held the Compaq agency in the mid-1980s.

He had completed a commerce degree at Auckland University and did not intend to enter IT, but on graduating in 1985 he wanted a marketing or human resources role. “IT was well down the list, having struggled through a level one computing course at university I thought it was terrible.”

After marketing software for Thoughtware, he became marketing manager for Quasar. He liked what Kenealy and McKeown were doing with Axon’s business and followed the Compaq agency there when it changed hands.

Joining Axon as an account manager, he has been through some of its biggest milestones, including opening its Wellington office in 1990, then returning to Auckland to head its marketing team. “I’ve pretty much been involved in every aspect of the business since then,” he says.

The business case for the online procurement system formed the basis for a Masters of Business Administration, completed through Auckland University in 1995.

He also attributes his longevity in the role to liking the people he works with and feeling he is fairly rewarded for his work.

Green says in recent years he has discovered the importance of reflecting on the success or failure of ventures, and taking time to live a balanced life.

“In this industry it’s so fast paced and there’s always demands on your time. It’s important to reflect rather than move from one project to the next, otherwise you get burned out.

“You can go for many years being who people think you should be rather than who you are and it has taken me a few years to appreciate that.”

The familiar faces in the industry mean he has made some good friendships, but has also added an element of competition to his work.

“The thing that’s most challenging, is that technology is all about the change and you’re competing and working with clever people. To be successful it’s not just about succeeding against people who are incompetent, you really have to earn your money and I enjoy that challenge.”

He’s also balancing a more hectic schedule at home, with a son born six months ago to add to his family of two adult children and two adult stepchildren.

Q + A

Favourite website

No particular sites, mainly news-related ones. My daughters keep hassling me about not having enough photos on the Bebo site they created for me.

Favourite gadget

I do not have it yet, but the new Windows Mobile 6 phone with presence and federation

Favourite sports

Hockey. I coach club and representative hockey teams. I have one daughter in the Black Sticks, while she and her twin sister are both national league players for North Harbour. Golf is the other passion, which I would like to play far better than I do.

Favourite cocktail recipe

Amnesia. An appropriate name for a combination of Grand Marnier, tequila, Baileys and contreau on ice. Two to three of those and amnesia is the outcome.

If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

James Cook

What book are you currently reading/ have recently read?

In Search of Kazhikstan by Christopher Robbins. An interesting account of the country’s progress from the Soviet era to an independent republic.

Who is/was your mentor?

Geoff Wane. Not in the IT industry, but he has always been prepared to challenge and extend my thinking on business topics.

If you weren’t in IT, what would you be doing?

Sports management, if there was enough money in it!

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