Rod Oram’s comment in today’s Sunday Star Times mentioned the dearth of ambition evident in the business leaders in our country. He also commented on the results of his own informal survey of business excellence, commiserating in the fact that only three businesses were self nominated as high achievers while only five business leaders where nominated for special praise as leaders.

Oram comments correctly that we’re a nation of individuals who are shy of both their ambition and their success and that this in some ways perpetuates the mentality of competency rather than excellence.

I relate all this to a discussion I had with Rod Drury during the Xero IPO process. Without going into the details I was made aware that certain people were of the opinion that my (hopefully eminently constructive) criticisms of the hype surrounding the Xero IPO was something of a cheap shot at a tall poppy and another example of the great big kiwi clobbering machine.

Fortunately Rod seemed to take my comments in the light they were intended – as a balanced and constructive response to the IPO and the media attention it was garnering. I said to him that all I wished was that investors were making their investment decisions based on fact rather than emotion and that they were not being swayed (beyond obvious competencies evident) by the big names on the board and executive team of Xero.

He agreed but I think this begs some bigger questions – in this country we lump criticism – be it constructive or otherwise, in with the same tall poppy mentality. At the same time we seem to be over-eager to place people on pedestals – maybe because on an aggregate level we do in fact lack ambition so any success is exalted.

As a nation we need to be more understanding of the risks and stresses that business people take and as a corollary, more understanding of the rewards they gather. As business people we also need to be more ambitious – maybe not the the “100*$100mill” NZTE mentality, but to stretch the boundaries and further our horizons.

In a business meeting recently I remember discussing business vision with the principals – I was dismayed at the low level of expectation the principals had of the business. It’s an issue commented ad nauseum in the media and coined the boat/back/BMW mentality but possibly this mentality has in fact been caused by the hyper-ambition articulated in the NZTE 100*$100mil. Business people are led to believe their options are either to strive for a modest turnover or aim to the stratosphere – maybe we need to re articulate the ambition and be striving to create 1000 $10million turnover companies – it would seem more viable, more sustainable and more in keeping with us as a nation.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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