Welcome to My Net Worth, our regular column on the lives and motivations of our top businesspeople, in their own words.
Vodafone NZ chief executive Jason Paris has formerly held leadership roles at Spark, MediaWorks, Television New Zealand and Nokia.
I’m a proud Southlander. My mum is a freezing worker at the Alliance freezing works, and her partner Barry is a crane driver at Tiwai, so still salt-of-the-earth Southlanders. Mum had me when she was 17 and dad left straight away and never came back.
I grew up pretty quickly. In my household you were part of the family, not just as a kid, but a contributor, and you were expected to do your chores, cook and clean and get stuff done. I got exposed to big conversations quite young and I became comfortable making decisions on my own at an early stage.
I’m the complete opposite from my wife Rachel – she’s very diligent and she goes through the steps, whereas I see the outcome and try [to find] the best way to get there fast.
When I got to London, I had two opportunities – marketing at McDonald’s and a role at Nokia. Rachel said to me, “What’s your ultimate goal, where would you want to go and you could die a happy man?” I said, “Chief marketing officer at Telecom.” So I called the Telecom head office and I said, “Can I please speak to your chief marketing officer”, and I got put through to Kevin Kenrick, who was CMO at the time. “I said, “You don’t know me, but in 15 years’ time, I want your job, so which should I take?” He replied, “Hands down take Nokia.” The rest is history. I started as CMO at Telecom in 2011.
In 2018, I got a phone call from Vittorio [Colao], Vodafone’s global chief executive at the time. It was 7.30 on a Saturday morning. And he said, “You were coming to the group [in London] to do the role [of director of convergence acceleration, Africa, Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region]. You are no longer. You are now the CEO of Vodafone New Zealand. Congratulations.” And then he put the phone down.
All the things I worried about early in my career, I still worry about now.
If you are going to have a hard conversation about job losses, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it, it’s always awful.
My chair, Marko [Bogoievski], he’s very different from me. I’ll talk fast and a lot, and he chooses his words very carefully. But every time he talks, it’s bang on.
I read lots of books by those who are creative. Lots of Malcolm Gladwell, who gives business lessons through brilliant story telling. I read a lot of his books, but the best book I’ve ever read is American Icon, about the turnaround of Ford. If my team reads it now, they would see the blueprint of what we are doing.
Business idols? The first person who comes to mind is Joan Withers. She is super, super impressive because she broke so many barriers in so many different industries. I like Peter Beck because he’s a Southlander and because he’s playing a long game.
The best thing we can do is make whoever is in government as successful as they possibly can be for the term of their government, and others can stop trying to get in their way. It drives me crazy how unproductive the negativity is. It’s a waste of energy!
As told to Victoria Young.