Lindis Jones has been chief executive of Z Energy for just two months but has spent a total of 13 years with the company in roles ranging from corporate general manager to chief financial officer. He grew up in the South Island and later worked extensively overseas, particularly in Portugal, Switzerland and Austria. He has a master's degree in finance from the London Business School as well as degrees in commerce and science from Otago University. He now calls Wellington home with his wife, two children – and six bikes.  

I honestly can't remember any one thing I wanted to be when I was five. I wanted to be many different things. A times I wanted to be a Department of Conservation ranger because you get to hang out in the bush, but also a doctor and a pilot and, at one stage, actually, an economist. Five is probably too young an age to have aspirations to join that profession, though.

A lot of my interests growing up had something to do with science, social science and economics. And just an opportunity to learn about natural science. That's probably the thing that would join them all together. 

My father was a real estate agent. He left school when he was 15, but in his mid-40s he realised the value of education and did an MBA in the early days of that qualification at Otago. 

My mother was a teacher, so education was incredibly important to us, not just because of the increased number of choices it gives you, but because the more stuff you learn, the more things you learn about. I have two very clever siblings.  

For about three of my high school years, my mother worked at the school I went to. She taught a lot of my good friends, who of course already knew her. So, she probably had a better handle on how to shape their behaviour than someone going in cold with teenage boys.

What was I like as a student? My teachers hopefully remember a well-behaved kid, with the odd moment of misbehaviour.

Lindis Jones as a toddler (above and below) at Lake Wānaka, which he says is his favourite place in the world. (Images: Supplied)

When I left school, I wanted to do medicine, but it was a failed ambition, mainly because I was confronted with the huge effort that it takes to become a doctor. I loved – and still love – biochemistry, and continued my fascination with economics. 

I ended up doing a degree in economics and one in biochemistry. And that was at a time when biochemistry was making really significant advances, in particular with the manipulation of DNA.

In 2000, I had the opportunity to join Shell. It not only had a long heritage internationally but had also been in New Zealand for almost 100 years. One attraction for me was that Shell was distinctive in its investment in people and how it valued them.

I had the opportunity to work with Shell overseas, in particular in Europe. It was a privilege working with different cultures. For example, as a 30-year-old in Portugal, I worked alongside not only Portuguese but also people from France, Ghana and Estonia. 

After my stint with Shell, my wife and I moved back to NZ. By some good fortune, I was offered a job at ANZ Bank, and worked there for four years. Seeing how NZ's largest financial organisation responded to the global financial crisis in 2008 was fascinating. I don't think New Zealanders appreciate just how close we came to suffering even more severely than we did. 

I have been at Z Energy for 13 years, and the thing I'm most proud of is how we had ambitions not only for our company but also for the role it could play more broadly in NZ, and what that's enabled the colleagues around me to achieve. There's a real sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. 

One thing I believe to be true, and I think most chief executives in NZ believe to be true, is that every single accident is avoidable. When you look at those where people are harmed or could have been harmed, there's always something their organisation did do or, more importantly, didn't do that contributed to that incident happening.

I don't doubt that all great CEOs and leaders work really hard. I've worked hard and I've invested a lot in my education, but so do most New Zealanders. I've just been in the lucky position where jobs have opened up at the right time or I've been exposed to experiences that others haven't. 

People underestimate the role of luck in their success or the role of bad luck in other people's lack of success. So having compassion is important.

My new role at Z Energy is shaping up as being the most enjoyable in terms of the variety and the scope – the actual sales role. We get to spend time out of head office talking to other New Zealanders about their business – in particular, small businesses, because you come to realise really quickly how passionate people are who have built up their own. 

Having never worked in or started a small business, I have learned a lot about how much commitment and love go into them; this really motivates us to do whatever we can to support them.

The best thing I've ever spent money on was travel. In the summer of 2019, my two kids, my wife and I spent four weeks in South America. It cost a lot, but I think the experiences we had there made it all worthwhile.

My favourite exercise? It's a toss-up between cycling and swimming, but I think that as I get older, cycling has taken top spot because of the freedom you've got on the bike.

I no longer cycle to go places, but I cycle to have fun and see things with friends and family. And I can build the bridge between bikes and experiences, because cycling is about having experiences.

I've always managed to keep the number of bikes I have to one less than the number that would cause issues with my family. I currently own six, but shuffling them around helps.

As told to Ella Somers.
My Net Worth interviews may be edited for clarity.