Welcome to My Net Worth, our regular column on the lives and motivations of our country’s top business, legal and political people in their own words.
For the past nearly seven years, Viv Beck has been the face of Auckland's central city business association, frequently seen on television advocating for her members’ interests. Now, she has announced her candicacy for the Auckland mayoralty, standing against Labour-backed Efeso Colllins and restaurateur Leo Molloy, among others.
The role built on a career in public affairs that included being director of communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and comms general manager at New Zealand Post. For five years, she was also chief executive of Wellington-based Communications Arts, an award-winning graphic design and print agency. Beck is a former chair of the Wellington Museums Trust, which operates arts and cultural visitor attractions in the capital, deputy director of the Auckland Art Gallery, and trustee of the Mackelvie Trust, which cares for the art, artefact and book collection of 19th-century philanthropist James Mackelvie. She is married to businessman and former NZ Māori rugby captain and member of Parliament Paul Quinn.
I was born in Wellington. My mother was Austrian and my father was Dutch. When they arrived in New Zealand, my mother couldn't speak English, and my father had only a little English he learnt at school. They didn’t know anybody, except dad did have a penpal here.
My parents built a life for us here and gave us a happy childhood. They’ve both since died, but they are still a really important part of my life.
I liked sport, particularly athletics. I played badminton, squash, basketball, and then soccer, which was unusual at that time for a girl. My mother used to say that when I was little, I used to tell her that sleep is a waste of time, imagine what you could do if you didn’t have to sleep.
I'm quite purposeful and I'm driven in terms of, okay, this is what I'd like to do. I might not have the experience to do it. I just find a way.
I wanted to become a journalist. I always enjoyed writing and communicating so journalism appealed. I gained a diploma in journalism and then did an economics degree.
Self-belief is one of the things that my parents taught me. After university, I decided to set up a catering business. And I knew absolutely nothing about catering. I actually can't believe I did this, but I decided to apply for a job as a chef. I was very honest. I said, “Look, I'm not a chef, but I can cook and this is what I want to do.” And they took a punt on me.
My business partner and I ended up setting up this little catering business. It was just brilliant, a great experience. And then I thought, let's get back to what I set out to do, which was communications.
One of the things I’m most proud of is in 2007, I co-wrote a book called Julia Makes Her Move: First Steps Into Leadership, to help young women who didn't see themselves as being able to have a career. At the time it was quite innovative, almost like a chick-lit book that had leadership woven into it. It went to a second edition.
My best business advice is to trust your own judgment. You have to analyse, you need the data, and you have to have a pretty open mind and consider different perspectives. But then ultimately you trust your instincts.
I used to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I've learned not to worry. You do the work right and you don't dwell on it. I'm not one of those middle-of-the-night thinkers.
I used to exercise a lot more than I do now. I try to do something on the weekend that I feel is good for me. But I'm not obsessive about anything. I'll just choose whatever is easiest without getting too worried about it.
I've always been interested in helping kids who just don't get a chance in life. That's very important to me. My husband and I have done a lot of foster care, for over 15 years now.
I love my job and I'm also inspired by the opportunities ahead. I am thinking of standing for Mayor of Auckland. Leadership of the city through the next phase is going to be quite challenging. Decisions don’t get made because people can’t agree – that’s not where we need to be.
As told to Jacqui Loates-Haver.
This interview has been edited for clarity and was updated on March 7 to include Viv Beck's mayoralty race confirmation.