Growing the right culture

Relaxed, tense, fun, inspiring, friendly or hostile? Which word best describes your office culture? According to our ‘Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work’ survey, the majority of worldwide organisations are failing to move with the times by improving their culture, which can potentially jeopardise future growth. Employees’ lack of engagement is of major concern with business leaders, with 87 percent citing it as their top issue. Combine this with the fact that millennials are pushing for more values-based workplaces and we’re left with overwhelming evidence that growing the right culture in your business is a necessity not an after thought. We spoke with three Kiwi business leaders from our 2015 Fast 50 Festival who are as much renowned for their personal achievements as for the culture they’ve created in their companies.


Vaughan Rowsell’s beard is almost part of the furniture. The man who created the successful POS software brand, Vend, hinted that at one point that nearly everyone in the company had facial hair (talk about creating a united company look). It was at that point he realised that while conformity is nice, diversity is needed if you want to create a great company culture.

In saying that, having unchanging core values that underpin the company are a key part of Rowsell’s approach, no matter how diversified his company may become.

“A great company culture is one that evolves but whose core values remain the same.”

Deloitte Private Partner, Mike Curtis adds that, “Culture is not about employing the same type of people. It’s about employing people who challenge the norm and have different expectations and perspectives. While culture is driven from the top, new employees must embrace and enhance existing culture. Getting a feel for people at interviews to ensure they are a cultural fit within the organisation is critically important. Culture displays an organisation’s ethos to clients which underpin great client relationships."


Relaxed attire, free soft drinks and ping pong tables are just a few of the ‘perks’ offered at Xero who came in at 41 on our 2015 National Fast 50 Index.

Managing Director, Victoria Crone, adds that while all these typical enjoyable perks are enjoyed by most, fun in the office means different things to different people and this has to be taken into account.

“We found that our female developers loved knitting at lunch time so we acknowledged and accomodated that.”

Victoria preaches an approach of hiring people who have the fundementals right and then moulding them along on their journey. She’s a firm advocate in hiring for attitude – after that you can “keep them on the journey no matter where you go.”



As CEO of major beer brand Moa, (and ex-founder of 42Below vodka) Geoff Ross knows a thing or two on how to create a great culture - and no it doesn’t revolve around alcohol although a drop of the amber fluid doesn’t go a miss.

“I once visited an organisation and I could smell the culture at the door”.

“You can’t just tell people what your culture is, you have to live it and breathe it and everyone has to be the co-author of it.”

He recalls a story from the time he made his first sale with a bottle of 42Below vodka.

“My PA and I had just sold our very first bottle of vodka and we wanted to celebrate. We didn’t know what to toast to but my PA had just bought a new sheep and called it Monty so we toasted to Monty. Now every time someone in the company celebrates something they call it a ‘monty’."

Mike Curtis echoes that attitude saying that “celebrating success with an organisation is one of the best ways to drive a positive culture."


Mike is a Deloitte Private Partner in Wellington. His clients value his straight talking advice, experienced business mentoring and his readiness to 'shoulder the weight' for them when needed. Business and tax structuring are Mike’s strengths and he also has a keen interest in the role that marketing plays in business success.