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Neville Jordan on earning a reputation, not making a name

Reputations are built over a long time, so Kiwis who want to ‘make name’ are heading in the wrong direction, says Endeavour Capital executive chairman Neville Jordan.

1. When did you realise you could be world class and what steps did you take to get there?

Not long after graduation, I was very fortunate in winning a Rotary Foundation award which took me to the Apollo Mission Control Centre in Houston – at the time of the Apollo 13 crisis. I have never thought of myself as being ‘world class’ but the experience of being in the Apollo Control Centre at that time set me off on what was to become a very successful journey. As a result of the Award I knew that one day I would have my own tech company – and I did. The Rotary scholarship was literally a hugely beneficial and life changing experience.

A second epiphany occurred when I had MAS Technology valued prior to taking in some development capital. I got a shock at the size of the valuation and finally realised that our outstanding company team was indeed getting to be world class.

2. What’s your advice for Kiwis who want to make their name offshore or in the same industry as yours?

Those looking to ‘make a name for themselves’ are looking in the wrong place. Reputations are earned over a very long period of time and are based on such things as; delivering on promises, good sense of fair play and justice, downright common-sense, ethical behaviour, integrity and creativity. The one piece of advice; truly understand that reputation and creativity is critical to success.

3. What’s been the toughest time in your career?

There has been no single moment but I still get a bit of a shock when I find unexpected aberrant behaviour, for no other reason than that’s how many people are wired.

4. What would you would do differently if you had your time again?

At the start of MAS Technology, taking in external capital would have provided faster lift-off. In those early days there was no venture capital available and no government support for start-ups.

Doing substantial R&D and providing for working capital, both out of retained earnings, was certainly character-building. In later years, after founding Endeavour Capital, we relied too much on industry ‘experts’ who turned out to have little idea about the travails of investing into early stage companies. However, over time, investment experience develops a pretty well formed ‘6th sense’ when it comes to understanding and evaluating people

5. What are your tips for the best way to use your networks?

Networks are, and have been, totally vital. I have found that many of the ‘formal’ networks can be rather contrived and not particularly helpful as quite often they contain a diverse range of interests; many of which are not relevant. What can New Zealanders learn? You need relevant and trusted networks – period.

Tips? Like any relationship or piece of equipment, networks are perishable. Things constantly change and your networks also need constant refreshment and maintenance.

Neville Jordan won the award for services to investment and business in this year’s World Class New Zealand Awards, a New Zealand Trade and Enterprise initiative delivered by Kea New Zealand. He founded MAS Technology in 1975 and is now executive chairman of Endeavour Capital, which he started in 1998. In 2012 he won NZTE’s top award for Outstanding International Businessperson. 

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