Nashua CEO Mark Taylor speaks frankly about his personal leadership style, challenges facing the industry and his interests outside the office.
You have over three decades’ experience in the IT industry. To what do you attribute your business success?
People believing in me – and giving me a chance. When I was working as a computer operator at Nedbank, I was given the chance by a manager to become a programmer, and then, later, to manage a fairly large project. I thought it was completely beyond my range of capability, but because I was given the chance, I rose to the challenge and increased my skill set. As hard as I worked, I still needed the opportunity to prove myself.
What, in your opinion, makes a good leader?
The people around them. When you move into a position of power, you’re automatically given a box with ego pills – it’s your choice whether to swallow them or not. If you do, you’ll alienate the people around you. Successful organisations are all about people working together, and truly innovative businesses embrace a fully people-orientated approach.
How important are mentors in personal development?
Mentors are critical. If you find the right mentor, their most valuable offering is honesty – putting you back in your place when you lose sight of where you came from and where you’re headed.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your industry right now?
Consolidation around functions in the offices. The dynamics of the modern workspace are shifting so rapidly, it’s difficult to get buy-in from employees to embrace change and move with trends. Understanding why people fear change is fundamental, so we can help them understand why it’s crucial. We have to make our people part of the journey so they feel it’s theirs as well.
What is Nashua doing to overcome these challenges?
Engagement with our clients is key. We’re training and coaching our sales teams to implement ‘change management’ with each client, walking them through the changes made, and why they’re necessary.
What are your hobbies outside the office?
I take great pride in my art collection. It’s my greatest investment. I always explain to people that instead of having my investments sitting in a firm in Sandton where I can’t see them, I keep mine in my living room. I also collect rare, single malt whiskies. I also do some cycling to keep fit.
If you could have dinner with any celebrities, who would they be and why?
Julius Malema, because I’d love to pick his brains to better understand his thinking and Tina Turner, because I think she put up with a lot in her life and I’d like to hear her side of the story.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I’ve been trying to understand how to get the right work/life balance for thirty years, and I still haven’t quite cracked it. But I think the easiest way for employees to be able to achieve a balance between work and family is to be the kind of employer who understands that it’s a constant struggle. I encourage my employees and colleagues to attend every sports day and parent-teacher meeting they can, because I know if they’re not held hostage at the office, they’ll do what they need to do.
What’s the most important business principles you abide by?
I never tolerate tardiness. If I’m hosting a meeting, I close the boardroom doors at the starting time, and will not open them for anyone who’s late. It may seem harsh, but it’s a respect thing. I also do not tolerate dishonesty – I deal only in facts.
What was your first paying job?
My father owned a television aerial business, and I started helping him from when I was twelve – I think this really helped me develop good work ethic. I also worked in an ice-cream truck, where I learnt how to use maths in real-life situations for the first time. What I’ve learnt over the years is that every bit of experience counts, and sometimes the simplest tasks teach you the most.
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