May 27, 2014
I’m Chair of the Board of Directors at Vend.
In some ways, this is a role I stumbled into.
I was one of the original investors, back when Vend was just Vaughan. We would spend a day a month and go deep on the business model and strategy. It evolved into a “proper” board after we raised more money and we added Miki to be an independent third voice in those meetings. It has since levelled up several more times, most recently after Barry was added as a fourth director.
I have, on more than one occasion, been told that I don’t look like a chairperson.
I’d like the record to reflect that the company has done okay despite this. What was just Vaughan is now 122 people, more-or-less, working in four offices in Auckland, Melbourne, Toronto, and San Francisco. And counting. We’ve grown from a handful of brave initial customers to over 10,000 retailers who use Vend to run their businesses - selling everything from jewellery to polo gear; gasoline to music lessons. We’ve raised over $35m, from what would have seemed to us at the beginning to be a dream list of investors from NZ, Australia, Germany and the US. We’re trying to spend that wisely to fuel further growth.
I try not to be offended, because I doubt that was intended. But I am always tempted to ask what they think a chairperson looks like. Or what role they think would be more appropriate for me.
The thing is, I’ve never really looked like the things I was.
I didn’t look like a computer science student in 1994. I wore shoes, for a start.
I didn’t look like a management consultant in 1997. I borrowed a suit jacket for the job interview. I never really got comfortable wearing a suit and tie.
I didn’t look like a founder in 1999. I can only imagine what the property managers I was cold calling made of the sloppy kid trying to convince them to advertise on the “internet”.
I didn’t look like a manager in 2003, when I came back from London to run the growing development team at Trade Me.
I didn’t look like an angel investor in 2007, after we had sold the company and I was starting to think about what to do next.
I suppose this should give me confidence to not put too much weight on what others think I do or don’t look like today.
I figure the best thing is to show them what I am, by doing the job as well as I can, rather than waiting for their permission. Maybe doing that will cause them to change their mind about what makes a good director or chairperson. Or, maybe not. Whatever.
Who are you waiting on to tell you that you qualify?
PS I’m currently thinking about who could be the fifth person on the Vend board, and I’m determined to not limit ourselves just to people who look like directors. The ideal candidate would be somebody with a sales and marketing focus, ideally with experience in retail and/or small-medium business, who is excited to help us grow to the next level and beyond. Y’all are the closest thing I have to an old-boy network (and with the added benefit of not being all boys!), so if you know anybody who we should consider for this role please do let us know.