I’m not quite sure what compelled me to obsessively read the financial section of the newspaper as a 9-year-old. It didn’t really help with being picked on for being quiet nerdy. And for some reason being able to give an accurate update of the market capitalization of Barclays Index was apparently not an alluring quality for girls of my peer group. It’s also strange because finance was not really something that our family had a lot of. The money my mother earnt went to the mortgage and food and supplies for three crazy boys. There was a whole load of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to get through before there was any contemplation about investing in the sharemarket. Oh, and there was that small element of the lingering shadow of the 1987 crash.
But there was still something about this world that captured my imagination. While my schoolfriends were running around trading Michael Jones and Brian Lochare All Blacks memorabilia coins, I was collecting the stories of the titans from another battlefield. Besides a very worn copy of Jones on Property by Robert Jones, I would collect clippings of things like the Brierley Investments Air New Zealand acquisition, the Telecom privatization, the multiple takeover attempts of New Zealand Forest Products and the founding of Sky Television.
What the hell relevance this held for a little a bogan kid from Johnsonville is totally beyond me, even now. But I was intrigued by these businesses and business minds that were shaping our economy and livelihoods in a way that not even the government could and, dare I say it, not even the All Blacks. I guess there was also an element of escapism there for me too and something else to aspire to and another pathway before entrepreneurs became the 19-year-old rockstars that they are today.
I was fortunate enough to interview one of the people that helped shape my version of potential future, Craig Heatley, the guy that co-founded the aforementioned Sky Television as well as Rainbow’s End, and who has also been involved in the landscape of the New Zealand business scene for a number of decades. It tends to be the case that when you interview a childhood hero, they turn out to be a bit of a dick so I was expecting that. Instead, Craig was more interested in my story than sharing his. Given that mine wouldn’t fill a Wikipedia page let alone the 296-page biography that his had done, I found it bemusing but also interesting that in spite of his vast success, he was still humble and engaged and open to the thoughts and insights of others. He grew up with not a lot, not too far from my home actually and built his success piece by piece so he has every right to think very highly of himself and his own opinions. But I saw firsthand a trait that was actually mentioned in his biography (No Limits by Joanne Black), a total interest in others. I’m banking on that fact that there’s something in that, so after the interview, I updated that mental notebook for myself which still contains the lessons from that early interest in business and investments with another note. “You might become successful, but that doesn’t give you a reason to become arrogant. You might have a lot to say, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t listen now and then… Also, mental note, keep an eye on Sky Television shares.”