How a person deals with adverse circumstances, when things don’t go according to the plan, reflects the true strength of a person’s mind. As in battle, strategies often go completely out the window once the enemy is engaged. The same is true in business due to the entry of new players into the market, competitors M&A activity or the appearance of disruptive technologies or business models. The ability to stay calm, to evaluate the situation and decide the correct course of action for the business requires huge self-belief and extensive experience.
Steve Wilson, CEO, WhiteSky Labs is one such personality whose story will inspire many. Failure is a part of life and despite facing multiple setbacks; he forged ahead, continuously and vehemently. Embracing new challenges and responsibilities each time, he proved his mantle as an adept professional and an ace entrepreneur. Today, he is a highly successful leader who is working in the topmost management position, but it was not easy climbing the ladder if you dive deeper into his enthralling journey.
Steve’s Fascinating Journey is an Inspiration for Many
He started from scratch, and is now the CEO of an enormously successful, hyper-growth company. He worked in many odd jobs in his adolescent days, from delivering newspapers, to working in retail and even delivering pizzas. Upon graduation, Steve got his first real job as a “Management Trainee” for “Fletcher Fishing”, New Zealand’s largest fishing company and a part of Fletcher Challenge, New Zealand’s largest company at the time.
In the early 1990’s when Fletcher Challenge made a decision to divest its fishing operation, rather than relocating within the Fletcher’s group, he decided to follow his passion for the English language and seek a job in the advertising industry.
Steve wrote to only two companies and “Chiat/Day/Mojo” employed him as an Account Manager. Chiat/Day was voted the most creative agency of the year in the US nine times in a row during the 1980’s and most creative agency of the decade in the US. His role included managing marketing and branding strategies for multiple consumer products, successful delivering on time and to budget TV and Radio commercials, as well as print ads, promotions, packaging redesigns and new product launches.
This role gave him exposure to the CEOs of large companies at a very young age. After working there for almost two years, Steve decided to start his own business. Even after several early and rapid failures working for himself, his perseverance led him to success as the founder of “Second Sight”, distributing an Israeli based anti-virus software product. This was developed by Zvi Netiv, an electronic warfare specialist and the previous head of Avionics in the Israeli Air Force. This was his first triumph as an entrepreneur.
His sharp business acumen helped the company to flourish from a startup in 1993 to having offices in Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Oxford (UK) within three years. After a successful trade sale in 1999, Steve moved to the UK and worked briefly for “Efdex”, a global food and drink exchange firm under CEO Ellen Marram, the ex-CEO of Tropicana in the US, and also a Board Member of Ford and the New York Times during that period.
Later, he worked with a company called Glue in the UK for five years, while holding a board position and directing the strategy for another fast growing UK-based technology company. He then returned to Australia and invested personally founding Glue APAC as the majority shareholder. He nurtured the company from inception in July 2006, until a highly successful sale to UXC, Australia’s largest domestic IT company and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, in 2009.
Over the next four years, Steve served on the executive leadership team of “Red Rock”, Oracle’s largest partner in the ANZ region in various capacities. He left Red Rock to join WhiteSky Labs as CEO in August 2013. WhiteSky is part of the portfolio of a local Private Equity company, Exto Partners. Since then he has successfully led a transformation of the business, refocusing it to the cloud as a MuleSoft partner. In 2017, WhiteSky Labs was selected as the MuleSoft 2017 AsiaPac Delivery Partner of the year by MuleSoft.
The motivational factor that drives him to take step ahead
Steve is passionate about delivering better solutions, to benefit all stakeholders including shareholders, customers and staff. He is constantly seeking to reinvent and improve himself and the company, as he believes change is constant. As Steve says, “in the IT industry, if you are not constantly evolving and observing trends in the market, then you and your business will be left behind”.
Varied approaches to maintain creativity
Steve believes in building a team of strong and experienced people who are creative leaders in their own right to support him. He has had a passion for reading since childhood. Business books and stories regarding how companies are built have always attracted him. Usually, there is a lesson or two, which is relevant to him, says Steve. Reading has helped him immensely in creating innovative solutions for his customers, partners and staff.
Unforgettable moments in life
Since childhood, Steve has travelled a lot. He has been to many countries and gained valuable experiences with other cultures by being independent and challenging himself. On his first trip to Japan, while at Auckland Grammar School, he pursued his passion to learn the Japanese language. He then saved the funds himself and travelled again to Japan at 17 years of age alone for 3 months, following the end of his first year at the university.
While travelling around Japan he practiced Judo full-time, seven days a week and also improving his Japanese. This decision and the support of his mother was a unique and fantastic experience for him, which he also considers one of his most memorable ones. The following year he spent four months learning to ski and chose Aspen, “why not” he said. Travel has remained a key passion for Steve ever since.
Others’ success is ‘Steve’s’ real accomplishment
The tenacity to keep getting up and trying again, even if something doesn’t work, has helped him immensely in achieving success in life. Building companies and seeing the benefit his colleagues have reaped in their careers as a consequence is Steve’s most proud accomplishment in business. He believes in living life with a sense of compassion and empathy. Integrity, trust, empowerment and fun are fundamental elements in any work culture he creates or participates in.
Advice to budding entrepreneurs
“Get started now. Don’t wait. Ask for help – most successful entrepreneurs are usually happy to give back through advice and sharing their experiences” asserts Steve.