The Last Word: The young and the restless

Orcon has an alternative way of doing things. “Doing things differently is essential for survival,” Scott Bartlett says. “You have to do something that will make people sit up and take notice.”

For Orcon that’s been with products, approach and marketing – oh and the “Orcon tribe”. “If everyone walked out today I wouldn’t have business,” says Bartlett. “You have to get the tribe working as team.” tribe – that’s how everyone at Orcon sees themselves. Bartlett is the chief in the middle and everyone else is the tribe gathered around the camp fire in circle, rather than the traditional office pyramid culture. There’s still pyramid, says Bartlett, but it’s at the centre of the camp fire.

“This creates sense of equality that removes fear,” he says. “You can’t have an effective culture if it’s governed by fear. And no fear means people are happy to talk about their ideas. After all, I don’t know all the answers – no one does – but there are 250 people sharing ideas.”

But, as Bartlett points out, Telecom has 7000 people – in fact by his calculations, more general managers than Orcon has staff. “So we asked, ‘how do we create depth?’ We have tribe mentality. We are smaller, but we can do things better and smarter. We can’t outspend them, we can’t outshout them, we can’t out-technology them for long. What’s left? We can out-think them and we can out-manoeuvre them. If we have happy and successful tribe that is motivated, it will just happen.” He calls the process ‘culturing’ which, yes, has become verb.

Just 30, Bartlett says he’s pretty much only ever run companies in his working life. “I hope I’m learning all the time. The chief part of my job is to do lot of listening. If I stop doing that, I get out of touch. CEOs get bad at that.”

• Click here for the full NZ Management magazine interview with Scott Bartlett.

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