David Downs is the General Manager of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, he helps fast growing New Zealand tech companies grow internationally, and leads a cross-government project for the agritech sector. David shares his cancer journey and on the power of positive thinking and optimism.
What is your morning routine?
My father still has a routine we call ‘The three S’s’ – a shave, a shower and a sh…t. I’ve pretty much adopted the same routine but added a fourth ‘S’ – Social Media. I sometimes think Dad has it better…
What hours do you work?
I’m writing this at 9pm, on a flight from Christchurch back to Auckland. I started the day at 6am in Nelson after being in Wellington the day before. So I guess I work long hours – but its also rewarding and with purpose…
What do you do in a typical day at work?
I guess the word ‘typical’ is the sticking point here – I don’t have a typical day anymore. I work 3 to 4 days a week for the government, particularly in helping businesses to grow internationally – and then I do another 2 to 3 on a huge variety of things – I’m on a few boards, I help a couple of charities, I do a lot of public speaking, I contribute to Air NZ’s sales targets. There isn’t a typical day, but as my mother would say ‘variety is the spice of life’. I also like turmeric.
Why do you think a lot of businesses fail to seize the future?
Humans perceive change slowly, but currently change is happening exponentially. I think we fail to realise the impact of change (particularly technological change) until its almost too late.
What should businesses do to start opening their eyes to the future opportunities?
Read and research, and don’t assume you ‘know it all’. Things change so fast, that the research or market scan you did a few months ago is already out of date. Google ‘Singularity University’ and prepare to be humbled and amazed.
Over the next 5 years, what industries in New Zealand do you see having the most exciting opportunities?
Agritech! I’m currently going a project working out how NZ can grow our Agritech sector and every company I see is inspiring. I find technology in general exciting, particularly in its ability to have real world impact and solve humanities real issues.
What process do you use to work on complex problems?
Google. And if that fails, I try to work out how to break the problems into smaller pieces. Reduction is a good technique – it’s better to make a series of small steps than make a large one.
What are the most important traits and skills for potential employees?
Tenacity, flexibility, optimism. These days the ‘what’ someone knows is far less important than these core skills – information is free, character is not.
What is the biggest hurdle for your business?
I don’t have a ‘business’ as such, but the biggest hurdles I see for businesses is that it’s bloody hard! I don’t think people who haven’t run their own businesses would realise the dedication and sheer hard work required to be successful.