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A meeting of spirituality and business

01 Aug 12

A practising buddhist who builds orphanages in third world countries and built his Sydney home specifically so it could be a centre for counselling and meditation, Nick Verykios also heads up Distribution Central. He talks to Heather Wright about what drives him and his vision for  New Zealand’s resellers.

Nick Verykios talks at a fair clip with passion and enthusiasm for every topic, be it the New Zealand reseller channel, religion, coaching or music.

But then, this is someone who lives life at full speed. The managing director and co-owner of one of Australasia’s fastest growing distributors, Distribution Central, Verykios says he doesn’t believe in ‘work/life balance’ because it implies there is either work, or life.

“But there’s a bunch of other stuff, and it’s not about doing one or the other. For me it’s about mindfulness. Right now I’m working, earlier, I was talking with my 13-year-old daughter. Last night I was socialising with friends. This morning I was writing a song.

“Whatever I do, I do. That’s what my mind is on at that moment. My mind is not elsewhere. And I’m not tracking how much time is spent on ‘work’ or whatever.  The only way I can tell enough work has been done is if the output is there.”

Rocker by nature

Verykios’ success in IT wasn’t strictly by design. “I was playing in a rock band, hair down to here, tattooed — don’t let this suit fool you! — and I wanted a job that would still allow me time for the band,” he says, laughing.

An FMCG marketer by trade, Verykios met Scott Frew, his Distribution Central business partner, while working at NetComm in the late 1980s. The pair would later join forces to create LAN Systems, which they later sold to Westcon. After the sale Verykios got to spend ‘lots of time in New York’. Spending time on Wall Street, he worked with ‘lots of incredible minds’. That experience helped shape ‘a new distribution model’ which, in 2004, became Distribution Central.

Eight years down the track, Distribution Central employs more than 120 people across ANZ and Singapore and is doing AU$230 million annual revenue.

After five years in New Zealand, Verykios says “I can’t lie, this is a highly profitable market for us. We will do about AU$18 million revenue here this year.

“We were in a rush to get to the high value model. We didn’t want to just generate orders. We wanted to introduce technologies into this country and give resellers a boost.”

With a stated goal of cracking half-a-billion dollars in revenue within two years, Verykios says the company is looking to expand ‘very quickly’. A Wellington office is on the cards and a South Island office is also planned. The company has also been on the move in Auckland, opening new, larger, offices — which include training facilities — to accommodate its expanding team.

Verykios says the role of the distributor and resellers is rapidly changing. “Now it’s about how to solve customer problems with cloud, big data, social media, and mobility solutions. All the solutions cut across technologies, so we’re talking next level maturity. We’re moving from technology into business solutions.”

He says resellers are increasingly called on to use multiple technologies to bring unique solutions to their customers.

“You can’t see cloud as a product. It’s a strategy. Mobility is a strategy. It’s not about products any more.

“The role of the distributor is to enable resellers to have those discussions with customers. But that means they [the reseller] have to have broader knowledge of emerging and advanced technologies and the products available. And we have to facilitate that.” Hence the new Auckland training, or knowledge, centre.

Management non-believer

He says he doesn’t believe in management philosophies. In fact, he doesn’t believe in managing people, full-stop, saying it is almost primitive to believe you have to manage someone. Instead, he favours coaching. Verykios coaches his direct reports, who in turn coach their direct reports and so on.

“I don’t like to live in cliches like empowering people. Everyone is perfect and brilliant as they are. The key is to let them shine by helping them understand their purpose.”

Through coaching, he aims to ensure staff are not only in the right job, but in the right career and life path. He believes that rather than setting goals — owning a red car for example — people need to think about their purprose in life and what they are supposed to be doing. “Once you’ve got the red car, it’s done. But your purpose never expires.”

It’s a philosophy he’s taking beyond Distribution Central, as he advises other companies on strategy, building creativity and innovating, and in third world countries where he has helped build four orphanages in India and Asia, all now handed back to their respective governments to manage. Another in Burma is on the plans.

While his father was an orphan, Verykios says that’s not the inspiration behind his involvement in building orphanages. “I travelled a lot when I was younger, seeking ancient wisdom which is so often to be found in dirt poor countries, and I saw the potential to make a difference.” His work is based on the philosophy that it is better to teach someone to fish, than to feed them a fish and, with that in mind, the orphanages are also learning institutions.

Back in Australia, his Sydney home was built specifically to be a drop-in centre, and Verykios spends time as a youth crisis and adult counsellor, as well as teaching meditation.

Growing up in a Greek orthodox family, he found he ‘couldn’t buy what the church was saying’. Curious about Buddhism, he went searching and says he found Buddhism ‘to be more mind science than anything else’.

When asked how he reconciles Buddhism with technology, he says: “What technology does is prove it. Science and technology are the litmus test to a lot of spiritual concepts. If science and technology disprove a philosophy you have to accept that philosophy does not hang.”

And with that, iPhone, iPad and MacBook at the ready, Verykios is off again. Channel partners to meet, deals to do, orphanages to plan.

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