Magazine article New Zealand Management

NZIM/EAGLE TECHNOLOGY YOUNG EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR : Mason Pratt - Provoking a Passion for Excellence

Magazine article New Zealand Management

NZIM/EAGLE TECHNOLOGY YOUNG EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR : Mason Pratt - Provoking a Passion for Excellence

Article excerpt

A personable mix of passion and humility allied with the business nous that's helped transform an IT startup to profitable entity within six years saw Mason Pratt take top place in a strong field of contenders for the 2007 NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year Award.

The 32-year-old founding partner and managing director of Wellington-based Provoke Solutions has led the business through a period of strong growth. From a staff of five in 2001, the company now has over 40 employees and an annual turnover of several million dollars.

After graduating with a double major in Marketing and Information Systems from Victoria University, Pratt had worked his way up from web designer to account manager at Glazier Systems before leaving to set up Provoke. An MD at the age of 25, he's since been responsible for defining and implementing his company's vision as well as developing strategy, building brand recognition and pulling together a well-qualified and enthusiastic team.

And if he was going to step into a parallel reality any time soon, this successful entrepreneur would probably be a school teacher or business mentor.

"I love the idea of teaching, mentoring, imparting knowledge," says Pratt.

It goes with a leadership style that is all about bringing people along with him.

"I've always strived to develop a motivational and inclusive leadership style. I like to lead by example, providing inspiration and motivation to staff to achieve win-win outcomes for all those involved."

The notion that people are the company's most important asset earns more than mere lip service. Pratt lives it. His enthusiasm, when he talks about developing a culture of excellence that touches all who are part of it, is infectious.

"The things I look for in people are not grades or degrees but attitudes and motivation. And I want people with Provoke Solutions on their CV to be sought after. I want it to be the Google of New Zealand - a company that is recognised for its excellence, that people coming out of university or polytechs really want to work for."

He feels it as a personal failure if he loses staff to a competitor - and admits fear of failure is a powerful driver for him. As is passion.

"I believe that the most important ingredient for anyone to succeed in any sphere is having a passion for what you do. I'm passionate about creating a successful business that attracts and retains the best people our industry has to offer."

While putting his hand up for recognition is "a little uncomfortable", Pratt sees it as an acknowledgement for the company and its people.

"They say that behind every great man is a great woman, but in my case the 43 staff at Provoke are really the ones responsible for my success. I've been fortunate to have their backing, their smarts and their buy-in to lead an exceptional and very successful company. So, in short, passion and great people have been the key to my success."

Not that there aren't also some great women. Pratt credits his wife for getting to the heart of any issue he wants to discuss, while his mum (who runs her own business) has been an influential mentor. She helped build his communication skills, says Pratt, by pointing out that "God gave you two ears and one mouth" for a reason.

"So I do have well-developed listening skills and treat all suggestions or ideas from my staff seriously."

A huge advocate of formal and informal mentoring schemes, he's sought guidance from local IT luminaries through involvement in the IT Association of NZ (of which he was the youngest vice-president) and enjoys mentoring his team. …

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