“When you don’t know where you’re going, every road will take you there.”
This is the title of Nick Verykios’ autobiography- if he ever had one.
For those who don’t know Nick’s story, his unstructured journey may come as a surprise. From an early start as a successful musician and published poet, to Head of Marketing, practicing Buddhist, philanthropist and now, CEO of Arrow ECS ANZ – his life is a tale of one well-lived.
In his office, Nick clicks too hard on his computer mouse – recklessly looking for a misplaced email.
“I am the worst user of gadgets in the world. I drive Sophie (Nick’s PA) crazy.”
This, a surprising statement coming from a man who has built a career in IT.
“IT to me is just boring. But what it does, I am addicted to…Particularly in terms of social engagement, medical and the ability to lift people, rather than shift them.”
This is a concept Nick preaches regularly to the channel. To “transcend” as Nick says, is to take everything that has come before us, with us. To lift, not shift, to evolve, not revolve.
“We (humans) are still archaic; we still believe in magic. We are still archaic, because we are killing ourselves more and more as a species. We are still mythic in terms of superstitions. People still buy the lottery thinking they are going to win.
Likewise, people think that if they move their business to cloud, business is going to be great. It’s not. It’s all talking in terms of shifting. The reality is, the only successful businesses and humans are the ones that lift, that transcend by including everything that comes with it. A shift implies you get rid of. Lift, you take with you,” says Nick.
“I built businesses to dispel the myths and the lies. To prove that customers can use vendor technologies to be successful, rather than go off on a shift transition path. That became an obsession for me; innovation driven by lifting not shifting.”
What does lift look like? Well, you never get there.
“It’s an evolution, it is based on the fact that we have been evolving since the big bang, and we will never stop banging!”
The journey, not the destination
Innovation is something Nick lives and breathes. In business and in life, nothing about this man is ordinary.
He has never written down a set of objectives in his life – ever. Because, he says, objectives are always borrowed from someone else.
“I don’t run a business based on other people’s dreams. I want to do what other people haven’t done before. It’s more defensive, its more exciting and there is a bigger return on that. It’s about disrupting the process.
I believe in entropy, which is chaos rearranging itself in a higher order. I would rather look at the elements that are necessary to shake this business up and create the opportunity for entropy. I am more interested in the process.”
Has Nick ever made a business mistake?
“The only time I feel I have ever made a mistake in business, is when I have sold my soul and emulated. Just rooky errors. You know when the bank or shareholders want you to operate a certain way?
Now I have learnt to give everyone what they want, without having to sell my soul,” says Nick.
With the acquisition of Distribution Central and Arrow now well on track to integrate before the end of the year, we asked Nick about his decision to sell to Arrow.
“Arrow was attractive to me because it exists as a series of acquisitions, and the entrepreneurs of those businesses are still there. It’s a very entrepreneurial business. They were by far an organisation that still have a significant entrepreneurial mindset.
How will Nick manage the transition from owner to employee?
“I have the benefit of having sold a business before and run it as a non-owner (a company now called WestCon). I am extremely familiar with the impact of being owned by a very large global company.
However, I think what I have been doing since, is making sure I capture the imagination of the management team at Arrow. I want to make sure they notice us, rather than just think of us as “someone over there in Australia”, and I can tell you – they look at us in the right way. They are looking to leverage as much out of us, as we are of them. That’s fantastic. I feel like we are an integral part of their thinking, of their strategy and creative impulse.
The reality excites me more than the possibility. The reality is that we will now be larger than a half a billion-dollar organisation, and by far the largest value added distributor in the region. What that does is validate the model.
We can continue to invest in the innovative aspect of the model and that is to bring advanced and emerging technologies to market that enable the channel to take them to customers to solve business problems in a much more contemporary, effective and efficient way.”
What does it take to create a successful business?
You wouldn’t have to talk to Nick for long, to hear a mention about the wonderful work of his staff at Distribution Central.
“The Family” as he likes to call them, are cheered on by Nick in every aspect. Like a crazed parent on the sidelines of a soccer game.
“How do you build a half a billion-dollar company in eight years? With amazing people. We never stop working as a family, and that works. There are a lot of companies who just can’t break into our success. We have major market share with every vendor we represent. Who has got that in the world? No one, just us.
That’s because our people are brilliant, because they are allowed to be. And I am their biggest fan. It is nothing to do with clever processes and programs, it’s got to do with really clever people who get the chance to be awesome, to prove it to themselves and to the world.”
“I give people direction. I don’t tell them what to do. If you manage people by telling them what to do, you rob them of their learning. You don’t give them a chance to make mistakes, to own something. They don’t get a chance to be maverick.”
Don’t just survive. Thrive.
The Distribution Central business model is not about selling technologies that businesses need to survive, but that enable companies to innovate and thrive.
It is a business model that is curiously similar to Nick’s life model.
From his poor upbringing in Rosebery, in Sydney, to days spent rocking and rolling in various bands, to now. Nick is a prime example of someone who has never just existed.
“The no.1 question I get asked is “why are you still working”. That implies that I work for money, something I have never done. Money has come with it, but that’s not why I do it.
What money does help with, is my true life’s work, outside of IT. That is the orphanages I have built, and the crisis counselling I am involved in.”
What drives a man like Nick – married, with a daughter – to carry on the duties that come with running a successful business, alongside his work with the Dalai Lama and everything else?
“I get up in the morning so I can create the means to be able to do my life’s work. I’ll stop when there are no more orphans without education, no more orphans without shelter. When there is no more crisis anymore.
In my lifetime, that’s not going to happen. But in the meantime, I am going to do all I can and contribute as much as possible in this lifetime.”