Excerpts from Jan 2011 edition of Idealog, a leading New Zealand creative marketing magazine
Interview with Mark Porath, Managing Director & Founder, PORATH EXECUTIVE SEARCH


Mark Porath's contribution to Higher Education in New Zealand


"We tend to produce no end of marketing, accounting, legal and other derivatives of business focused qualifications – but nothing in sales."

– Mark Porath



Porath discovered a number of sales degree programmes in the United States, but nothing similar down under.


He submitted a paper to the Auckland University of Technology after he received enough of a receptive ear from AUT’s Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack when they met at a Trans Tasman Business Circle Lunch in Sydney in 2006.


He then ‘drafted’ in allies in the form of chief executives from Vodafone, ANZ Banking Group, AMP and New Zealand Post. They all agreed to form an active Advisory Board to persuade AUT to offer a degree major in Sales.


This was a radical and aggressive approach to tackling an obvious deficiency in the provision of practical tertiary education – and to its credit AUT listened to these corporates, absorbed the messages, and moved to implement it.


The process, he said, took over 12 months – because of the involvement of all New Zealand universities in approving a new qualification major, and confirming the credibility of the proposed offering.


In 2007, AUT’s Sales major in its Business degree was launched to 100 CEOs who embraced the concept and approach. A number of businesses involved in the development of the curriculum put up scholarships and the first graduates came into the commercial world in 2009.


Russell Stanners, chief executive of Vodafone New Zealand, as one of the initial advocates pushing for the creation of the specialist sales course says, “Vodafone is committed to building the business acumen skill of New Zealand sales people and sees the development of the course by AUT as a key step forward”


The most exciting thing for Porath is seeing that young people are exposed to the discipline, and that they get very motivated and excited about it. This can only bode well for the future because, ultimately, New Zealand has to up its game in both export and domestic Sales.


Not surprisingly, Porath is also pleased to have such a fresh gene pool added to the Sales professional marketplace. “As a corporate headhunter my challenge has been in finding Sales executives who not only have had requisite experience, but also formal training and discipline beyond the ‘latest fad philosophies’.


The demand for topline Sales professionals has increased.  It became apparent that compromises were being made by many businesses that couldn’t offer the IBM or Rank Xerox Sales training regimes, so now we’ve at least a viable option through AUT. The objective with the AUT degree is to ensure both the magic and the discipline are fully captured to create truly exceptional sales people.”



Next steps


With one itch scratched, Porath has another one that he plans to pursue: providing a disciplined and empirically-based approach to Corporate Governance through AUT. “It surely can no longer be the sole domain of the Institute of Directors to promote requisite standards and competencies.


As far as I’m aware, there are only two people in New Zealand with MPhil qualifications in formal governance, and both are from Cambridge University. There are plenty of aspirants to the role of director in New Zealand but many don’t really understand the points of distinction and delineation between management and governance.


Again, AUT has answered the call in developing a framework for a suitable curriculum.”


As well as his own areas of focus, as Chair of AUT’s Advisory Board to the Dean of the Business and Law Faculty, Porath is in a position to further influence, suggest, nurture, and contribute to the quality of education. This Advisory Board, he says, works very much like a ‘think tank’ with representatives from the banking, retail, industrial and professional services sectors all providing a balance of viewpoint and Perspective.