From his early days coaching football to leading Australian start-up Avarni's global channel, Dean Tonks has built up a personal philosophy centred on teamwork and routine. As Avarni helps customers and partners gain visibility into their carbon emissions footprint, the Avarni head of sales and business development will be wearing multiple hats beyond the channel space to ensure Avarni continues to grow.
What was your first job?
My first ‘real job’ was at Nike where I worked as a football academy coach in America. This was my first foray into the world of coaching and leadership, and I loved every bit of it. As an academy coach, I was expected to provide camp participants with high-quality educational and recreational opportunities that were also fun. For the most part, this job was about supervising campers, ensuring their safety and making sure they had space to develop, grow and achieve their goals.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
After thirty-odd years, I am now what you would classify as a high-tech professional. After studying and graduating from Northern Arizona University, I began my career in the high-tech industry at Insight. Throughout my career, I’ve worked closely with consultancies, original equipment manufacturers, solution providers and end-users to create tailored programs designed to accelerate top-line growth. I have also developed key initiatives for product solutions and programs throughout the world.
What has been your biggest business mistake and the lessons you’ve learnt from that experience?
The biggest mistake I made was very early on in my career and it was trying to do everything alone. I didn’t understand that, as cliche as it sounds, it really does take a village to make things happen. Successful entrepreneurs have a solid business plan and know they can’t do everything on their own. As your business grows, you have to expand your team by bringing in new people who have specialist knowledge. This means hiring partners or employees to handle day-to-day operations. It can also mean working with essential advisors to help guide your business towards success. You can’t be the smartest in the room and need to build your ‘village’ with people who have insights to share. You can’t learn and guide your business forward without the support of others who hold a vested in you and your company’s success.
What are some of your plans for Avarni in the coming months?
My key priorities in the channel for the next few months are centred on driving growth through our partnerships. This includes establishing a voice of the partner (VoP) program to provide a forum for our partners to share feedback on their solutions and customer conditions. The outcome of this program is establishing an open, candid dialogue for our partners and their partners, across a network of industries and specialities.
We’re constantly looking to build momentum by expanding our partnership profile. We’re now working with some of the world's largest consultancies and enterprises including 5B, Point B, City of London, Schneider Electric and WNS. But, no one day is like the next at a start-up which is pretty impressive. In the next few months, I’ll wear multiple hats beyond my work in the channel space. That may see me out in the field with customers, co-selling alongside partners, attending board meetings, events and webinars -- all to continue moving Avarni forward.
What are some of your ambitions?
One of my main ambitions at Avarni is ensuring companies understand the sheer volume of emissions that lie in their supply chains to make positive changes towards decarbonisation. The private sector is changing, with the need to gain visibility into the entire emissions footprint growing alongside regulation and investor pressure.
Outside of my day-to-day work, I want to achieve the highest qualification possible in photography, Level 8. These photographers don’t care about technicalities or aim to be the most popular, they just do what feels right and take incredible photos.
What has been the best piece of advice you received?
Not necessarily a singular piece of advice, but one thing I do lean on for guidance is a quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: ‘Change is the only constant in life’. To me, this means constantly striving to maintain normalcy. Structure and routine are comforting, so the more you can maintain your tried-and-true routine during change, the better off you’ll be. This can be as straightforward as going for your usual morning walk, visiting the same coffee shop and trying to stick to your normal sleeping, walking and eating times. With a comfortable and familiar routine, dealing with small changes that often spring up throughout the day, especially in the workplace, becomes a lot easier when you have your normal routine to fall back on.