When Scott Johnston began working for The Hearing House in March 2004, it was to carry out a short-term IT project.
Fifteen years later he is switching the board meetings and office work of a Chief Executive for travelling and working on his lifestyle block.
Scott retires on May 29 after taking on the organisation’s top job in June 2004.
“I had been overseas for eight years and when I came back to New Zealand in 2004 the then CEO asked if I could do a small IT project for them. During that time, she left and the board approached me to take on the role of chief executive. It was very easy to say yes to the role as the work that we do with children is life-changing. I wanted to be part of it.”
In the years to come Scott would guide The Hearing House through massive changes – or as he puts it “15 years of growing pains!”.
“The growth in the programme has been exponential over the last 15 years.”
When Scott joined the charity, there were nine staff and 58 children coming to The Hearing House for Auditory-Verbal Therapy.
“We had no government contract or government funding – we relied solely on private funding.”
Fifteen years later, The Hearing House has 29 staff, around 800 clients and the government contract for audiology and therapy services to children and adults with cochlear implants in the northern region.
“We have also developed programmes that support children with diverse needs, such as a CMV clinic and a sensory integration programme, and we provide outreach and remote services, and operate a preschool.”
A significant highlight for Scott was the development of The Stichbury Bidwill Centre – home to The Hearing House and three other tenants.
The charity was based in the house at 251 Campbell Rd. But the organisation quickly outgrew the house – staff were squeezed into offices, Scott’s office was the hallway and the garage was used as the boardroom. The house next door was home to the preschool.
With the help of committed staff and board members, Scott led the project that resulted in the new centre being funded, built and the doors being opened to the public in January 2018.
“Moving in and opening the doors of the new centre felt a bit sublime. It was only three years earlier that we were operating out of two old houses and a couple of garages. To move into a 12,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art, purpose-built centre was such a massive step.”
Scott says the vision of The Hearing House founder Sir Patrick Eisdell Moore was for a programme that provided audiology and therapy services to all people with cochlear implants under one roof.
“That vision is something that has always driven the direction of the organisation. Success has come about through employing people who are passionate about their work and then providing them with a strong professional development platform.
“It’s always been a highlight working with a really committed board, and staff who really care about what they do.”
Scott says he’s proud to be associated with the key founding members of The Hearing House, in particular Sir Pat, Phil Ryall and Dr Ron Goodey, who had the “foresight and vision” to establish The Hearing House.
Scott’s hard work and dedication was recognised in 2018 when he received the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow from the Rotary Club of Mt Eden.
The award acknowledges his years of service to people with hearing loss and those with hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Clinical Director Holly Teagle joined The Hearing House in May 2018 and says Scott “always has the best interests of the organisation in his heart and mind”.
“In the short time I have known Scott, I have come to really respect and admire his stamina and commitment to The Hearing House.”
When she first met him via a Skype interview, she could tell he held his responsibilities to making The Hearing House the best organisation possible, very seriously.
Habilitation Manager Alexandra Crosbie has worked at The Hearing House with Scott for 15 years.
“His commitment to, and knowledge of, The Hearing House, especially in the clinical area, when he is not a clinician, are second-to-none.
“I love his ability to listen to ideas, weigh up risk and commit to the process in a very short time frame.”
Alexandra says it’s been an “absolute pleasure” working with Scott.
“We have transitioned from a small centre to what we are today and Scott made sure that we kept sight of what matters and that The Hearing House didn’t lose its ethos.”
Scott says now is the right time to retire.
“It’s a combination of being at The Hearing House for 15 years and the reality of turning 60 next year. There are a lot of things that I want to do before I turn 70.
“I have loved my time at The Hearing House. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is such a privilege to work in an area that has a significant impact on people’s lives.”