After completing a zoology degree at Massey University, Steven started his first radio station, Energy FM, in his home town of New Plymouth at age 21. Along with two business partners, he built up RadioWorks over 17 years until, as a listed public company, it consisted of 22 local radio stations and four national radio networks with 650 staff in 20 branches around New Zealand. Along the way he developed nationwide music brands The Edge and The Rock.
In 2000, RadioWorks was purchased by Canadian company Canwest. Steven retired as Managing Director in April 2001 on his 38th birthday.
Steven then entered politics, chairing the National Party's three-person Campaign Review after the 2002 election, and a full reorganisation of the Party in April 2003. He then took on the role as the Party's first General Manager, and managed its 2005 election campaign.
Steven chaired the National Party's successful 2008 national election campaign and was elected as a list MP. He was appointed directly to Cabinet as Minister of Transport, Minister of ICT and Associate Minister of Finance. Major projects in his first term included setting up the Roads of National Significance, the Ultra-fast and Rural Broadband projects, and making a series of road safety changes including lifting the driving age and setting up a nil alcohol limit for people under 20.
In early 2010, Steven was also appointed Minister of Tertiary Education.
After chairing the 2011 election campaign for National, Steven was given the Economic Development, Science and Innovation, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment portfolios while retaining Associate Finance. In 2013 he took on responsibility for Novopay, and after chairing his fourth election campaign, was also made Minister of Regulatory Reform.
In his various roles, Steven has introduced performance requirements in the tertiary sector, reformed the apprenticeship and industry training system, and developed Education New Zealand to promote international education. He has overseen the creation of Callaghan Innovation, developed the National Science Challenges, and implemented the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative. He leads the Government’s Business Growth Agenda.
Steven spends his spare time developing his lifestyle property just north of Auckland where he lives with his young family, Gemma the Retradoodle, and assorted ducks, geese and wild rabbits.