New Zealand Companies in Australia

Ten tips for Australia business success

First published in New Zealand Herald 7 January 2015

I’ve been working with and writing about New Zealand companies in Australia for quite a few years. As a Kiwi expat of 18 years, I’m a little sad to admit this, but I now call Australia home.

With this column, I want to share both the successes and failures of Kiwi companies here in Oz. Not just the usual suspects, those that operate under the radar too. (They often have a much better story to tell.)

Through my work, I’m fortunate to meet many New Zealand firms, all at different stages in Australia. They hail from different industries, have different leadership styles and strategies, so you start to see what works and what doesn’t.

Last year was a particularly big year for Kiwi companies here. The way the year ended, 2015 will be even bigger.

Technology companies were far and away the most represented industry in 2014, with many tech brands reaching out.

From app development firms to back office system support, I had a lot of coffees with ambitious company owners looking beyond New Zealand. And for good reason.

You’ve heard it all before: Australia is close, it’s significantly larger in market size, the language and time zone is the same, the dollar is practically at parity. For companies that quickly outgrow New Zealand,

Australia is a no brainer.

Here’s another thing you’ve heard before: it’s not easy to make it here. In fact, a number of companies I’ve met found more success tackling Europe, Asia and the US than they have Australia.

So, if I could start your new year with ten tips, gleaned from working with both Australian and Kiwi companies, you might find 2015 is your Aussie year.

Australia business checklist:

1. Visit Australia. See firsthand what others in your industry are doing, as nothing beats seeing the market with your own eyes.

2. Choose one or two cities only. If you’re a young company, pick Sydney or Melbourne. Trying to make it in both at the outset could be your undoing.

3. Connect with expat networks before you come. We’re always happy to share knowledge and point you in the right direction. NZTE, NZVBG, Trans-Tasman Business Circle – networks created with you in mind.

4. Do the desk research and pinpoint your competitors, their clients, brand positioning. You’ll need to be different (or compellingly better) to stand any chance.

5. Consider a local advisory board. Not every company can afford or needs a local team right away, but a key advisor can open doors at the highest level. (Be realistic, no one will do this for free, so choose what works for you, such as partial equity or a day rate.)

6. Relocate. This may be drastic, but many companies have done exactly that. No distributor or sales rep ever can represent your brand the way you can.

7. Define your niche and don’t try and be everything to everyone. I can’t stress this one enough. In New Zealand you can get away with a broad offering, in Australia you must have a specialisation.

8. Bring your wallet. It’s expensive here and winning work takes far longer than you think. Chances are you’re not going to win a client for many months. Can you afford to wait?

9. Look into partnerships (or acquisitions) with established, complementary businesses. These can shortcut your way into Australia, and many Aussie companies will at least be interested to have the conversation.

10. Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you get the feeling you’re not ready, you’re probably right. It’s not failure if you decide Australia isn’t right for you. In fact, you may save your New Zealand business as a consequence.

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