Mixing Aussie ruthlessness with Kiwi grit

First published in Fairfax NZ Business 4 November 2014

My Australian clients and colleagues have been listening to me prattling on about New Zealand companies for a number of years now.

Underneath all those obligatory jokes about sheep and being part of Australia, Aussies are a bit impressed by some of the better-known New Zealand companies. Maybe even a little intimidated. After all, there are a few New Zealand brands going about their Australian business, chipping away at market share that incumbent Aussies take for granted.

Aussies take a lot of things for granted, which is part of the reason many companies have been hit for six by international competition. So, smart Kiwi companies, you can make that humble Kiwi thing work in your favour. For just as a dog’s bark is worse than its bite, Aussies make a lot of noise but most are slow to react to competition.

Right now, in many industries in Australia, it could be anyone’s game.

Here’s an example of Kiwi ingenuity for you. In the last few months, I’ve met a New Zealand CEO, who is playing an impressive and (very) long game here in Australia. He’s in charge of an organisation with good market share in New Zealand, but due to the regulations cannot currently operate here.

Instead of dismissing the opportunity, he’s quietly going about developing relationships – including meeting with government ministers. He’s laying down the foundations for possible changes in Australian legislation that will position his organisation as an authority. Not an opportunistic copycat, but a leader.

All this has greatly impressed my Australian colleague, who comes from the same industry as this CEO.
The other day he told me that this is what the New Zealanders do so well. They think strategically. They get in under the radar and chip away. They don’t whinge and sit back arrogantly saying it’s not possible or ‘we’ve always done it this way in Australia.’ They position for the long term.

So imagine how well New Zealand companies can do here in combination with the right locals? A meeting of minds, if you will. The Aussie ruthlessness matched with the Kiwi perseverance. It’s a beauty.

With that professional cooperation in mind, last month I interviewed twelve Australian and Australia-based CEOs of New Zealand companies and asked them what it was like to work for Kiwi brands over here. I wanted to know if there was a magic formula to building a great Kiwi brand in Australia.

What came out clearly from those interviews, and from previous conversations I’ve had on the topic, is that New Zealand businesses thrive in Australia with great locals on board. Even more so when the cords are not cut – but handed over.

From manufacturing to retail, technology to professional services, the companies that saw the best Australian growth, were those that entrusted their New Zealand brand to an Australian of equal standing.

Keep that in mind as you consider your next move in Australia and plan for the long game.