Small Business: Ben Anderson - taking your business to the US

By Gill South

Ben Anderson says those looking to break into the US market need to get in front of potential customers quickly. Photo / Supplied
Ben Anderson says those looking to break into the US market need to get in front of potential customers quickly. Photo / Supplied

Ben Anderson, chair NZTE Beachhead USA, on how to do take your business to the United States.

If I want the US market to take my business seriously, do I have to have a presence there or can I get away with making a series of trips over from NZ?

The odds of success are reduced when you operate remotely. I have observed many New Zealand companies entering the US market - particularly technology companies with the desire to break into the Silicon Valley ecosystem. I recommend following the tried and tested model of countries such as Israel and Ireland. The CEO's move here and quickly break into the local network. Being on the ground enables them to be responsive and accessible. This is a market where your network is vital. There is a natural desire to help. Flying in and out puts you a great disadvantage.

What do NZ businesses learn about the US market when they arrive?

Get in front of potential customers quickly. It is no mistake that US companies hire world-class product management and marketing talent. Understanding what the market needs is critical. The market is competitive - you need the best team possible. Hire a set of mentors or advisors who can support you in developing and executing your vision. Americans love New Zealand and want to support you. Aim High.

Should NZ businesses approach the company state by state?

The market is big - so focus. Focus on a particular vertical market or geography. California is one of the largest markets in the world and is easily accessible to New Zealand. Get clear and document a plan on how you will go to market. For instance, will you work with channels like distributors or go direct? How will you create market awareness and generate leads?

Sonar6 was very successful in the US and has now been bought by a major player there. How easy is it for other tech companies to follow that path?

This is a great time for New Zealand technology companies. The leadership of companies like Sonar6, Hyperfactory, Zeacom and Xero are great role models for New Zealand entrepreneurs. The experience gained by the management teams of these successful companies can be leveraged to support other New Zealand companies and have a positive result on our country's economic growth.

Is it better to hire local Americans for a US-based office or is it preferable for the founder to base themselves there initially?

Both. We applaud senior leadership moving to this market. They are the owners of the vision and culture. The fundamental goal, meanwhile, is to surround yourself with top quality local talent in key roles such as Vice President Sales and your board.

What NZ businesses have gained traction in the US and what are the rewards?

There are many NZ companies doing well in the US. Examples I have followed recently include:
• Tait Radio Communications
• Orion Health
• Icebreaker
• Xero
• GreenButton
• Author-IT

AuthorIT's leadership has recently made the move to the US. They have brought together a strong team of seasoned, senior sales people with extensive US experience and networks. They are making it happen and are definitely a company to watch.
On the food and beverage side, Annies has made great strides in the US market. The company knows who they are and have clear goals. They've resourced accordingly, bringing on great talent with deep US experience. This team was able, from day one, to bring on accounts while continuing to chase leads.

What common mistakes do you see NZ businesses making when first entering the US?

• No overarching vision. No clarity around what they want to achieve.
• Lack of commitment to the market.
• No US board members or advisers.
• Lack of focus.
• Poor hiring.
• Not enough aspiration to win.
• Afraid or too stubborn to ask for help.

Expectations be too high if the upfront strategy and planning work is not completed. Commit to doing your homework.

Next week health experts will be giving tips to small business owners about how to avoid burnout when battling away in their companies.

Everyone knows that SME owners work long hours, skip meals, don't exercise enough, work late into the evenings and have patchy sleep patterns.

Tell us about your lifestyles since starting your own businesses.
Where do you need help and advice?
Email me, Gill South here, or at the 'email Gill' link below:

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