Small business: Export markets - Alistair Sedcole

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Alistair Sedcole, general manager, Allpress Espresso spoke at last week's University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge about the new professional advisers the company took on before it entered the UK market in 2010. Allpress has a presence in Australia, the UK, and Japan, where it has a business partner, and is also in Singapore.

Alistair Sedcole, general manager, Allpress Espresso.
Alistair Sedcole, general manager, Allpress Espresso.

Speaking from Tokyo, Alistair Sedcole:

The importance of good advisers

We've always had good advisers - accountants, lawyers, property people - which founder Michael Allpress has always been very hot on. When I started we had an epiphany during the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurial Challenge, that we did not have advisers who were international.

We had some people who had grown up with the company in New Zealand and then when we started the Australian business, we again used people we knew.

But when I came on and we were thinking of developing in the UK, we didn't know anyone and we found that it was a fragmented field to choose from.

The trick was how to find the best advisers. From our perspective, our business was built on relationships.

Anyone we brought in to advise on our business had to be interested in what we did and they had to like coffee, that's a big one. They had to genuinely want to work with us and we with them.

We asked friends and people that we knew who they were working with overseas and they come up with recommendations for legal advisers and accounting firms who could cross borders with us. Michael and I interviewed them all. One which stood out was Ernst & Young who we had worked with on the Entrepreneurs' Challenge and had become fascinated by us. One partner was regularly calling us to talk because he seemed genuinely interested in the business and wanted to offer advice. We now work closely with two people at E & Y - executive director Tim Clarkson who can advise us on how to structure deals when we go into a new market and tax lawyer Darren White. Darren has just flicked me a note to say, there are some people at E & Y in Tokyo I should catch up with while I'm here. Pretty good service. They in turn recommended a law firm, in particular, Grant Dunn from Buddle Findlay who has worked across multiple jurisdictions and is fantastic to work with. Loves our coffee too!

Local advisers in UK market

We opened our roastery and cafe in Shoreditch in 2010. We appointed advisers in the UK with the help of the Mayor's office investment arm, Think London. I met with them when they were trying to bring in investment to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. They recommended a number of accounting firms and other professional advisers. Grant Dunn based in New Zealand, does over-riding commercial deals and all the major head office transactions but in each market we have a small boutique legal firm making sure that we are compliant with the local law.

In the UK, we use lawyer Chris Evans from Druces ( he was previously with Izod Evans) and we also work with Michael O'Brien from Reeves & Co, accountants. Our property adviser there is James Burt from GVA Grimley. With James, we had briefed him on what we wanted. He pulled out a huge map of London, went through all the suburbs and said: "This is where we are going to be." We like that he thought of himself as one of us. James still works with us - we are in the process of building another roastery in London- and when I go to London three or four times a year, we make a point of catching up and talking about the market there.

An important point to make is Tony Papas, a shareholder and former managing director of our Australian business, moved to London to become our Managing Director and start- up guru there.

Educating the market

We also operate in Japan with a business partner and GM here. The business partner, Teru Harase was a customer of ours for over 10 years. Japan has the third largest coffee drinking market in the world but it's all traditional, filter coffee. The western style espresso that we produce is a developing market in Japan. We are introducing people to it through traditional cafe shows and trade shows - we just put a cart in the market and have picked up a number of great new coffee customers from that.

In Japan we have to use the Japanese banking system but a New Zealand or Australian bank will have a relationship with them. We work with NAB up there and a local lawyer through Buddle Findlay. Ernst & Young have an office here too run by its own Japanese company.

Building brand presence

For us we are not just selling coffee - we need a brand presence to go with the wholesale side - from buying the right coffees, the way we roast, the right espresso machine - La Marzocco - to training our staff to produce great espresso. For us to move into a market we need to be able to back up our customers with all this support.

Our message

We focus on just doing our business really well, however we really want other companies to succeed in exporting as well. It is crucial for the good of New Zealand.


Next week, we take a look at the kind of flexible working arrangments SME owners are offering their staff and themselves in the current market. Surely a perk of running your own business is an opportunity to have more freedom on how you work and when and you should be offering this to your staff too. Tell us your stories.

- NZ Herald

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