Bigger companies needed for NZ to prosper

Peter Chrisp, chief executive of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Photo / NZH
Peter Chrisp, chief executive of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Photo / NZH

If Peter Chrisp could make just one change to improve New Zealand it would be to have "more big companies".

His top three business priorities for the next 12 months are growth, recruitment and cultural change.

The single biggest factor that would assist NZTE to remain internationally competitive from New Zealand would be a "well functioning and organised NZ Inc."

Chrisp believes that New Zealand needs more bigger companies to prosper and reach its full potential.

"New Zealand is enterprise-limited, not opportunity-limited," says Chrisp. There is plenty of opportunity, but the basic dilemma is companies of scale."

He notes that though there are 14,000 companies in New Zealand, only 260 are bigger than $25 million when it comes to export revenue. According to StatisticsNZ, 460 companies have between $5 and $25 million export revenue.

"Getting companies that have the scale and capacity to take some risk and put people in market, make some mistakes, invest in their business model in the market, requires time, patience, tenacity and funds to make it happen," he says.

"The long and sustained strong dollar is forcing companies to adapt and adopt new premium chasing business models," he adds.

Chrisp is one of the key players who are developing the New Zealand "brand story".

He says the brand story is being built from the ground up with about 200 private sector and public sector people involved. "We have arrived at what we think the story is and are now shooting a lot of audio-visual and other collateral material to make that widely available."

Chrisp spells out that the New Zealand brand story has three central fundamentals that underpin themes that people can dip into and use to project their company's position in offshore markets. They are:

• The integrity of who we are - "honesty, transparency, and being good partners"

• The care of our place and people - "we live in a good environment in NZ and welcome people to that environment"

• Resourcefulness - "the most important - but untold".

Chrisp says that though there are a "truckload of challenges" working from New Zealand, he is fundamentally "quite optimistic because of our ability to adapt and transform ourselves".

Within NZTE, costs are down, customer satisfaction and employee engagement up and importantly the growth rates of NZTE's company customers have grown by 6.1 per cent over the past 12 months and the deal value was $700 million in that period.

NZ needs a national brand for global market

Sixty per cent of CEOs agree with the proposition that New Zealand needs a national brand to protect its position in global food markets.

The NZ infant formula industry faced questions from China earlier this year after unscrupulous traders falsely promoted some brands as well-known on Kiwi supermarket shelves. New Zealand and China now require infant formula brands to be registered.

Minter Ellison's Cathy Quinn cautions, "we do need to take care that neither New Zealanders or foreigners use the NZ image to grow their businesses then produce goods or services that damage our image and reputation".

Among other comments: "Fonterra needs to take leadership in the Chinese infant formula market. "It needs to ensure New Zealand's reputation and value chain remain in New Zealand control" and "We do need to preserve our privileged brand position before it gets diluted."

But there is divergence on whether a national brand would work in practice."It would be a great idea if we can guarantee we are 100 per cent Pure and our products come from a clean, green environment," said one CEO, highlighting the state of our waterways.

Goodman Fielder's Peter Reidie is among the 23 per cent who don't believe a national brand is the answer. "However, it does need national consistency and a focus on protecting/encouraging/building the things that will make a difference in years to come - clean, green, pure, quality systems, 'safe' food, no GMO's."

Sixty per cent of respondents believed the proposition that New Zealand could be positioned as a "food bowl" for Asian and other fast-growing economies is understood; 69 per cent say it would benefit their businesses.

Southern Cross' Ian Macpherson noted, "we can grow food to sustain about 25 million people - that's a tiny part of Asia - aren't we spreading ourselves too thinly even now? Focus on high quality, premium prices and not volume."

But a funds manager cautioned that "food bowl" was not in itself a good brand. "It sounds like we are feeding the poor, we need to position around healthy living."

- NZ Herald

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