Caitlin Sykes

Your Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Right overseas distributor is vital

Crucial decision needs careful consideration because the first to approach is not necessarily the best fit: expert.

Sharon-May McCrostie spent four years in Hong Kong as New Zealand Trade Commissioner.
Sharon-May McCrostie spent four years in Hong Kong as New Zealand Trade Commissioner.

You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, says Sharon-May McCrostie, on the subject of finding good overseas distributors.

Why then, asks McCrostie, a customer director for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, do businesses settle for the first overseas partner they find with a twinkle in their eye, especially when it's one of the most important decisions a business owner can make?

McCrostie, who spent four years in Hong Kong as New Zealand Trade Commissioner, advises not jumping into relationships with distributors too soon "because the first distributor that approaches you is not necessarily the best fit for your business".

Ignore your due diligence at your peril, is one of the messages that comes through from the small businesses interviewed this week on the topic of finding good overseas distributors for your product or service.

Warren Adamson, sales director for Craggy Range, says checking a potential distributor's credit and payment stability is a must.

"Everyone likes to see the owners of the business they are dealing with."
Inge Vercammen, commercial director, Van Dyck Fine foods

The winery also validates candidates by looking at the other brands in their portfolio, and talking to their restaurant and wine merchant customers along with local media to gain an insight into their reputation.

But where do you find them in the first place? Janelle Priest, sales and marketing manager for organic skincare brand Plantae, says trade shows are helpful.

The company gained a number of leads and useful contacts, says Priest, after attending the Sydney International Spa and Beauty Expo last year, and the Taiwan Organic Expo the year before. The aim for the small business is to attend one trade show a year to help further its hunt for distributors.

The Plantae website is also a shop window for distributors, says Priest. Sandra Crone, business manager of another Nelson-based small business, Forest Herbs Research, says it gets inquiries from potential distributors through the website of its Kolorex brand of natural health products.

And spending time in-market, of course, is invaluable, although for small businesses investment in travel call can be a big call.

Inge Vercammen is commercial director of New Plymouth pancake maker Van Dyck Fine Foods, which has distributor relationships in Asia.

"It's important to visit prospects face to face, so we'll fly to meet a distributor," says Vercammen.

- NZ Herald

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