Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Friends in the right places

Jason Anderson, owner of Hort Air Services. Photo / Supplied
Jason Anderson, owner of Hort Air Services. Photo / Supplied

When Jason Anderson travels to France to visit his main supplier, he is treated like a member of the family.

He goes to the south of France once a year to check in with the family business that manufactures the controlled atmosphere equipment he supplies in New Zealand and Australia through his Bay of Plenty-based company, Hort Air.

In France, he stays in his supplier's home, eats at their table and goes to the odd rugby match with them. He has even attended family weddings. "It's more than just your normal business relationship," he says.

The connection goes back decades and spans generations - Anderson was first introduced to the manufacturer about 22 years ago while working for its previous New Zealand agent, who had a close association with the father who founded the French firm.

Anderson took over the business about 10 years ago and developed a close bond with the founder's son, who runs the business in France.

"I've been fortunate to have had a slow introduction to the relationship and a long process of learning about how it all works. I could hit the ground running with it when we took over the business," says Anderson.

"The relationship is very personal, driven by a mutual respect and shared business culture. We have common ideas and goals about how a business should be run and how customers should be treated."

Amy-Rose Goulding is the founder and designer of women's fashion brand Julian Danger, which has a number of suppliers in China.

Goulding spends about two months a year in China working face-to-face with suppliers. She has developed a particularly strong link with the small family-run business that manufactures the bulk of her product and says that has a number of positive effects on her business.

"One example is because we have this very strong relationship. They're very flexible with payment," says Goulding.

"At the beginning of the season when I'm in China, we sit down together and work out a payment plan. We work out a good cycle that works for everyone and where no one is left struggling.

"That comes from having a personal relationship developed through time spent on the ground."

Craig Hopkins is a director of online farmers' market Edesia, which deals with about 60 suppliers at least monthly, and the majority of those weekly.

All the firm's suppliers are New Zealand-based companies, and the bulk are artisan food producers whose products are sold through the Edesia website.

Hopkins says a benefit of regularly dealing with so many suppliers is being able to gain insights into their common business issues.

- Herald on Sunday

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