SME owners - Learn to let go a little

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Sharon Hunter, who co-founded PC Direct at the age of 22, is a key speaker at today's Small Business Summit in Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Sharon Hunter, who co-founded PC Direct at the age of 22, is a key speaker at today's Small Business Summit in Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Small business owners need to be prepared to let go of some of their ownership to move their company forward, says a leading New Zealand business woman.

Sharon Hunter, who co-founded PC Direct at the age of 22, is a key speaker at today's NZ Small Business Summit in Auckland.

Hunter said SME owners often seem to prefer having a bigger part of a small pie than a smaller part of a much bigger pie.

"They hold their businesses very close to their chests," she said.

"For someone who's owned their own business for a long time, letting go of some of it is not easy."

Today's summit at the BNZ Business Centre in Highbrook is designed to bring SME owners, managers, and entrepreneurs together to network and discuss common concerns.

Panelists including Hunter, Owen Glenn and Tenby Powell will discuss ways of improving New Zealand's small business community.

SMEs make up a massive part of the New Zealand economy, Hunter said.

Two strong themes to come out of the morning sessions were about the need for businesses to unite as a community, and for SME owners to aim higher.

"It's about being prepared to reach out and ask for help," Hunter said.

"And also about lifting horizons and being a bit more bold and trying to have bigger aspirations."

She said one enduring problem in New Zealand is the difficulty of gaining access to growth capital.

"It's not easy. There's money around but not for everyone."

After selling PC Direct in 1997, Hunter formed Hunter Powell Investments Partners with Tenby Powell.

The pair launched the NZ SME Business Network group on LinkedIn 10 months ago which has so far attracted more than 2000 members.

Businessman Owen Glenn said being a small business owner could be isolating and owners needed to network and share ideas.

"The secret is everyone has to be equally interested in each other, otherwise true networking and sharing isn't possible," he said.

Feedback from attendees this morning suggested there is strong desire for more Government support in terms of financial backing, Hunter said.

There was also frustration about compliance rules in New Zealand.

"Many want less red tape around things like tax, the Resource Management Act. They're saying it just takes too much time for the business and it's not value-adding."

The summit runs all day and is being hosted by the Independent Business Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation representing the New Zealand SME economy.

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