Global Connections Conference - ExportNZ Canterbury, a division of Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce

  • Date Added: 12 Aug 2013 from BusinessNZ

  • It was a pleasure to attend an inspiring ExportNZ Canterbury conference recently, where a top line-up of exporters gave their advice on how to succeed in global markets. 

    I captured some of the key themes and ideas to share more widely. 

    Phil O’Reilly kicked off the conference reminding exporters that there were opportunities everywhere in the world, including those traditional developed markets that have been suffering post ‘global financial crisis’ blues. He pointed out there are still a lot of wealthy customers in those traditional markets wanting good products and services.

    Martin Sneddon spoke about leadership and shared some tips from his Rugby World Cup days.  Along with people and relationships being key to success; having a consistent story is fundamental as well.  To inspire New Zealanders to get in behind the Rugby World Cup they came up with the Stadium of 4 million people idea - but then broadened that out beyond Rugby to make it more inclusive and talked about 4 million hosts.  That way, all the people that were not particularly into Rugby could still be participants; showing visitors and international media what a great country we have with friendly people and genuine hospitality.  Every business should have a powerful story that communicates what they stand for and what makes them special.

    Mike Sang, CEO of Ngai Tahu Holdings Ltd, talked about the seafood business.  He says the key is to focus on your competitive advantage and leadership position.  For China, they focus on exporting a niche product, Koura (lobster), have a simple and focussed strategy, a long-term focus (intergenerational) and make a big effort with building relationships.

    Gregg Wafelbakker from Westland Milk, emphasised putting the customer first, having supply chain integrity and competing with a value proposition.  That advice takes on greater meaning in the wake of the Fonterra botulism scare.

    Callaghan Innovation was represented at the conference and the key message from them was that their goal was to double investment by business in R & D.  They will be facilitating collaboration and they have a near to market focus.  They have also simplified the grants available to business, making them easier to access.

    David Boyd from Foot Science International made the point that what works in New Zealand is not necessarily going to work in an overseas market.  For example, while the distribution channel for their high tech orthotics is the podiatry profession in New Zealand, in Russia in the absence of a podiatry profession, the medical profession has proven to be a more effective channel, though it did require training from Foot Science.  Key messages were to understand your market, your customers and your best channel to them.  Take a long term view.  The other lesson learned was about collaborating on technology R & D.  A number of companies have done this in Canterbury in order to improve the performance of a disabled athlete – and there have been lots of co-benefits for the companies involved, including the development of new IP and on-going opportunities to work together.

    Tim Wethey, co-developer of Clip ‘N Climb, the fun and funky climbing wall attractions gave a colourful address! He and his business partners are real innovators and the reason they stand out from the competition is that they have designed everything themselves and all their equipment and attractions are leading the field in terms of innovation.  To avoid being copied they take the view that they just need to keep innovating to keep ahead of the competition and move fast.  They are starting to develop some IP around the equipment they use (new auto belay) and are using this to leverage some outside capital investment. 

    In the section on Investment we heard from Shaun Ryan, Chief Executive, SLI Systems and his journey to the company’s recent listing on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.  He said they looked at various options, such as Venture Capital, but there is a high price for VC he felt and they wanted a lot in return for their investment.  He said the good thing about listing was that it allowed the original investors to trade their shares, it brings in new capital and it raises a company’s profile.  He says they ended up with a deeper understanding of the business opportunities as a result.  It did involve a lot of work to list, and there is a need to get to know the institutions, investment bankers and have a good investment story to tell. 

    Julia Xu, Managing Director of Oravida had some good insights into doing business in China.  She said distribution channels are important and Oravida use several different channels.  Direct sales, distributor sales, on-line sales and off-line sales.  Channels include private memberships (e.g. golf clubs), restaurants, corporate gift segment, and wholesale.  They are also investing in a retail outlet in China to show-case New Zealand products.  She advised companies should export to China in a ‘smart’ way and that is by finding a good partner and getting to know your market.  

    Mike Killick from Deep South Ice Cream said they stand out from the crowd with their high quality product, but they have had to redesign their packaging and presentation to better tell their story. 

    Richard Shirtcliffe talked about the brand values and brand story behind Phil & Teds.  “Adapt and survive” is the company ethos.  They are not into pink pastels, they believe that parents don’t want to be ‘prisoners of the nursery’ – so their products are all about being out and about and being mobile.

    Richard said being up to speed with social media was essential and noted it is a very measurable medium.  They blog and encourage customers to review their products by entering them into a competition to win products. 

    So to conclude, a very successful half day conference from ExportNZ Canterbury, and some great networking was evident as well. 

    By Catherine Beard