I don’t usually go out of my way to hear politicians speak, but I attended a recent North Harbour Business Association luncheon to hear the Economic Development Minister, Steven Joyce, give an address on making NZ a Pacific Economic Tiger. With his successful background in business, I was interested to hear what he had to say and how it would relate to the business audience.  I was quite pleased I went.

Basically he talked about, “how do we go from having one or two good years to becoming a Pacific Tiger?” The Minister told the group that New Zealand must focus on seven main things.  When I thought about it, most were equally applicable to your own business, so I thought I would repeat his list, and what my business interpretation is:

  1. Keep opening up markets, and building stronger people-to-people links both at a company and country level.  Lesson…Don’t lift off on the marketing accelerator, even when you are busy.  Also remember that primarily you are in the people business, regardless of what you may think 
  2. Innovate, innovate and innovate. “Every company I see that is doing well overseas has a unique proposition.” Minister Joyce said Callaghan Innovation, technology start-up funds, and programmes providing engineering and ICT students with work experience in companies across New Zealand are all good examples of initiatives to boost innovation.  Lesson…Always look for ways to improve what you do.  That may be increased efficiency in operations or development of your products or services. 
  3. Keep building skills. “Companies are looking for medium- to high-skilled workers so we need to keep developing our people.” Lesson…Invest in your staff training.  This will help deliver on #2. What is worse; you train people and they may leave, or don’t train them and they stay? 
  4. Encourage and welcome more capital investment in New Zealand. “We can’t build the future on our domestic capital alone.”  Lesson…Ensure you keep a healthy level of working capital in the business so you can meet you day-to-day commitments.  Look for partners outside the business who can provide what you don’t have. 
  5. Keep removing red tape to provide certainty for investors.  Lesson…Make it easy for your customers to do business with you.  Test your customer interface with mystery shoppers and look to make improvements. 
  6. Keep building the infrastructure to support growth.  Lesson…Re-invest profits in the company and don’t overdraw on your equity. If necessary, borrow to invest in productive capital assets. 
  7. Minister Joyce said that, above all, the Government must make responsible fiscal and economic decisions that keep down tax. “If we want to encourage people to be successful we have to keep the tax burden under control and not let debt get so high that interest rates grow faster than they otherwise should.”  Lesson…Decide on what are the important numbers in your business that you should monitor on a regular basis (at least monthly) and put a process in place to do so.  Set realistic goals to improve those numbers and consider the impact of your decisions on those numbers before taking action. 

    That was MY interpretation of the Minister’s seven points.  What’s yours? Email me back with your suggestions.

Andy Burrows