COVER STORY : Giving Business a Kiwi Spin – World Famous in New Zealand

New Zealand has around 460,000 business organisations and the number which are overseas owned is growing.
How do you run successful business here when there is global parent laying down the law from across the seas? There seem to be two main ways. Take the global mantra and put Kiwi spin on it. Or be selective about which global ‘rules’ you decide to adopt in the first place – think about which ones the local market will be receptive to.
If this selection of successful New Zealand businesses is anything to go by, country manager can successfully take either approach.
Frances Stead runs the New Zealand business of French-based cosmetics company L’Oréal. The company has three global key principles which each country office must live by. They are: being successful company; being an employer of choice; and, being good world citizen and, as Stead explains, it is up to her to implement them in an appropriately Kiwi way.
Being successful company is also measured according to country. The company-wide target is to value profit growth over turnover growth and to aim to grow the business by 1.5 to two times the market growth in each country. “This is target for each market so is directly applied to each country’s market, which is obviously different. It means we are measured against our local standards and growth opportunities,” Stead says.
“Being an employer of choice means we want to be great place to work. We believe that having fun is part of being efficient but how fun is interpreted is obviously different in each country,” she continues.
Another aspect of being good employer, she says, is developing people’s careers and, again, each country will have different way of addressing this. For her, local success means that over 80 percent of L’Oréal’s 180 New Zealand employees have undertaken formal training through work, and that ‘balance days’ are encouraged when managers have been working above and beyond the call of duty. balance day means they are encouraged to arrive at the office little later, or leave earlier, to ensure they have some ‘me’ time.
The third principle – being good world citizen – is one area in particular where the New Zealand operation has triumphed. New Zealand was one of the first countries after the United States to embrace L’Oréal’s global ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ initiative, which works with female cancer patients.
“It’s struck real chord here. We have the highest proportion of women with cancer who come to the programmes,” Stead said. She feels the fact that New Zealand is small country means most people have been exposed to the horror of cancer via friends or family at some stage and are keen to support the programme.
Taking an environmental perspective, Stead says that as L’Oréal doesn’t have factory in New Zealand it’s harder to measure environmental initiatives, but setting the company photocopiers and printers to default duplex option has reduced paper consumption by 40 percent and is one simple example of how the New Zealand office has put its stamp on global principle.
“We also made the decision to remove large rubbish bins. Each person has small desk-top one which they have to empty themselves. Coupled with recycling, this has halved the amount of waste being sent to the dump. So we are certainly doing our bit our way,” Stead says.
“We support the global initiatives of the company and localise them. All our ideas come from the staff here,” she adds.
This extends to the brand strategies for L’Oréal. “It would be madness if company were allowed to change the global positioning. Strategy has to be global but how you make that come alive in your market will be local,” Stead says.
She cites the ‘Because You’re Worth It’ campaign as prime example. Each country was instructed to use ‘substantial amount’ of media spend on the campaign, but not how to use it. Television and print advertisements were provided if wanted but each country was left to its own devices.
In Auckland, the L’Oréal team decided to produce and erect the largest billboard in the Southern Hemisphere as its launch. The resulting media pictures showing an abseiler smoothing down picture of model Claudia Schiffer on 60 by 20 metre billboard on Auckland’s Queen Street made waves around the world.
“We are part of global giant but we are given the freedom to do it our way – and sometimes that way is picked up in other countries,” Stead says.
Microsoft’s New Zealand country manager for Xbox, Frazer Scott, takes slightly different approach to keeping the global parent happy.
“Eighty percent of the time you say we can adapt that [guideline from the US], we can localise it and 20 percent we say that’s just not relevant, we have to rebuild this from the ground up,” he explains, saying that his American head office is happy to let that happen when the situation is right and the case argued convincingly.
“Some things just don’t translate outside of North America despite the fact that we’re both English speaking, Westernised countries.”
Scott has raft of company statements and goals and is able to choose which ones he thinks will work down under – the key being to understand what your local customer/partner wants and how to communicate with them to make it relevant.
“Different options are viable in New Zealand because of the size and culture,” he says.
“There’s very very strong culture of openness at Microsoft and people are challenged to think of new ways to do things. Like lot of American companies it can be quite correct. Here in New Zealand we have all that heritage but we are then given lot of autonomy. We’re told here is the framework and here are some do’s and don’ts. Obviously we have to abide by New Zealand law and by US law as relates to international territories for US-based company. Outside of that, how we take certain messages to the consumer and how we unroll certain strategies we can tweak to work here.”
He gives an Xbox specific example saying that in the States, Snoop Dog is the Xbox celebrity endorser while here Scribe is used.
“We may have the same executional style but we have to make it relevant for our people.”
Scott’s overriding tip about keeping global parent company happy is to keep feeding them good numbers.
“Beyond that, it’s about demonstrating that you understand your market and your customer. The US is very aware of our plan for the region,” he says, emphasising that communication is ongoing and vital to keep any concerns at bay.
“We’re here to meet out customers’ needs and they’re Kiwis. Head office knows that and trusts us.”
Microsoft’s global mantra – to “help people and business throughout the world to realise their full potential” – stays the same in New Zealand, but how it is applied is unique.
Informality, speed and flat structure are the hallmarks of many New Zealand organisations. We tend not to care which school someone went to, whether they dress courtesy of Saville Row or if they call the boss ma’am. This means initiatives and campaigns can be more relaxed locally, Scott says.
“For example, Microsoft’s New Zealand leadership team gets out on the forecourt to wash cars, raising money for charity – it’s hard to imagine the senior management other countries doing the same.”
Scott says the challenges in managing employees who may not have been exposed to global practices lie in explaining the global nature of the business.
“We certainly don’t operate in silo in New Zealand. We work with Australia and Asia so that can be challenge – teaching people how to work globally. We travel bit too and that’s enjoyable but it’s time away from home and from the office. Our biggest challenge right now is just the labour pool, it’s hard to get people, but it’s huge advantage for us being global brand.”
The similar but individual approaches taken to applying the Kiwi spin are backed up by the consulting experience of NZIM Northern ceo Kevin Gaunt.
Asked to describe the management challenges of being part of N

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