MANAGERS ABROAD

What prompted you to seek work outside New Zealand?
After the obligatory OE, in early 2000 I came back to New Zealand with the intention of moving to London. I stopped off in Sydney to stay with mates and check out the Olympics and I’m still here…

Can you provide brief sketch of your current role?
I am CEO and co-founder of expanz (www.expanz.com), Sydney-based software framework/tools business that sells unique Enterprise Application Development Platform which accelerates and simplifies software development and deployment. My key focus within expanz is sales and marketing, as well as running the day-to-day business.

How does it fit into your career path?
What career path? From the age of around 15, I wanted to be professional sportsman and did manage to represent New Zealand at junior level at squash and then triathlon before being foiled by knee injury. Whilst triathlon training, I managed to bluff my way through degree in commerce and education at Canterbury University and worked on Christchurch rubbish trucks (seriously) until I landed South Island sales rep position with an Auckland-based distributor of health technology.
When I moved to Australia I was hired by fellow Kiwi to develop the sales channel of Australia’s first automated teleconferencing business, which was extremely successful and went on to be replicated across the rest of the world. Whether it was sport or business, I’ve always aspired to do well and have control over my own destiny. Running my own business is really an extension of that ambition.

What are the main challenges of your job?
My major challenges, as an early stage business owner trying to sell to large businesses and government agencies, are credibility and steady cash flow.
Nearly two years into the journey, these challenges are being overcome through the acquisition of household-name customers and partners, as well as leveraging the expanz brand via social media like Twitter and LinkedIn.

What are three learnings you will take from it?
1) Don’t be price sensitive on the first couple of deals. The experience and credibility of winning and implementing with your first few customers is worth far more than the contract value.
2) Hire slowly and hire great people, preferably smarter than yourself.
3) Balance. Make sure you don’t let the business consume you. It should be stimulating and fun, but you’ve got to do other things to keep you sane.

How do you now view New Zealand as country and an economic/business environment?
New Zealand is one of the world’s greatest natural playgrounds. As lover of the outdoors, I really miss that. From business perspective, it’s tiny market so Kiwis need to clearly identify their points of difference and then play to those strengths, eg, trading on the clean, green image for tourism, film and food and beverages.
The internet, and the power of social media, now means Kiwi businesses can create global brands from home before committing huge amounts of dollars and physical resource to offshore markets, which means Kiwi businesses can legitimately develop at low cost, incredibly powerful platforms for global distribution and customer relationships before actually setting foot in new geographical markets. I think this is something New Zealand and Australia need to get better at enabling.
Kiwis are typically highly thought of, trusted and respected for their innovation and ‘have crack’ attitude around the world, even in Australia!

What sort of ongoing contribution/involvement do you, or would you, like to make to New Zealand’s economic future?
Much to my Australian wife’s dismay, I am pretty much die-hard New Zealander. My company is called expanz after all! In terms of giving back, I am shameless promoter of New Zealand as holiday destination and it is my intention to establish New Zealand office for expanz in the medium term.
I’ll also hope to be in the stands for the 2011 RWC final.

Matt Clarke is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community. www.keanewzealand.com

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