Managers Abroad: Making connections

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
I worked for The Great Elk Company in Auckland, and in 1997 I was offered position in New Jersey to train and develop our US partner. Over time the partnership with the US company became merger, and that company today is StayinFront.

How are your experiences overseas shaping your understanding of New Zealand?
I have never heard anyone say anything bad about New Zealand in my travels. The almost universal response is ‘I hear it’s beautiful country!’. But beyond that, the level of knowledge about modern New Zealand is very low. Instead of ‘what beautiful country’, we need to hear ‘what amazing technology is coming from New Zealand’. That would be exciting.
I think that New Zealanders are perceived as fun, hard working and smart – which is great combination. Kiwis are great generalists because we grow up knowing how to do little bit of everything. But we also have to be careful not to over rely on our ‘number 8 wire’ mentality. In the US and Asia ‘she’ll be right’ attitude may be taken for willingness to settle for second best.

How can offshore Kiwis contribute to New Zealand?
I personally believe that the Kiwi diaspora is New Zealand’s most underutilised asset. I love what Kea is doing to help New Zealand get more out of that invaluable overseas network.
Offshore Kiwis can contribute enormous local knowledge and connections to NZ companies entering an overseas market. Kiwi companies sometimes underestimate how important local connections and local base are. In our business you can’t sell by phone. People want to meet you on short notice, and people want to know that you have local base. The most important thing an in-market Kiwi can provide is an introduction to the right person at the right time to get foot in the door of potential sale. Reach out to in-market Kiwis through any means. In my experience they will go out of their way to provide any help they can.
I also see potential for capital investment from the Kiwi diaspora – particularly early stage venture capital to get export-based ventures off the ground. With the investment would come in-market connections and resources. The potential to accelerate the growth of New Zealand through the global network of Kiwis is enormous. M

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