Ex­portNZ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Cather­ine Beard trav­elled to the US late last year, and met a num­ber of New Zealand’s key over­seas trade rep­re­sen­ta­tives. She shares some mar­ket in­tel with Ex­porter.

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Ex­portNZ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Cather­ine Beard trav­elled to the US late last year, and shares some mar­ket in­tel.

Amer­ica – big, brash, and for Kiwi ex­porters, seem­ingly filled with bar­ri­cades to mar­ket en­try. Com­pound­ing the prob­lem of mar­ket en­try is that fact that it's not one sin­gle mar­ket – rather 50 sep­a­rate mar­kets each with its own set of rules, reg­u­la­tions and gov­ern­ing bod­ies. It's not for the faint-hearted. For­tu­nately, un­like their pi­o­neer­ing pre­de­ces­sors, to­day's ex­porters can tap into a lot of help in or­der to gain a foothold in what is re­garded as the world's wealth­i­est, most so­phis­ti­cated, and ar­guably most chal­leng­ing, ex­port des­ti­na­tion.

Leon Grice, NZ con­sulate gen­eral, based in Los Angeles, Marta Mager, NZTE's re­gional di­rec­tor, and Carl Voight, pro­fes­sor of en­trepreneur­ship at USC Mar­shall School of Busi­ness and Beach­head ad­vi­sor to NZTE, rep­re­sent a size­able chunk of that as­sis­tance.

Ex­portNZ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Cather­ine Beard, on a re­cent trip to the US, tapped into their com­bined knowl­edge to learn what Kiwi firms are do­ing in that mar­ket and what firms could be do­ing bet­ter.

First, the ser­vices spend in the US is sig­nif­i­cant, she says. “A lot of it is driven by in­tel­lec­tual property and we are start­ing to see New Zealand com­pa­nies do well in this space, like Orion Health­care, Xero, and Vista. As more of these en­trepreneurs suc­ceed they can in­flu­ence other busi­ness lead­ers and a sense of com­mu­nity grows.

“New Zealand has one of the high­est spends on ed­u­ca­tion in the OECD – if we can con­nect smart in­no­va­tive people with US cap­i­tal and con­nec­tions we will do well.”

Feed­back sug­gests New Zealand com­pa­nies need to go on more trade mis­sions in the US, says Beard. “The learn­ings are im­mense and doors open when you're in a group. Too many Kiwi com­pa­nies get to the US with limited hori­zons. They need to think big and have the courage to fail. Fail­ure is a much more ac­cept­able trait in the US and thought of as part of the jour­ney.”

In the US mar­ket speed is ev­ery­thing. Ex­porters may need to give up some own­er­ship to raise the cap­i­tal to ex­e­cute with speed, says Beard. “In the US, burn­ing cash is also seen as pos­i­tive. It means you are grow­ing but you are not go­ing to own 100 per­cent of the busi­ness by the end of the jour­ney.”

If your strat­egy in­cludes putting lo­cal people on the ground in-mar­ket, re­mem­ber that ex­ec­u­tives cost more to hire in the US and may earn more than the busi­ness owner. “But good ex­ec­u­tives with sound lo­cal knowl­edge and con­tacts are worth it,” says Beard.

If you're sell­ing on­line get listed with Ama­zon and make sure your brand is op­ti­mised for the search en­gines, she adds.

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