The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



Do We Really Understand Business?

By Brian H Meredith

From the NZBusiness"Marketing Maestro" Archive
First published April 2013

Now, before I get this month’s ramble underway, I must warn you that I am likely to be touching some raw nerves, irritating you on one or more levels and being perceived to be nothing more than a whinging pom. Should I apologise for that before getting underway? Nope.


Because I think that this stuff is real, it matters and we will, as a nation, continue to largely ignore it at our peril.

Does New Zealand really understand business?

I don’t think we do.

At it’s core, the business concept is about identifying and/or creating needs and wants amongst our chosen target markets and fulfilling them, at a profit, time after time after time.

No MBA required.

The concept is not hard to grasp and everything that follows should be about implementing the concept efficiently, effectively and consistently. That is what creates long term, sustainable, business success.

So, on what basis can I claim that New Zealand doesn’t’ understand business?

Because we have not had a government of any political hue for many decades (if ever) that displays any real understanding of how to manage our economy (nothing more than a giant business itself), how to stimulate economic performance and growth or how to support people and businesses in doing that.

Currently we have a Prime Minister who is credited by some as having strong business nouse. That’s not the case. His career has been as a money trader in various forms and markets and that, in itself, does not constitute “business” – it is simply a highly sophisticated form of gambling, a kind of upmarket TAB.

We have an incredibly small percentage of sales and/or marketing professionals on the top table of businesses – Boards in both the private and public sectors are dominated by accountants, followed closely by lawyers and then, a wee way down the list, engineers.

We are an economy dominated by SMEs who, whilst they are sometimes owned and/or operated by enthusiastic, well motivated and hard working, people are, all too often, regarded by those people as a vehicle to get the house, the batch and the boat before they then take their foot off the pedal and head to the beach.

We have a utility that is serving just 600,000 customers where the CEO is being paid well in excess of $1 million per annum. And he’s not alone. Remember the salary of the recently departed CEO of Solid Energy. What’s that about?

We have ex. politicians on Boards in both the public and private sector who demonstrably know little or nothing about business but appear to have been appointed for a range of quite iffy reasons including the belief that they add some mana to the Board given their profiles and backgrounds or it is a pat on the back from their former political leaders which says “Good on yer – here’s a gold watch and a bunch of Directorships for you”.

We have a business sector that is utterly, totally and completely obsessed by price (shortly after I arrived from the UK in the late 80’s, a new friend said to me “The Kiwis know the price of everything and the value of nothing” – thought it was a bit harsh at the time but have since changed my mind).

We have a business sector and, indeed, a political system and culture, that is driven increasingly by short termism. This results in the development of potentially destructive mindsets resulting in dodgy strategies and, ultimately, the harsh reality that we all end up suffering the consequences.

We have a long standing and well established psychological principle of “She’ll be right”. No she won’t.

We also have a long standing and, commonly fantasy, belief that our people are incredibly talented and innovative under the “No8 Fencing Wire” approach. Whilst that may have been the case in the past and, perhaps, still is to some small degree today, overall it is a belief that drives botch jobs and poor quality products.

We seem to lack passion in our business thinking and behaviours. Of course this is a generalisation but where it does exist and exciting businesses are born and begin to grow, all too often they head offshore or sell-out. New Zealand is limited in the extent to which it benefits from that.

We have a very small percentage of really big businesses in New Zealand and almost all of them are foreign owned and highly skilled at ensuring that the proceeds of their performance in our market head offshore. Once again, New Zealand is extremely limited in the extent to which it benefits from that.

In order for this country to be able to develop, grow and benefit from an exciting, passionate, innovative and high performing business sector (and we can undoubtedly do that) we need to revisit what we see the role of business being in the nation’s economy (after all, it is the only place the money comes from) and redevelop our business sector to respond to, and be driven by, the concept that I articulated at the top of this column. Do this, and do this single mindedly, and we will begin to see a very different business environment which delivers very different business performance. And that will be to the benefit of all of us.



Let us know your thoughts
Captcha Image