Strewth – should we be a bit more Aussie in our approach to business?

By David Downs, CEO New Zealand Story

We compete with our Australian friends across the ditch possibly harder than any other nation – on the rugby field, attracting tourists, exporting fine wine – we want to be the best.

And boy have we grown up. No longer merely the ‘small cousin’ to Australia, today we are recognised for being world leaders with our dairy, sheep, and kiwifruit exports, and increasingly for leading in terms of commitments to climate change and decarbonisation. As evidenced through the recent Hi-Tech Awards, cutting edge technology in agritech, health science and sustainability fields are seeing Kiwi innovators recognised for designing technology with social impact at the heart of their concepts – we are a nation who cares for people and our planet.

Favourable perception shifts have been observed, according to research commissioned by New Zealand Story Group to better understand how consumers and businesses across the Tasman see us. People in Australia think that we are practical, progressive, caring, have a good political system that works, and have an inclusive and forward-thinking society. We take pride in and embrace our Māori culture, our environment and how we care for it.

But as a country we often tend to downplay our successes – unlike our Australian friends who are not shy celebrating theirs.

Our research, while largely export focused, has relevance to the transport and logistics sector which is inherently connected via global supply chains. Insights showed that Australian businesspeople felt that New Zealand exporters can sometimes be too focused on their first container and fail to show up when it matters most to support their product sales. As transport operators you understand that success is not measured by the first load – every load needs to be delivered on time, undamaged, at the agreed cost. Australian distributors want and expect a relationship and a reliable supply chain.

While Covid has ensured the public at large now recognize the words ‘supply chain’, that doesn’t always mean they understand it. The research highlights the issue of high Trans-Tasman shipping costs, indicating an opportunity to provide education to exporters on the cost of shipping and margins, when shipping to Australia. Taking a leaf out of the Aussie handbook, let’s not downplay success here – the industry has strong relationships with government and its agencies and is well supported by its customers, both locally and abroad. Dialling up the stakeholder education is 100% doable.

Digging into the research a bit more, the insights around manufacturing have some clear take outs for the transport industry. New Zealand is known for its high quality, sustainable products created in an environment of collaboration with world leading technology. Critically, ‘we care for every step of the journey’ and that includes our supply chain. Recent supply chain issues and high freight costs are putting pressure on companies moving product across the ditch. So, the question is, what can you, as transport operators do to show your customers you care and are equally invested in their success? Is this a cup half empty moment, or half full? I’d say carpe diem – seize the day. Out of every challenge there is an opportunity.

As Kiwis, we are more likely to ‘give it a go’, we have become known for our start up mentality. Australia and New Zealand share various regulations, systems and processes that bring a level of trust and ease for doing business. We have earned a trusted reputation; we just need to try and make sure that first bite of the cherry is not the last.

We must be vocally present in the markets we operate in and with our clients, and we need to show our dedication to fulfilling their demands. Building trust, communicating our commitment to uncompromising quality and trading on our sustainability credentials and cultural inclusivity needs to be a stronger part of our platform for business success. An easy way to do this is by talking to our closeness with Australia – both geographically and as long-time ANZAC allies – as a way to accelerate solid relationships and continue to build trust.

Transport and logistics are integrated into every part of our economy, I think this means the sector is uniquely positioned to show that leadership, and success, is linked to mindset. Taking a chip off of the ole block of our Aussie neighbours, I would encourage the transport industry to proactively stand up and celebrate its successes, it is supply chain’s moment – so let’s not waste it.

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Opinion piece provided to National Road Carriers members by David Downs, CEO of the New Zealand Story, an ambitious organisation marketing New Zealand to the world.

David is CEO of The New Zealand Story and a director on several boards, including as Chair of The Icehouse. David is an ex-comedian, TV and radio actor, semi-finalist for New Zealander of the Year, cancer survivor and a published author of books No.8 Re-wired, No.8 Recharged, A Mild Touch of the Cancer, and Silver Linings.