There are lots of Kiwi companies like us: we have about a dozen staff, we do cool stuff, we have lots of fans and we’re as busy as very small beavers—but we don’t make a lot of money. To really reach our potential, we need help from those with more resources than us, whether it’s money, marketing or market access. Yet we’re worried about finding the right partner, picking the right time and, most of all, choosing the right pitch.
What should we be looking for in a partner? A local investor or a global partner? How do we frame the conversation to appeal to the people who are right for us?
Concerned of Queen St
You should always start a company to change the world, but sometimes it takes longer than you'd like. While you are growing you need to make enough money not only to survive, but also to invest in accelerating the growth of the business.
But I would first question whether you actually need a partner. Why not grow organically—slowly but surely expanding to take over the world? If you are reaching for a partner because you are not profitable, then what is in it for her? More importantly, if you are not profitable then you will need to offer to a decent share of the company to attract the right sort of dance card.
If you do need a partner, then what do you need her for? Does she give you access to new markets that will guarantee more sales? Does she give you more money so you can afford to make less for longer? Does she give you advice and access to great people? Each of these sorts of partners has different needs, but the one you really want to chase is the one who will guarantee more sales. More sales means more income, more profit and the ability to expand under your own terms.
Take a leaf from Formway (which partners with US office furniture giant Knoll) or Fisher and Paykel Appliances (which is taking advantage of Haier’s 20 percent stake by launching into China) and partner with someone much larger than you in your target market.
Formway and F&P each had something to offer their partners: a very high quality product that just needed decent distribution to sell. So before you start asking potential partners to dance, make sure she sees a lot in you as well. And therein lies the answer to life and business—find a partner that likes you as much as you like her—and be sure to avoid infatuation, but look for long term compatibility.
So where do you find this partner? You should already know her—if only by reputation. She is everything you need, and you know that you can make her life happier. Reach out to her and if she deigns not to notice you then camp outside her office—either by visiting or by selling your products in her home town. Frame the conversation around mutual benefit and a long happy life together, and not a quick hook-up.’’
I am a food manufacturer with one of the most trusted brands in New Zealand. We have a long association with New Zealand, but recently decided to change the size of our product, moved production to Australia, replaced much of the core ingredient with a cheaper substitute and made the packages smaller. As we haven’t dropped our prices, we expected these moves to increase our profitability, but instead it has just got us in trouble with agitators and communists. We’ve even had to change the recipe back. How can we reassure our customers that we are still the company they have loved for generations?
Disappointed of Dunedin Melbourne
Sounds like you are intent on destroying the value of your brand equity, and it seems you are doing it well. Changing your recipe will win you back some fans, but you have some way to go. You can also release additional products, such as smaller sizes, a premium range with higher percentages of core flavour ingredients and products with ethical sources of those ingredients. You know what I mean.
Alternatively you could enjoy the shopping and nightlife in Melbourne and just ignore little New Zealand. You can always buy out any Kiwi competitors that emerge in your absence in a few years’ time, and meanwhile you’ll get to save money and suffering on those nasty trans-Tasman flights with those cheap Australian airlines.
I run a budget airline and recently expanded into New Zealand. At first we were greeted with open arms. However, some customers have been spending too long in our check-in queues and so they have missed their flights. Many are complaining, and this is very inconvenient for my business. How can I get better customers?
Airborne of Melbourne
What on earth made you think that entering New Zealand was a good idea? The flag carrier Air New Zealand is efficient, gives great travel experiences from booking to baggage collection and is a very tough competitor. Air New Zealand has seen off a few competitors already and there’s a strong number two in the market.
No—seek your fortunes elsewhere young Airborne, and go East. The US market already expects grumpy check-in workers, long queues, cramped seating and ridiculously long check-in times. Go East and seek your fortune in the US, but beware of Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America. Like Air New Zealand, they understand service and price are not mutually exclusive—and that’s something you could learn as you grow up.