Geoff Ross: Less planning, more doing

Forget about crafting the perfect business plan. As soon as it’s written, says businessman Geoff Ross, it will be obsolete.

Geoff RossInstead, he says, focus on picking the right kind of business – one that you know, love, and understand.

Speaking at the World Class Inspire event hosted by expat network Kea, Ross urged prospective entrepreneurs to hunt out growth categories and capitalise on their “tail winds”.

“There is something to be said for just starting,” he said, adding that trying to second-guess every potential hurdle is a daunting – and losing – exercise. Rather, trust that you’ll deal to the challenges as they come – such as when he failed to account for excise tax when crunching the numbers for 42 Below, the vodka brand he later sold to Bacardi.

“Get your fundamentals right. If they’re right, just start.”

The first step to playing on the world stage, adds Ian Taylor of Animation Research, Is being prepared to face off against the very best – they don’t care where you come from, just as long as you can cut the mustard.

“The best way to take on the world is by sneaking up on it.”

According to Ross, self-belief is paramount, as is creating a great company culture (boot the non-believers; they’re toxic) and competitive advantage (“make sure you have one, and use it”).

Part of that competitive advantage, investor and Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall argues, are our pure, green credentials. While that image may have taken a hit in recent years, he says it’s a point of difference other countries can’t easily replicate.

Cleantech is a particularly hot space we can own, he says, with companies like LanzaTech demonstrating what we're capable of here.

And shifting our focus to emerging markets closer to home will be key in the coming decade.

"Most of the businesses we are looking at today are pointing toward Asia-Pacific," he said.

He warned startups not to overlook the importance of patents, acknowledging most startups didn't have spare cash to pump into this, but reminding them that most investors want to know how their product is protected.

Tindall also took a potshot at property investors, whom he said opted for safe investments over boosting exports and economic production.

"For too long, people that have surplus money have gone and invested in property," he lamented.