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What does collaboration look like?

 I was lucky enough to attend some events at the London Olympic Games, and it was astonishing to observe the collaboration by agencies with little history of getting on together. New Zealand’s primary industries can learn from the success of the Games in developing collaborative behaviours to deliver a more successful future for our vital agribusiness economic sector.

ian proudfoot primary magazineA leader with authority and vision

Unlike many previous Olympic organising committees London’s was led strongly by Lord Coe from the early formation of the London bid. He held a consistent vision for the games based around the opportunity to regenerate London, the ability to deliver the most sustainable event in the games history, and the ability to create a legacy for Britain.. His ability to influence people as a result of his own personal achievements and continual focus on delivering the games vision was critical to the overall success of this year’s event.

Any collaborative primary sector strategy will need a leader like Lord Coe. Somebody with the vision, mana, and personal commitment to own the industry’s vision regardless of the challenges faced. A leader that absolutely believes that is no point doing something if you do not do it right.

Recognising the capabilities of government

It is consequently interesting when we talk about a primary industry strategy that there remain people that see no role for government in the development or implementation of a strategy. The Government’s involvement was critical to the success of last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and it is just as important to have it as a strategic partner in any industry strategy. It is able to bring resources (not just in the form of money), has influence which can create opportunities around the world, and can design policy to increase the likelihood of success. Any strategic initiative must recognise and leverage the capabilities of government.

Building long term partnerships

Major corporations invest large amounts in partnerships with Olympic organisations because they deliver benefits to those organisations through brand alignment, product exposure and ultimately increased sales. For these partner- ships to work, the sponsors and partners must understand the organisers’ vision for the games, while the organisers need to create a platform to enable the sponsor or partner to gain the alignment and exposure they are looking for. The policy of clean sporting arenas for Olympic events means both partners need to be clever about how value is delivered, as it is not as easy as putting a logo by the finishing line.

We believe that a shared vision and strategy for New Zealand’s primary industry will provide companies with increased commonality of their business objectives, making areas for commercial collaboration more apparent. In a small country with a limited pool of resources, we will be more successful in creating value by understanding the opportunities that present the best chances for us to win and establishing commercial collaborations to maximise the chances of being successful in these opportunities.

Engaging the wider population

Security and transport worries dominated the airwaves before the games started. There was palpable concern that London had found the biggest possible stage to embarrass itself. That all changed in a flash, when James Bond went to Buckingham Palace to pick up “the Queen” during the opening ceremony and picked up the real Queen. This little piece of British humour sent a signal that the Olympics were different and everybody (including the Queen) had to do things just a bit differently to make the games a success.

From that moment on the games become an unstoppable force, public engagement grew and within days people were talking to each other on the tube. London’s curtain of solitude and reflection had fallen in a wave of excitement, pride and patriotism. The challenge of getting New Zealand’s opinionated and fiercely independent agri-population engaged behind an industry vision and strategy will take similar moments of magic.
getting medals around the neck or runs on the board A lack of British gold medals was becoming a niggling issue by Day 4 of the Games. The event needed British success to keep the crowds engaged and excited. On Day 5,

Team GB delivered the first of an eventual record haul of 29 gold medals and all the ingredients for the success of the Games were in place. Once the success arrived it became contagious and Britain started winning medals in sports where success had been sporadic at best in the past – boxing, sprint and slalom canoeing, dressage, triathlon and tennis..

Success created a high performance environment and spawned greater success. It is much the same in business; getting runs on the board and demonstrating success gives others the confidence to experiment and achieve because they believe they can be successful. The success of any agribusiness strategy will be dependent on being able to demonstrate the commercial successes companies are able to achieve by aligning their business model with the vision and strategy for New Zealand’s primary sectors.

Details matter

The final observation that came through clearly during the Games was that no detail had been overlooked or considered unimportant. The most relevant example of this was in respect of the food offering which had predominately been sourced from Red Tractor-accredited farmers and designed to profile high quality British meats and produce while being consistent with the goals of sustainability and legacy. The Games organisers recognised that delivering their vision depended on the experiences people had, from the point of securing a ticket through to the memories they took away. Integral to building a vision and strategy for the primary sector is the need to ensure that the fundamentals that the strategy is built on are not left to chance. The biggest concern that is expressed regularly to KPMG relates to ensuring that every producer is doing the right things in managing their business to ensure a sustainable and ethical production system. Yet as a country we have not defined what these factors mean or understood how they are valued by our customers.

The long term economic future of New Zealand requires the Government, commercial organisations and producers to come together to develop and implement a collective vision and strategy for the primary sector. If we do not treat our agri-food assets as strategic, it is likely that somebody else will, and the ability of our agribusiness sector to contribute to the country’s long-term economic wealth could ultimately be compromised.

Ian Proudfoot is Head of Agribusiness for KPMG in New Zealand and the Asia Pacific. He is the author of the KPMG Agribusiness Agenda publications.

 This story originally appeared in Primary magazine