Get the basics right, invest in development, and never compromise on quality.
That was the take-home message at the Thrive International conference on Friday, with John Buchanan from the International Chamber of Commerce urging companies to invest in innovation in order to grow revenue – something he said New Zealand had a good track record in.
But according to Buchanan, it's important to think about how you do things, as well as what you do. Even startups need clarity of purpose; articulating a long term sustainable value proposition will attract long term, likeminded investors.
Signs of crises, he said, usually manifest themselves on the reputation side as much as they do in financials. If there's one thing to be learned from the likes of BP and Exxon, it's the importance of upholding and protecting your name.
And most of all, don't forget the basics like cash generation
"Cashflow is bloodflow," he said.
Former GM and Microsoft CFO, Chris Liddell, also reminded the audience to spend money in the right place – namely, R&D. Competing on cost alone is tough, he warned, so building a brand with a point of difference and a reputation for quality is a must, as is a willingness to embrace change in all aspects of business.
Turning around GM's misfortunes was no small task. How does Liddell stay calm under pressure?
“I take my job seriously but I don’t take myself seriously," he said. In fact, the Americans were surprisingly receptive to an outsider coming in and shaking things up.
"The lessons I learned in New Zealand 25 years ago still applied," he said. "Just with more zeroes".