Lessons from the Frontline

02 September 2015

If you’re thinking about expanding into Australia, the best place to start is to talk to Kiwis who have been there, done that - and have the scars to prove it. 

This article was authored by ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited.


We have obtained some insights from Kiwi businesses who have suceeded in Australia, and what it takes to win across the ditch.

1.   Aussies play hard. Really hard

As Kiwis, we admire and look to emulate the competitive nature of Australian sports teams. They’re always tough competitors and they never give up – and it’s the same in the business arena. Yet many New Zealand businesses fail to anticipate that, and underestimate just how aggressive and competitive the Australian market can be. Succeeding in Australia is a lot about having the right attitude. You need to be resilient, because you will get a few knocks along the way. You need a great deal of emotional and intellectual rigour, and you need to be well prepared. But Aussies also respect fighters – and if you’re resilient enough you will succeed.

2.  Success in New Zealand means little in Australia

Aussies don’t generally think much about New Zealand. We’re like a little brother or sister that they don’t take too seriously. So having built a successful business here doesn’t automatically give you credibility in the Australian market – unless you also have a proven record in other, larger markets like the US or UK. To prove your chops, you’ll need to show you can perform consistently in Australia.

3. Be distinctive

If you’re trying to expand into the Australian market, you need to be stand out. Piggybacking on New Zealand’s clean and green branding is not enough – in the Australian market that space is already claimed by Tasmania. You need to establish your own position in the market and demonstrate that you are useful and relevant in your own right. Make sure you have a distinctive and well thought out proposition, and show your customers exactly what you can do for them.

4.  It takes time to crack the gumnut

The length of time it can take to get established in Australia is often a major source of frustration. For example, getting meetings with decision-makers is often much harder than in New Zealand. It’s a bigger, less intimate market, and Australian organisations often have

many more layers of hierarchy to work through. With both Federal and State requirements to meet, compliance can be costly and more time- consuming than in New Zealand. The Australian business environment is also a relatively litigious one, and competitors are typically not shy

about using a range of means to make it more difficult and drive up costs for new entrants. Factor these considerations into your planning, and be patient.

5.  It’s not a single market

Australian states are quite different from each other in many ways. They have their own regulatory and legislative requirements. Cultural nuances differ – in Victoria for example, you need to follow an AFL team (or at least be able to talk about the game). Each state also has its own often fierce brand loyalties and Australians can be quite parochial. Having access to local networks and resources that help you understand and manage those diferences is crucial.

6.  It’s all about relationships

In Australia, building relationships is vital. Your most senior people have a key role to play and they will need to take the lead. But you also need to establish good relationships at mid-management, technical and ‘shop- floor’ levels. Too many New Zealand businesses make the mistake of trying to establish those relationships from a distance. Be prepared to spend signifcant amounts of time on the ground, face to face.

7. Stay true to your core values

Even though you’re operating in a different country, don’t lose sight of the values and culture that drove your success in New Zealand. More importantly, take the time to incorporate your Australian staff into that culture. Don’t allow different cultures or attitudes to develop which can damage your business by creating the potential for inconsistencies in customer service or business processes.

8.  Ensure your New Zealand business is strong

Expanding into Australia takes time, effort and money – but don’t take your eye off your operation at home. You’ll need your New Zealand business to fund your entry costs into Australia and provide a solid base for your expansion strategy. It will also need to be strong enough to function without CEO and senior management attention for extended periods. Another tip – keep your debt management in New Zealand, and ensure money spent in Australia doesn’t impact any bank covenants you may have in New Zealand.

9. Don’t try to do it all yourself

Don’t assume that what works in New Zealand will work in Australia. Make good use of consultants who know the local environment and who have local connections (although you’ll need to be prepared to pay for them). There are also many formal and informal networks that exist to help New Zealand businesses in Australia which you should take advantage of.