Recently I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Export NZ Awards Gala Dinner in Wellington on 24th May 2018.
As CEO of Tekron International I was ideally placed to talk about Tekron’s export journey – about some of the challenges and experiences I’ve had since joining them two years ago.
Tekron International exports to 70+ countries world-wide and is an innovative R&D company producing accurate time devices that ensure all connected equipment is in sync and at the right time. The GPS devices are proudly made in New Zealand and with so many locations buying Tekron products, the team faces many challenges around shipping, currency, cultures and distance. I shared some of these stories and provided what I hope were some useful tips for other exporters.
The third big major challenge for exporters that I dealt with is Innovation. Where would NZ inc be without innovation?
Tekron is probably the most expensive clock manufacturer in the world!
We use NZ products as best we can and we manufacture here in NZ. As such, our value proposition has to be around quality and robustness but also around innovation. The fact that our founders were extremely innovative makes this value proposition easy. However as more products get cheaper we are at greater risk of being priced out of the market.
Our founder Brian Smellie is an amazing inventor and has an amazing brain but as he slowly retired from the business we lost our innovative lead and we lost some of the direction, culture and skills that had kept us ahead.
Winner of the prestigious Innovator of the Year Award 2005 by IPENZ (Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand), Brian has been leading the way in fostering innovation in and outside New Zealand, particularly in the field of Electronics Engineering, since 1980.
So, after 6 years, we needed to catch up! We needed a new culture, new skills in the team and new processes around customer engagement. We needed information on what the market wanted now!
What did we do? We changed! We took action!
- Working Environment – We made a completely different, and great working space·
- Risk – We hired some “Can Do” risk takers
- Diversity – We substantially improved our gender and ethnic diversity ratios
- Innovation – We gave Innovation Space and Time to all of our staff
- Our Customers – We focused on their current and future needs so that we could prepare ourselves to meet those needs
- Customer Service – We increased customer engagement and documented what they wanted from us (Support, Service and Solutions – all of it!)
- Our Competition – We gained understanding of where our competitors are heading and of what they’re doing and why
- Business Environment – We networked; we got out there and we engaged within our business community
We observed, engaged,
took risks and encouraged
So, is exporting from NZ easy?
No, perhaps not - BUT you can have a lot of fun and happily make mistakes along the way, as long as you learn from them and they are not too costly.
What I have learned, though, is that we together (yes, including all of you reading this) have a part to play in helping all of us succeed. I am grateful to the companies I have visited, the companies who’ve helped Tekron and the companies we have helped. We are all learning from each other!
It’s our network, our community of exporters, that makes us stronger on the world stage and I thank Export New Zealand and all the other organisations involved (NZTE, Callaghan, etc.) that help strengthen our community of innovators and exporters.
I hope this has given you yet more serious food for thought – more simple questions with not so simple answers, again!
As I said in my first post it’s vital that you get this stuff right! It’s not really something you can risk ‘learning on the job’ – that’s too costly!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of Posts on Exporting. I’ve talked a bit about the three main challenges that exporters face:
Hopefully there’s been enough to get you asking questions, researching, connecting with other exporters, connecting with the agencies who are there to help and engaging your staff and your customers. Please don’t be shy! Remember what I said – you can’t do this alone and you’re not alone.