Gareth Morgan, Director of Gareth Morgan Investments
The success of New Zealand’s World Cup cricket squad was a surprise to many followers of the game. Conventional wisdom, as espoused by the many commentators on the game, had it that New Zealand would be lucky to finish much above third to last. The opening win over Australia was regarded simply as an upset. It was certainly not seen as a sign that this team would convincingly sweep away all the other highly fancied countries in the competition.
But it wasn’t the fact that New Zealand won so many of its games and headed the semi-final qualifiers that got up the noses of the experts, it was the unorthodox approach adopted by Crowe and his coach Warren Lees. For those commentators experienced in the traditional formula for winning one day internationals the idea of opening the bowling with a spinner was crazy, but it worked. The prospect of a part time slow medium pacer being the top wicket taker in the preliminary round robin was unthinkable by the great bowler commentators, but that’s conventional clap trap for you.
The innovation, the tactics, the focus and the quality of the performance pushed New Zealand cricket into the top league. It is this very same novel approach that is proving so successful for many of our exporters. In the good old days companies saw exporting as hard work, which might be justified only on the grounds that the government paid for the trip and laid on services at the other end. The spouse went along for the trip, which was never anywhere unpleasant. The local trade commissioner was expected to arrange the business as well as the recreational itinerary, the emphasis was simply on being price competitive. The necessity to generate increased sales was not great given that the government would look after the business if it got into difficulty – the domestic market could always be pumped into action.
The ball game has changed and it is surprising how quickly New Zealand businesses have adapted to the new environment. Without the attributes of other competitors in the international market place local firms have had to identify qualities that can be used to win market share against seemingly better suited foreign businesses. Delivering detailed customer service, high quality goods, being flexible about run sizes, etc, is proving as effective at winning sales in the international market place as introducing spin early in one day cricket internationals. The traditional appeal of low prices in securing export markets is about as effective as putting fast bowlers in at Mark Greatbatch.
The rejection of conventional thinking – innovation – has propelled many small and medium sized businesses into exporting as a means of survival and now as a major source of profit growth. The factors underlying the current growth in exports have a lot to do with the new business game plan rather than commodity price increases, stock rundowns, world economic activity, or slow wickets.