Navigating minefields in export markets

Last updated 10:19 16/12/2013

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Q. My company produces a consumer product and I want to start exporting but I am finding the rules and regulations for each country a minefield I'm struggling to navigate. Help?

A. Pick your battles. Aim for the countries with the most to be gained relative to your investment.

Some of the harder regions to penetrate may yield more payback and it's a great natural barrier to competitors following you.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have a range of resources available, from pamphlets to training courses. They have a programme called Beachheads which can connect you with other businesses working in the market. NZTE staff in-market are one of New Zealand's greatest assets for exporters. Ask for help.

Connecting to peer companies working into overseas markets is potentially the most valuable help. Sometimes it comes down to knowing the right time of day to make a phone call, how to greet the person before you ask the question, and which rules and regulations actually matter.

If you can get a mentor company that has dealt in the countries you're targeting, you could cut through a lot of the pain of learning and making your own mistakes. Connecting with your local chamber, industry networks, NZTE or just asking around your industry should indicate who might be great contacts.

The alternative is to pick a distribution or channel partner who has the networks, systems and track record to deliver into market for you.

This means giving up a slice of the action but depending on how much energy you have to put into the business of exporting versus making your products, it may be a worthwhile trade-off.

Don't underestimate how much time and money setting up channels into overseas markets can take. Developed countries are easier, with established channels and practices which are similar to New Zealand.

Developing countries are complex and often take more investment and insight into the local situation.

Nick Churchouse is venture manager at Creative HQ, creativehq.co.nz

A. Every market that has a different compliance regime has an additional overhead cost that needs to be factored into the decision of whether to enter that market.

Do an analysis of all the potential markets and then select only a few to export to. Focus on a few export markets and become expert in them.

Hunt down other exporters in your sector that do not compete directly with you to gain some knowledge and insight to navigate these hurdles. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise are well set up to assist you with both selecting markets and navigating the rules

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Mark Robotham is a small business expert, sparkboxventures.com

If you have a question for our experts please email laura.walters@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Fairfax Media

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