Aussies more eco-friendly

BELLA KATZ
Last updated 05:00 19/11/2014
Doug Sadler, general manager Australia, Ecostore.
Sean Horgan, managing director Australia, West Coast Energy.

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Making it in Australia is not as easy as Kiwi firms think. In part two of our four part series, two CEOs share their experiences:

Doug Sadler

General Manager Australia of sustainable cleaning and beauty products maker, Ecostore.

New Zealand is our headquarters, but there's a tipping point coming soon when Australia will be bigger. So it's really important that we have that autonomy and structure in place and run everything according to global objectives. 

We bought our sales function in-house from March 2014 and we're building the Australian team, including the sales and marketing function. 

Initially we went through a broker, but there were many intricacies and by mutual agreement we moved away from that approach. We now handle all national accounts in-house, putting us in a stronger position with our customers.

Retail in Australia is very different. The consumer is very different. Surprisingly, Australians are more environmentally aware than their Kiwi compatriots and have a strong leaning towards companies that manufacture ethical products. Australian shoppers actively seek this information out about brands they're considering. 

They're also more likely to trial something new and shop somewhere new like markets or specialist stores to have a different experience and find new products.  

Shoppers on both sides of the Tasman are conscious of price, value and performance, but Australian shoppers are a little more elastic with this. They don't tend to trust as easily as Kiwis do and are a little more cynical. They look for established brands with demonstrated leadership and respect to the environment, animals and humans.

Australian Made is a big deal here. The New Zealand aspect, while important, is not key so 'healthy and safe' is the main angle.

Lines of communication are really important. I travel across to New Zealand every few months and encourage the marketing and sales managers to come here. They must understand in-market Australia, so I take marketers to see customers, who are very different to customers in New Zealand.

It's not enough to just be on a shelf in Australia. There needs to be a back story not just a product, and we have one of the most unique in the FMCG industry. 

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Sean Horgan

Managing Director Australia of electrical contractor West Coast Energy.

Initially we made the mistake of assuming what we're good at in New Zealand would transfer to Australia. We failed miserably. Business was a lot more challenging, more regulated and more contractual.

I moved into the role from New Zealand in 2013 and by then, our Australian business had gone through a number of leaders. 

We had a regional New Zealand manager to establish the business, who wasn't adequately supported. Then we employed a local in Western Australia who reported to New Zealand, but he wasn't familiar with our culture. So we decided to run the whole thing out of New Zealand under one general manager and then another. 

We then appointed an Australian CEO who was in the position for 6 months. He expected more of a traditional CEO role, but also had to roll up his sleeves and there was a cultural disconnect. Small New Zealand businesses seem to work well with a flat structure.

For us it works to have a New Zealand CEO with international experience and eyes wide open. It's also important as our company has predominantly New Zealand employees and we believe the way we do business is a strategic point of difference. 

We now have an Australian director who has held a number of senior positions in the industry, which by proxy has helped with relationships. He's actually telling us to play the New Zealand card as it could differentiate us from mid-tier, to a company that customers can form a long-term relationship with.

In our industry New Zealand is further along in terms of the outsourcing service models that customers employ. Here, the agreements are typically short term and awarded mainly on price. 

We have to be more astute and have contractual frameworks in place and customers do enjoy working with somebody that's transparent.

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