Outlook for 2013: fine

From recognition of our leading companies to the Canterbury rebuild, there are signs 2013 will be a positive year, says Julian Smith.
From recognition of our leading companies to the Canterbury rebuild, there are signs 2013 will be a positive year, says Julian Smith.

As we come up to the end of the year and begin looking ahead, I'm positive about what 2013 will bring.

The last few years have been a difficult time for New Zealand business and 2012 - marked by the grinding pace of the economic recovery - has been no different. However, there are several signs of better things on the horizon. 

The first of these is the runaway success of the Hobbit movie, which is an amazing advertisement for New Zealand Inc. With a record breaking $100 million opening weekend in December - the first movie ever to reach that mark - the Hobbit is taking images of New Zealand landscapes to a global audience. Tourism New Zealand once referred to the Lord of the Rings films as the best unpaid advertisement New Zealand has ever had, and the Hobbit looks set to repeat that.

The other positive trend in the last few weeks is international recognition of the value of our leading companies. From the sale of tech startup Endace to the success of Fonterra's capital note and this week's sale of Fairfax's remaining stake in TradeMe, we are seeing high value, New Zealand-developed companies emerging as a desirable investment opportunities for overseas investors. That's a huge vote of confidence for our businesses.

2013 will also be the year the $20 billion-$30 billion dollar Canterbury rebuild begins. That means more investment and more jobs in our second biggest city and that is going to have positive flow on effects throughout the country.

 New Zealand also has other big advantages as we head into 2013. With more ultra-fast broadband coming online and more New Zealand businesses establishing a web presence, our economy is becoming more connected than ever. The ever-growing presence of smartphones and tablets also means more opportunities for businesses to reach customers.

I have two pieces of advice for businesses looking to make the most of these advantages and get a head start in 2013. 

The first is to look for prudent investments that could help increase business performance. According to the MYOB Business Monitor, business owners who have adopted a 'business builder' approach - investing in systems, people and market share - have the businesses that have performed the best over the last four years.

Also, expert advice is critical when you are formulating your strategy for the year. The first call you make after the summer break should be to your business advisor or your accountant, who will be tuned into the latest trends in your industry that you need to be aware of.

So although it hasn't been the easiest few years for New Zealand businesses, I'm definitely a glass half full kind of guy when it comes to the future. There are some really exciting opportunities coming up for businesses in the year ahead and New Zealand is well placed to take advantage.

Julian Smith (@JulianTSmith) is the general manager for MYOB in New Zealand.