Doing Business in New Zealand


New Zealand’s business culture’s greatest advantage is also its greatest weakness: lower standards of professionalism. People walk around offices without their shoes on. They drink alcohol during business hours sometimes. They cuss with the customers. They dress a little more casual, and upper management doesn’t talk to lower ranking workers like second class citizens quite as disgracefully as is standard business practice in corporate America. The work environment is a little more laid back in New Zealand, and you can have a little more fun.

However, New Zealand business practices often lack structure, efficiency and reliability. The business mindset is relatively amateur here. I suspect that’s partly because there’s so little competition in any given industry that there’s little incentive to tighten standards. I see a bit of tribal thinking used in business decision making processes too. Businesses will treat other businesses poorly or favorably based on personal attitudes, and businesses will stab other businesses in the back if it benefits them. Obviously, these generalizations aren’t universal, but there is a bit of a Wild West approach to business here.

Plus, wages are fairly low. That’s why a lot of immigrants will come to New Zealand until they get their citizenship and then move to Australia as soon as possible. You’ll make more money in Australia and have more options. Plus, the weather is generally nicer. That’s just a fact of life that drains New Zealand of quality workers and is a wound to Kiwi’s pride.

There’s a silver lining to all these negatives though. New Zealand is an entrepreneur’s paradise. Since the economy is so small and so far outside standard international shipping routes, if you can fill a shipping container full of just about anything and get it to New Zealand you can sell it at a premium price.

While you may not have been an outside-the-box thinker back in your home country, simply going to New Zealand where everyone else thinks differently and is stuck in their old ways automatically makes you a novel thinker and gives you an advantage. No matter what business you start up you’ve got a pretty solid chance of success simply because there’s more demand for most industries than there is competition. If you wanted to sell luxury goods such as art, jewelry, T-shirts and nick-knacks, there’s a thriving tourism industry that rotates new, frivolous customers through the country every month.

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