Thinking about leadership and people

If you’re thinking about exporting, you need to make sure you have the right leadership, team and Board in place to bring your strategy to life.

What makes an international CEO?

A good CEO is responsible for determining the company’s strategy, customers and culture. For the internationalising business, it is important that this person also has the wisdom to understand that what works at home, may not be the answer overseas. For example, in New Zealand you might design, make and distribute your product, but to gain a significant share of a larger overseas market you might specialise in just one of these fields.

It’s up to the CEO to visit the market and decide how you will market, distribute and price yourself.

In short, a CEO of a business that is about to head overseas needs to:

  • be outwardly focused (market-centric, not product-centric)
  • be prepared to travel to / live in the target country
  • have experience of building a successful business in New Zealand
  • have (preferably) experience of exporting to world markets
  • be prepared to delegate some control in New Zealand while they focus on target markets.

Get your team behind your plan

Once your CEO has done the ground-work – identified a market, visited the country, devised a strategy etc - the next step is to communicate the plan with your organisation.

A common mistake is to be secretive about your export strategy. Be open. You need every member of your team on board. Your leadership group will plan the work; it is your team who will work the plan.

Make sure you have robust metrics in place to measure how you’re tracking against your strategy. It will inevitably be necessary to make adjustments along the way.

  • Communicate export strategies clearly across the business.
  • Plan the work first, then work the plan.
  • Implement robust metrics (measurables) to check you’re on track.

Good governance = strong decisions

A good Board will help you make the toughest decisions faced by your business, eg when to hire someone, how to distribute product, how much money to divert into marketing to new markets etc.

There are many experienced business leaders in New Zealand who are looking to give something back to the country’s economy (and you may also like to consider potential Board members who operate in the market you’re targeting). You may need to enlist professional help to find the perfect fit, and if you find someone but can’t afford them, consider holding Board meetings less often (eg quarterly) or offering small amounts of equity as payment.

Here are some things to think about when you design your Board.

  • Look for diversity of skills and experience.
  • Be creative about payment options.
  • Consider using a specialist to help you find the right fit.
  • Consider overseas candidates who will provide valuable insider knowledge.
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