Kiwi business is ‘thriving’

Billed as the Big Day Out for business types, ‘Thrive’ packed out the Aotea Centre on Thursday, showcasing Kiwi businesses that have achieved success locally and internationally. This year Thrive presented a powerful line up of industry leaders and experts who shared years of knowledge and experience in managing finances, people, marketing and technology. The consensus? Kiwi business is not just alive and kicking, it is positively thriving.  Here are some of the highlights:

CEO Mike Bennetts, on the rationale behind local start-up company, Z Energy, taking over global brand Shell’s energy distribution here.

“Customers have high expectations of local companies, more so than globals.  The ‘new Kiwi’ is speaking, and wants to be heard,” he says, describing these ‘new Kiwis’ as creative, innovative, sophisticated and capable of excelling without selling out.  Aw shucks.

“Z energy is committed to a sustainable future, for both the company and the country,” and Bennetts aims to achieve this by selling less, not more fuel.  “We want to reduce our customers’ carbon intensity by helping New Zealanders reduce their use of fossil fuels.  We want to use less and waste less, and do business in a way that supports New Zealand,” he says.

Philanthropist Owen Glenn was the most entertaining, despite giving his fifth speech in as many days.  His trials and tribulations of developing global business in the States with no capital, and no green card was both enlightening and hilarious. He emphasised the importance of mixing with people from all walks of life, not just ivory tower dwellers, and gave a highly amusing anecdote involving a ring of dodgy freight handlers, a stolen shipping container full of Royal Jelly, shallow graves dug in toxic wasteland, the FBI, the east coast Mafia and an unsolved murder of a warehouse worker.  Not quite what you’d expect from the shipping industry… talk about getting better work stories!  And don’t get him started on sexual harassment.  His final words “Nothing is insurmountable.  If something is wrong… find allies, and make it right.”

Chris Liddell, of Microsoft and General Motors fame, shared his top five important business lessons:

  • Have a competitive cost structure
  • Strategic capital structure
  • Brand leadership
  • A differentiated business model, and point of difference.
  • Openness to change

And what makes Liddell stay calm under pressure?  Keeping things in perspective and rising above the issue.  He says he’s practicing the exact same things he learnt in New Zealand 25 years ago, just with more zeros.  His final words “I take my job seriously but I don’t take myself seriously.”

Final word must go to Worldwide Saatchi & Saatchi’s CEO Kevin Roberts, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.”  He says ideas are the currency of the future, we are in the age of now, where everything is instant, and ROI isn’t return on investment but return on involvement.  He was brilliant, and inspiring, and it was frightening to see him being helped from the stage after a bout of transient global amnesia. We’ll put it down to World Cup anxiety – entirely understandable.  Thankfully, he’s all good now, as this blog post by Brian Sweeney states.

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