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Xero NZ: How to grow SMBs, Kiwi style...

07 Jul 2014

“It’s a great time to be a small business,” writes Victoria Crone, the new Managing Director at Xero New Zealand.

A veteran of the industry, Crone officially took up the role in April this year, tasked with implementing CEO Rod Drury’s vision of “blowing people’s mind” with technology.

Writing via the company’s official blog, Crone believes the local and global economy have stabilised after the financial crisis, meaning that “owning a business can be a fantastic lifestyle choice.”

Furthermore, the former Chorus stalwart says it can be a way to “shore up your investment future”, with New Zealand ranked third in the world for ease of doing business.

“Over 97% of NZ businesses have fewer than 20 employees, contributing almost 30% of our GDP, meaning there is a huge network of peers to collaborate with, learn from, and inspire each other,” she writes.

“With the recent release of the government’s 2014 Small Business Report, the Xero team are really proud to see that we are championing many of the core themes outlined in the paper.

“For example, spending time growing your business and not wasting hours managing your financials and navigating red tape.”

A huge champion of growth, in Crone’s eyes, if you’re not going down the growth path, whether from a micro business level or as a country, “the other road looks awfully painful.”

“With our small businesses being such an important part of the local economy, what concerns me are the challenges that are clearly still being faced which impede the ability for NZ businesses to compete and grow.”

According to Crone, the challenges include:

• The New Zealand small business market is not growing, which is troubling.

• The lower rate of innovation amongst our SMBs compared to offshore companies.

• We’re in a global marketplace these days, competing hard for products and services as well as talent and investment dollars. We can’t afford to be on the back foot.

• The internet has gone way beyond just sharing and finding information (our predominant uses). Leveraging the cloud for collaboration is key. Despite New Zealand being a village, we’re less collaborative than our SMB peers globally.

So, why is growth important?

“Because the statistics show it’s our smallest businesses that are significantly more vulnerable to ‘death’,” explains Crone, who insists there are a number of ways to reduce the likelihood of business death;

• We MUST free up our SMBs to focus on growing and adding value into their businesses. This means a complete commitment to removing red tape which burdens a business owners operation.

Reducing unproductive time means the lifestyle aspects of the business remain possible. I am highly supportive of the gains our government is making in this space, it’s just that the proposed ‘ten year’ plan is too long!

• To compete locally and globally, we have to increase small businesses access to capital. The newly created R&D tax loss initiative from this year’s budget is one policy that will help small innovative companies.

• To export small businesses need confidence, talent, and networks. The export market is perhaps the most challenging area of them all, and is the biggest vulnerability for us as a nation when you consider global technology and consumer trends.