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Kiwis are good at doing the hard yards of getting started and turning out new ideas, then let a surprising amount of value slip through our fingers.

Forte Management director Tony Smale says that it is time New Zealanders recognise the strengths, and major weaknesses of our national character, and compensate where we need to.

He bases his analysis of New Zealand’s culture on international studies and benchmarking carried out by independent scientists. Having identified kiwi character quirks, Smale says by adjusting our thinking we can create and harvest much more value.

• Align the value propositions
• Immunise the firm and its people against the tall poppy syndrome
• Exploit company know-how, trade secrets and other valuable assets
• Create and harvest more value from the distribution channel

Smale says the research shows we tend to ‘think for our customers’, interpreting what they want, value and how much they value something from our own perspective, not theirs. “Implicit in marketing theory is understanding the customers’ perspective,” he says. “When we do, we will find that we can customise our offerings better, create value where none appears to exist at the moment. When we conduct business in a way that matches the customers’ expectations instead of our usual short term transactional approach we will create extra value.”

Smale says it isn’t that we always get it wrong, as some customers want to do business the same way we do.

“The key is in knowing the difference and reacting accordingly – because that will deliver us extra value – usually at no extra cost,” he says.

The most obvious, practical way to achieve this is to employ locals in markets or immigrants in NZ businesses to act as interpreters. In other words use others to help to transform market information into knowledge, and by doing so align the value proposition.

The research also shows that Kiwis are more susceptible than others to the tall poppy syndrome, and that it contributes to our self-deprecation, our underselling and our negative language. While it’s unlikely we can eliminate our TPS, “but there are things that we can do to build confidence and create a culture within our firms that immunizes ourselves and our staff against the negative effects,” Smale says.

Staff performance will improve as a result, as well as the quality of engagement with customers. Smale says a change of organisational cultureis required, creating one that fosters positivity and performance, that creates the confidence to address poor performance and the willingness to recognise, develop and reward top performers.

“This will provide the confidence to engage with our customers on their terms, without feeling that belittles us,” he says.

Kiwis do the hard yards, then let value slip away

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