Exporters need more education on the complex supply chains connecting local and international businesses.
BY: Mary McKinven
When a business is doing just grand in New Zealand, the logical next step might seem to be leaping into overseas markets.
“However, experienced exporters say if you expect to do business overseas like you do in New Zealand, you need to re-think,” says Ken Vesey, learning manager, exporting and international trade, at the Employers and
Manufacturers’ Association (Northern), or EMA, where Export New Zealand has been a division since the organisations merged recently.
Export New Zealand developed a new suite of “fundamental” courses in 2009 after researching business’ needs. Vesey says the half-day and one-day courses offer indispensable components, starting with Export Processes – Are You Ready for Export? Others topics include: Cultural Awareness – Communicating in a different environment; Marketing inside another Culture; and International Trade Documentation.
Each practical workshop caters for a range of staff roles, such as shipping department trainees and export administrators who have had no formal training in export procedures; dispatch department staff, sales and customer service staff and finance and invoicing administrators; and freight forwarders and management trainees.
Besides offering short courses on the fundamentals, from 2010 Export NZ will teach eight modules towards the Certificate of International Trade and the Diploma of International Trade at its training rooms in Auckland. These modules can be taken as standalone courses or the attendee can enrol with the New Zealand School of Export to be assessed and gain these globally recognised qualifications.
International Trade Research and International Marketing are the modules in the Diploma of International Trade that students find particularly practical, says Alison Vickers, marketing director of the New Zealand School of Export.
The topics follow on from the first of the eight modules, the Global Business Environment, which sets the scene for where New Zealand fits on the world stage historically, and who its key trading partners are.
The next five modules add depth and the final, on International Trade Management, requires students to write a detailed plan for their business to take a product to a particular market, including planning cash flow, human resources and the works.
Tuition is by phone and email. Vickers says, “That’s what exporters want. And we get calls from overseas while they are travelling – from airport lounges, or from hotels when they can’t sleep from jetlag; and little questions from their BlackBerries about ‘page 22’.”
The manager of professional and executive development at Victoria University in Wellington, Jeff Ashford, has a background in shipping that helps him relate to exporters’ needs, though the university offers no specific export courses.
He says apart from needing basic business skills such as project management, leading and coaching teams, communication and financial skills and marketing nous, there is one critical focus for people getting into export markets: “Know the culture you are dealing with or die!”
Language expertise is more important in some cultures than others, and language teachers are readily available. “You can’t always rely on interpreters – you don’t know if things are really going well, or pick up the nuances. People might be nodding and smiling at you but you don’t really know what’s going on.”
Exporters must realise their actions are affected by the rest of the supply chain, beyond their own efforts, stresses Professor Norman Marr, director of logistics and supply chain management at Massey University.
“You need a practical understanding [of how things fit together] including finance, insurance, shipping, warehousing, transport and so on.” The new concept of “value chain” includes financial and insurance institutions.
Export beginners with any university degree can study the Graduate Diploma in Logistics and Supply Chain Management over two years part-time. People with that qualification or lots of export experience can enrol in the Post Graduate Diploma of the same name, which leads to the Masters and then PhD in Supply Chain Management.
“There’s a need to upskill the workforce; this is the biggest industry in New Zealand – it’s very wide – and the country lacks a high skill level in supply chains, both domestic and international,” Professor Marr says.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) moved out of most exporter training about 18 months ago and manager of business development, Euan Purdie, says now it leaves most of that to Export New Zealand and other providers to deliver in their local areas.
NZTE still contracts about 15 people nationwide to deliver the Enterprise Training management course that includes business planning, finance, lean manufacturing, becoming investment-ready and one introductory topic for people thinking about exporting.