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A word from the winners: there're many ways to successfully get started in exporting, as Lori Nims has discovered.

Ask a dozen exporters about the best way to break into an overseas market and you'll receive a dozen different answers. Exporting is not a one-size-fits-all process.

A number of Export New Zealand's 2007 award winners have agreed to share their top tips for getting into overseas markets, to help those companies contemplating the move.

"A large part of it is, don't underestimate New Zealand," says Jacqui Hannington, chief financial officer for 4D Steel Detailing, the 2007 Skellerup Canterbury Exporter of the Year. When considering exporting many Kiwi companies think it will be hard because New Zealand is so far away and so little.

"We're not," Hannington says. "People need to stop letting that matter."

All of this Christchurch company's business is in exporting, primarily to the US. It focuses on delivering product for large-scale steel constructions from 500 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes.

People need to believe in themselves and their company. When people ask why an overseas firm would seek out 4D Steel Detailing in New Zealand, "we tell them 'we're the best'," says Hannington. "It shouldn't matter where we're based."

4D Steel was surprised by the collapse of the US dollar. Some loss in the value of the US dollar was expected, but not for an extended period, Hannington says.

It's the biggest single impact right now on the steel detailing company's profitability. The company is coping through careful management, and spreading the risk by doing more work for Australian firms and exercising strong foreign exchange management.

"Plan, plan, plan," says Mike Riley, CEO of Endace Measurement Systems in Penrose.

Endace shared The Ernst & Young Auckland Export Deal of the Year with A Ward Attachments.

"The more laser-focused you can be on identifying target customers the better you'll do." He admits this is business strategy 101 but shipping your product overseas is risky and expensive and good planning manages that risk.

The main export market for this 'computer network intelligence technology' company is North America but Europe is its fast-growing market.

An unexpected discovery was the degree to which overseas companies were prepared to put faith in Endace as a New Zealand-headquartered company, Riley says. He doubts that those companies would put the same faith in a local provider. Riley credits New Zealand's reputation as an honest and straightforward place to do business.

His proof is winning multi-million dollar contracts for products Endace promises to produce before the customer has even seen it.

"I think that's an example of customers' believing we'll deliver," Riley says.

Determination is another avenue for exporting success. "Basically you have to have a three-year commitment to a market," says Simon Ward, general manager of A Ward Attachments. His company manufactures heavy industrial cutting and demolition equipment.

Some companies will try for just a year and give up on a market, but that's not long enough, Ward says. It can take three to five years before you can successfully break into a market. It helps to be innovative as well, he adds.

A Ward has a reputation for innovation and won their export award for a $26.2 million deal for a product it designed, patented and manufactured.

Coping with the exchange rate has taken eight or nine years to work it out, Ward says. He's learned to be sceptical when banks predict which way the exchange rate will go. He's heard too many times it will go one way, then watched it go the other.

For Open Country Cheese in Waharoa successful exporting is about "finding a reliable and trustworthy agent in the country you're trying to export to," says CEO Alan Walters.

Open Country sends semi-hard and hard cheeses and whey powder to the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

"A good agent can help ensure that nothing is lost in translation," Walters says. Good communication certainly helps in quickly resolving any issues that crop up-and in preventing misunderstandings.

Lori Nims is national communation manager for Export New Zeeland
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Title Annotation:Export Focus
Author:Nims, Lori
Publication:NZ Business
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:658
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