Kiwis are renowned for hard graft and being keen to ‘go it on their own’ in business. But success takes more than enthusiasm and many have found business tough going. However, Business Growth Services, which operates a free advice service throughout Waikato, is providing a guiding hand – Peter Davey is a member of the organisation’s busy advisory team.
– What is Business Growth Services and who funds it?
Business Growth Services is a team of experienced business people who act as advisors to new and emerging businesses in the Waikato and Coromandel regions. Callaghan Innovation and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) are the main funders. We connect new businesses to programmes, experts, mentors and co-funding which can improve their capabilities and speed up their growth.
Waikato Innovation Park started the programme nearly 10 years ago. To date we’ve worked with more than 1000 businesses and have helped contribute more than $1.3 million to the regional economy through supporting new businesses and new product launches.
– Where did the idea of free advice and mentoring first come from?
The free advice service has operated in wider Waikato for many years through a range of providers. Our point of difference is the very wide range of programmes, advice and connections, along with the access to funding, that we can provide.
– Do you only offer advice or are there others practicalities you can make available to clients?
We offer funding to subsidise all kinds of training, and research and development. We also offer mentoring and help businesses to make connections.
– What is your role and what qualified you for it?
I am a business growth advisor. I’ve been in business in various senior roles for the last 30 years in New Zealand and internationally. I now use that experience to help other businesses grow. I’ve been with the Business Growth Services team since 2013. Like all the team, I can offer real world advice. We also know what funding and training options are out there, so can work with people to assess their business ideas, identify roadblocks and point them in the right direction.
– What size and type of businesses are you working with?
Businesses range from one person with a ‘gleam-in-the-eye’ concept through to established and experienced internationally active companies. We are happy to talk to anyone, big or small. All sectors of business have taken advantage of our services from farming to plumbing, waste treatment to engineering, chemicals to aviation plus many other industries.
– As a result of advice, mentoring or assistance, are companies you have worked with showing improved performance?
We find that, when the decision-making processes are improved, growth follows. There is a whole list of business successes on our books, and it’s heartening to know that we play a small part in their success.
– Have you encountered businesses that appear to be going down the wrong path?
Yes, there have been times that we have had to advise businesses that they need to make a radical change if they wish to survive. In some cases that has resulted in a decision to either close or redesign the business. We have to be honest. Sometimes we may question the value of a proposed business. You have to ask the tough questions: will someone pay for this idea, product or service? You have to do the research and challenge things. That may mean reviewing or modifying the initial concept. Market validation is important and can save a lot of wasted time and money.
– If you could be Small Business Minister for one day only, what would you do first?
Establish a revolving Micro Fund for small businesses (of less than five employees) which is focused on mitigating the cash or capital risk for the business as it starts on a growth path. Risk mitigation and employment growth in smaller centres would be the two targeted outcomes. We are doing some early work in this space and would love to hear from interested others.
– If you could invite any three people (living or dead) to dinner, who and why?
David Weber (American science fiction and fantasy author), the late Ian Douglas Smith (a politician from Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and a man of principle), and my father (pragmatic and also principled). We would have an interesting argument about the future!