While it's never been easier to reach international markets, there are lots of practicalities for New Zealand exporters to address in their quest to operating globally, and Finland may be able to provide some answers.
University of Otago Business School research is focusing on how SMEs have learned from their international activities, something that involves businesses from the other side of the world.
Finland is similar in size to New Zealand, and like us, has a small and open economy. Alongside New Zealand, Finland is interested in understanding more about internationalisation.
Research is being done involving around 22,000 Finnish businesses with international experience. Professor Elizabeth Rose, a specialist in International Business and professor at the Business School, has been looking at interview and survey data from a study of Australasian companies, and will be comparing them with comparable information from Finnish firms.
As well as learning practical lessons from the business owners in these studies, though, Professor Rose believes that there is a lot to learn from the mindset of entrepreneurs, here and in Finland, who have internationalised successfully.
“It's easy to say that we're a small island a long way from anywhere, but the reality is that New Zealanders need to get past that way of thinking.
“Internationalisation is definitely easier for companies in Europe than in New Zealand, but it's not just because they're closer to many of their markets. They also have more of an attitude of looking beyond internal boundaries.
“We're obviously too small a market for all businesses to be domestically-oriented, but many companies are hesitant about where to go and what to do beyond going to do business in Australia. There is a much bigger world out there – and Kiwi businesses are more than capable of competing.
“Not every business wants to be huge, but the firm does need to be open to opportunity, and to understand there will be challenges in selling in new markets – even including cultural differences to overcome in countries that seem quite similar to New Zealand… including Australia,” Professor Rose says.
Understanding the different aspects of how small and medium-sized firms internationalise, and how businesses operating in the service and manufacturing sectors differ in their approach to exporting and internationalising, will help policy and business advisors to support businesses in both existing and new markets.