Home help is at hand

Expanding a business from New Zealand into the UAE is not an easy task. That is where a programme called Beachhead aims to help.
Wayne Norrie of the Beachhead Advisory Board, helps businesses from New Zealand expand to new markets.
Wayne Norrie of the Beachhead Advisory Board, helps businesses from New Zealand expand to new markets.

It is never easy moving to a foreign country and starting a new life, and more so for companies looking to expand their global reach.

Author-it Software Corporation, Cognition Education and Kensington Swan and are all New Zealand-based companies with a presence in the Emirates. But getting started in the region as a small business hasn't always been plain sailing, which is why each company has turned to a group called Beachheads for support.

The Beachheads advisory programme falls under the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise organisation and is a joint effort between the government and private industry. It provides companies that are expanding into different countries with access to a handful of local business experts and holds regular meetings on topics such as local negotiating tactics, navigating labour laws and regulatory changes. In addition to assisting with expansion strategies and plans, Beachheads sometimes also provides office space to businesses that need help getting a foothold in a new region.

"What we aren't here to do is to act as an agent for the company," says Simon Crispe, an adviser at Beachheads in the UAE. He also works locally at WS Atkins, a consultancy firm.

Another goal at Beachheads in the Emirates is to assist its 16-member companies to "grow substantially faster than normal",says Mahmoud Haidar, the chairman of the Middle East advisory board at Beachheads.

The Beachheads initiative stems from New Zealand's efforts to help its small to medium-sized firms expand into large, international enterprises. One cultural hurdle that many officials in New Zealand are working to change is what is known by some locals as the "BBB syndrome" meaning business owners expand their ventures, but only to a point where they can afford the three Bs: a boat; bach (beach house); and beamer (slang for a BMW).

"You don't need a lot of money here to have a really good quality of life," says Wayne Norrie, the chairman of the Beachhead Advisory Board in New Zealand. "One of the reasons these companies don't grow is they don't aspire to."

But Beachheads comes in to help those firms that do have big aspirations. The question, however, is does the programme work for those New Zealand businesses that have moved into the Emirates?

"They've assisted us enormously," says John Langley, the chief executive of the educational consultancy Cognition Education, during a recent trip to Abu Dhabi. "They do provide us with particular advice about the local environment and things that might be developing so we can prepare for those.

"When you come into any country it's really important to know how to set up business, what the legal requirements are, some of the customs and any potential dark cloud so that you can head them up in advance."

Mr Langley oversees the largest employer of New Zealanders in the UAE.

Beachheads was particularly helpful for Kensington Swan when the law firm opened an office in Abu Dhabi a couple of years ago. "It was good as a sounding board for a lot of our early material, business development plans, marketing plans [and to] give views on what kinds of things we should push [or] shouldn't," says Quentin Lowcay, the managing partner in the UAE.

Over at Author-it, Beachheads has helped the firm's regional manager, Basak Akcam, on areas such as developing a short pitch about its technical products and providing advice on who the company should talk to or approach when trying to expand.

 

nparmar@thenational.ae

Published: August 15, 2011 04:00 AM

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