Top tips for Kiwi firms making the leap to Australia

For most successful New Zealand businesses, the next big leap is to Australia.

At Height we have a unique insight into the Australian market through our relationship with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). We support Kiwi exporters in the engineering sector with specialist advice on pitching, pricing, innovation, product development and more.


So, what’s different about operating in Australia? From what we see, it’s the scale of the market and a more direct commercial business culture.

Here are some top tips from our customers, and from our own experience, to succeed in the Australian market:  

1.     Know where you stand and be clear about you market offering – Those businesses that really succeed are acutely aware of where they stand, how they differentiate and what value they add. A good example is Hiway Stabilisers who have built a solid reputation within Australia for the provision of geostabilisation for road contractors. Their value proposition is unique and clearly defined.      

2.     Time to team up – Many of our customers have made a successful entry into the Australian market with a local partner. A good partner will provide the use of their marketing channels, local knowledge, and maybe even the provision of offices or space to help get you going. This speeds up the learning process so that you reach a more positive cashflow position sooner, and with less stress and aggravation.

3.     If you’re serious about the Aussie market, consider an acquisition – New Zealand businesses tend to prefer organic growth to acquisition as a market entry strategy, possibly due to limitations in capital and the perceived challenges of integrating with a new business. However, an acquisition is worth considering, and you could do this in stages: you might buy a percentage share of a local partner so that you can learn the market and grow your offering, then buy that partner out over a period of time.          

4.     A direct commercial business culture – In NZ we tend to work pragmatically with clients/suppliers to resolve any issues in a contract – business is very relationship-based. In Australia you will be held accountable to all aspects of the contract. This will generally be ruthlessly enforced – you may feel you are being persecuted like a middle order batsman at the MCG. Rest assured, this is not personal.  Do your due diligence, read the contract, be clear on your tags and clarifications within your proposal, and don’t be afraid to exercise your rights. 

5.     Play the long game – potential clients will size you up as a new entrant. They need assurance that your business is in Australia for the long-haul, and that you won’t be scared off if you put a toe in the water and don’t get enough bites straightaway. Your business strategy should allow for a long-term commitment to the market.

6.     They actually like us – Australian businesses really like doing business with Kiwi companies – NZTE found this in its research. In fact, with the strong interstate rivalry within Australia it’s sometimes more palatable for a Queensland business to do trade with the Kiwis than with a company out of New South Wales.

7.     Cost of labour and labour laws – Understand the cost of labour and local labour laws. The unions work strongly to protect the rights of local employees, so what you might find is acceptable in NZ will be completely unacceptable in Australia.  A good example is lone-working for field technicians – an acceptable practice here in NZ, but not under the local rules in Australia. The net result would be an almost 60% increase in base cost to complete an equivalent task. Other aspects are the general cost of labour and the associate benefits such as superannuation and Medicare. So recheck your base costs and definitely any assumptions you may have about productivity rates.           

If you are an engineering business that is interested in growing your presence in the Australian market either drop us a line or contact one of your local NZTE Customer Managers who have some great resources, experience and people on the ground who can provide practical advice and support.

Warner Cowin

CEO at Height and Engineer 

Australasia’s Leading Technical Tendering and Procurement Specialists