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Adventure in Thailand

Since my last post in September, when I had raised A$2,000 towards my fundraising target of A$10,000 for Hands Across the Water, I have raised another A$7,000 – with the kindness and generosity of supporters.

Today my fundraising stands at A$9,090. On January 12, I will fly to Thailand to take part in Hands’s southern bike ride – 800km in 8 days, from Bangkok to Khao Lak.

How was such a sum raised?

First, a Thai cooking class at Phu Thai Lanna restaurant raised $500. Then a friend donated $500 in lieu of her 50th birthday presents.

In early November a 10-hour spinathon at Habit Evans Bay raised $4,000 (one of the 24 riders contributed $1,500 in pledges). A Sileni Estates wine fundraiser later that month raised $600.

Three days ago a screening of the second Hobbit movie The Desolation of Smaug at Lighthouse Cuba raised $520. The rest of the fundraising has come from individual donations.

$9,090 will ensure that seven Thai children, marginalised by HIV or the tsunami, are looked after for one year – fed, clothed and educated.

If you would like to add your support, you can make a donation and also follow the progress of my ride at my blogspot.

You could also sign up for the ride yourself one year J

Building rapport in Thailand

In January 2013 I joined a friend to cycle 800 kilometres in eight days between Nong Khai and Yasothon in north-east Thailand. 

We joined 30 others who had each raised A$10,000 for Hands Across the Water to support tsunami orphans and children with HIV.

At the end of the ride, we finished at the Home Hug orphanage and were introduced to the children. Each rider was escorted by one child around the orphanage. The children were as lively as any child in your own family. Yet most were on medication for HIV.

The boy who showed me their gardens, fish and dormitories has no family to care for him, except the kind teachers we met at the orphanage, and no support apart from money mainly supplied through Hands Across the Water. There is no social welfare system in Thailand. The average daily wage is Bt300 – NZ$12 a day. It costs about NZ$1,400 a year to provide for this boy – about NZ$4 a day.

When we left, after a party of celebration that evening, we took a photo of the child we had met and wore cord bracelets that they had tied to each of our wrists as if it was a wedding – we were now their family. That is why I’m riding again in January 2014 and why, once again, I’m raising A$10,000.

Now, in early September with A$2,000 raised, and another A$1,200 committed, I find the journey of fundraising more uncertain and demanding than the ride itself.

With the support of several businesses – Sileni Estates, Paramount Cinema, Habit gym and Phu Thai Lanna restaurant – I’ve packaged various fundraising events to put in front of family, friends, church, colleagues, associates and clients. It has been an eye-opener to watch how their spirit of kindness responds. It has enriched many relationships and developed new ones.

How do a handful of New Zealand cyclists build rapport in Thailand? We demonstrate that our supporters care for the marginalised. This support gives the children opportunities – including, for some, visiting and studying in New Zealand. This builds understanding. And there are no strings attached.

If you are interested in adding your support, please contact me about:

·      a Thai cooking class being held on 21 September

·      a Night of Inspiration on 15 October (in Auckland)

·      a 24-hour spinathon being held 2-3 November (participants cycle one or two hours)

·      a wine fundraiser being held before Christmas

·      or make a direct donation to Hands.

And if you’d like to experience the ride, click here.






Ways ahead on a challenging journey

Remember the unrelenting gloomy economic reports we were fed by mainstream media editors as the 2008 financial crisis unfolded? Now they are starting again.

A banking leader says global money markets effectively froze last week; an economist is even quoted as saying, “We are at the fork in the road and we don’t know which path we are going to take”.

Try to find an article aimed at helping the predominantly small businesses in New Zealand, particularly exporters, during these challenging times. They are few and far between.

I recently attended a presentation by Massey University on Achieving Growth in Difficult Economic Times. It was based on their ongoing study of some 1,500 small and medium sized enterprises, tracked annually.

Results for the 2007-2010 period were tabled. During this period, 43 percent of firms showed no growth in any of the four years. But 50 percent recorded growth in either one or two years. And 7 percent had growth in either three or four years.

These results are not peculiar to New Zealand. In the US, studies conclude that only 10 percent of all publicly-traded companies sustain for more than a few years a growth trajectory that creates above-average shareholder returns.¹

Massey University was able to point to three broad attributes the growing New Zealand firms shared:

  • flexibility – having a set of different strategies that could be combined to fit the company’s needs and resources 

  • adaptability – being able to constantly change and adjust strategies to fit the dynamic environment

  •  human capital – recognising and acting on opportunities for learning.  

If you can tick these three off, congratulations, you are on the right path.

And also take comfort from a further Massey conclusion: that in a recession, vulnerability is not “a given” – some small companies do beat a recession.

You might also like to consider a figure cited by Stephen Denning in his latest book The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: persuasion constitutes more than a quarter of the US gross national product.² If good storytelling accounts for at least half of that, then it returns over $1 trillion in the US, Denning concluded.

I remember telephoning the leader of an exporter who was taking part in a biotech delegation to Melbourne a few years ago. I asked him if he needed a press release for local biotech media who were attending the conference. “Oh no,” he said. “We’re only going as part of the delegation. We’re not seeking individual attention.” Unfortunately that is how many of our exporters are seen overseas. One Shanghai businessman put it in a nutshell, “New Zealanders seldom make a sound in the international market. They have no passion to introduce themselves to others.” 

If New Zealand exporters applied as much diligence to the discipline of storytelling as they do to ensuring accounting compliance, how much more could New Zealand transform itself? And they would save themselves time and travel costs because if they make a strong heartfelt connection on first meeting, they don’t have to keep knocking on people’s doors to remind them they are there.

In troubled times, it’s so much more important to make an impression that works for you – to connect with both heart and mind and get the outcome you desire. When the world gets more competitive, we need to be cleverer.

¹ Christensen and Raynor, The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003, page 7

² McCloskey and Klamer, ‘One Quarter of GDP is Persuasion (in Rhetoric and Economic Behavior’,  American Economic Review, 1995, 85(2) 191-195


Using storytelling for leadership

Business author Steve Denning explains how storytelling actively engages staff in this Forbes article and in his book The Leaders Guide to Storytelling published earlier this year.

Communicating what sets you apart

'Communicating the value proposition' has been highlighted as one of the key priorities for New Zealand exporters by Victoria University's report Service Success in Asia.

The report was unveiled in Wellington on April 4 as part of a nationwide presentation supported by the new Ministry of Science and Innovation, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Export New Zealand and local chambers of commerce. 

The report is based on interviews with 160 managers in 70 firms exporting to India and China, as well as interviews with 25 customers in each of these two countries.

In a video clip of one of the interviews, the manager says India is a hugely competitive country and New Zealand exporters need to be able to stand out from the crowd. We at All told believe it’s all about good storytelling. For that, New Zealand exporters need the help of experienced professionals. 

I went to the Wellington presentation which was held at the Wellesley Hotel. There was a strong turnout from ‘NZ Inc’ in the room. 


Reborn from the debris

Last week I worked with two Christchurch companies that are repositioning themselves after the February earthquake.

Both had been trading for over 20 years and both had been serving a Christchurch customer base. Those customers are now no longer buying.

Both companies had realised they needed to reposition themselves for a broader New Zealand market and to begin exporting to Australia. One was already carrying out market research in Australia and preparing to manufacture a new product line.

I referred both to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s perceptions research so they could see how Kiwi exporters are perceived in Australia and tailor their approach accordingly. They also wanted a new story that could be used on websites and brochures.

Like a number of other New Zealand business people, I had registered some free services on the Recover Canterbury website for companies that, due to the earthquake, could not afford to pay for them. I wrote them each a new promotional story.

I brought an outside perspective and an understanding of trade. With my questions, I was able to dig for and identify what would be interesting to other people and what sets the company apart. I was also able bring out the business owners’ characters and motivation, making emotional connections with potential customers. 

I could see that both companies’ stories were strong. One was a quest for excellence, the other a rebirth. The people were determined to rise above the trauma they had been through.






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