Kaikohe is a small town in the Northland region of New Zealand. A recent event Youth Rampage brought Kaikohe into the international limelight. This episode illustrated for me the lack of financial literacy of the Maori population.

One might say, hold on what has a so-called youth rampage to do with financial literacy for indigenous people? Good question.

For me the answer is obvious: Life is about decision making, making good decisions, particularly financial ones. They seem to drive our well-being to a large extend.

In response to the ‘rampage’ politicians called for more police, tougher penalties, more funding. However, in my opinion the cry for more police does not cut it.

Northland is often seen as the ‘poor cousin’ of New Zealand. 40% of the Far North population is of indigenous descent:
Far North Ethnic Make Up







Far North Income to 30k

Far North Income to 10k

Income levels in the Far North are generally significantly lower in comparison to the rest of New Zealand.
Despite the fact that more people in the Far North achieving greater incomes (blue chart), the very low-end of income have also increased (orange chart). Resulting in a curious divergence.

“Māori have endured the cultural and material loss characteristic of colonised white settler countries (Panoho 2012). Contemporary manifestations of colonisation abound with income levels for Māori a case in point.”1

Financial Literacy
The OECD defines Financial Literacy as a combination of awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial wellbeing.

From my point of view basic financial literacy includes:

  • Understanding loans and interest
  • Grasping the concept of budgeting
  • Controlling expenditure
  • Dealing with insurance

It by and large covers the learned ability to make basic informed decisions regarding the use and management of money.

Various iwi (NZ indigenous tribes), Government initiatives, local Councils and commercial banks all have expressed their intentions to lift the financial capability of the individuals they can influence.

There are certainly success stories. Hence little evidence of success is evident in the Far North region. A modern and developed country like New Zealand ought to exhibit more financial inclusion.

In a recent OECD survey New Zealand is ranked 6th ahead of heavyweights like Korea, The Netherlands and the UK.2
However, the ranking success for Far North Maori is not just about financial knowledge. It’s more about having the confidence, motivation and attitude to make positive financial decisions.

Motivation and Attitude
A few years ago I was working with Maori on a large industrial site in the Bay of Plenty. One older Maori lady really impressed me. Despite having only minimal formal education, Marama embraced budgeting and cost management with a passion. She developed financial skills very quickly and used them to full effect.
With Marama’s drive the team she was working in started to manage their own purchasing decisions and used these skills at home as well.

On another occasion a middle aged Maori male approached me about understanding budgeting. I showed him an example and he said that he could not read this as this looked like a sea of numbers to him. Nothing made sense until we sat down and went through it step-by step. He said to me I thought only accountants deal with this. I responded, now you know too and you are a truck driver.

Financial literacy gives greater choices in life. It places us all in the best position to make better decisions with better outcomes. For individuals and communities like Kaikohe.
A greater level of personal financial wellbeing across our communities can assist us to greater prosperity  – for individuals and the business community.

About the Author
Markus lives in the Far North and works as a business coach.

Foot notes:
1 Spending Habits of Maori Women, Dr Pushpa Wood, Westpac Massey Fin-Ed Centre
2 OECD, International Survey of Adult Financial literacy competencies, 2016

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 “The higher a monkey climbs the more you see of its backside.”
 Attributed to US General J Stilwell

I am sick and tired of seeing the vanishing monkey’s backside. Not that a monkey’s hindside bears a particular appeal.

It’s a good metaphor – companies continue to watch their growth potential disappearing.

It’s tough out there in the market. Business owners fighting on multiple fronts: cash flow, demanding customers, social media marketing, innovation. Any military commander will tell us fighting multiple fronts is not a good option if one wants to succeed.


Yet business growth remains the measure of for most companies. Apple Inc just announced the first drop in revenue since 2003. It appears, not even the mightiest are prone against a drop in growth.

I want to highlight 3 points that are fundamental to business growth – in fact they are very obvious:

1 Growth for self-preservation
Companies exist to make a profit. A profit ensures existence tomorrow. This means to compete better than their competitors. Be better, faster, smarter.

Like any living being, companies have a self-preservation instinct – it must grow and adapt to survive.

2 Growth driving increased profitability
In principle, jumping on the growth wagon means applying economies of scale.

Again, Apple Inc designed this to perfection. Higher iPhone revenue meant lower manufacturing costs on a massive scale and thus delivered increased net profit.  Now iPhone revenue has dropped by 10 million units (compared to last year). Reverberations on the stock market are afoot.

3 Growth – a tough ask for many
Whilst we most of the time hear and read the success stories in the business world, there are a lot businesses out there that are doing it tough, real tough.

However, there is light on the horizon:

Changing the source of Growth

Growth 2009 to 2015

Companies seem to invest more (% to revenue) into R&D (including buying technical knowledge or information abroad) nowadays and focus less on broad-brush marketing.

Six years ago, companies R&D share was 37%, last year it was 52% – it appears that more work is being done to produce high quality products.

In sum: Most businesses have to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to keep growing. I generally advise my clients to grow slowly, use the learning curve to get better at what they already doing. Consolidate the core value proposition, and then expand. Doing the homework via R&D.

Need help with growing your business
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money 1Most Small Medium Enterprises (SME’s) face tough choices on how-to-grow:

Keep ticking over and consolidate the current business.
But be limited by own funding access.

2 Seek investors to grow into new markets, develop new products and services.

Seeking and accepting investors, means ‘giving up’ control.

This may be hard to accept for business owners.

On the other hand a pro-active investor may bring highly sought after expertise into the business.
This decision point is a tricky one for business owners.

I’d recommend the following 5-steps before embarking on finding investors:

1 Set goals
What is your ambition? Are you prepared to relinquish some control?
I have worked with businesses that sought investors but were not quite clear why they were considering getting investors on board.

To fix negative cash-flows or reducing debt may not be the best motivation to engage investors.

Set 2-3 main goals on why you want to get investors on board, e.g. do you want to set up business in a different location because you believe (and can show) that you can create value with your unique business proposition?

2 Clear strategy
Position your business clearly by naming your 3 key strategies going forward based on your performance to date.

The investor of today does not profit from yesterday’s growth  W. Buffet

State what was achieved so far and what the future holds:

  • point out the growth potential
  • support this with research
  • and a suggested marketing strategy

This ensures that potential investor can verify that you have thought about the future. It is vital to convey confidence in your value position. This in turn provides potential investors with a real level of comfort.

3 Getting ready
‘Getting ready’ is often underestimated. Meaning to get your internal processes in order:

  • fully understand your internal activity chain
  • streamline your financial reporting
  • fine tune your business dashboard (if you use one)
  • and your personnel management

Once a potential investor is showing interest in your proposition, you want to put your ‘best foot forward’. Demonstrate that the to date performance is no fluke. Your business processes are sound.
Sure they can be improved but they are good enough for now.

The better prepared you are the more confident the investor will be about you and the business opportunity.

4 Value
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get W. Buffet

Be realistic when you value your business – There are many approaches in establishing an accurate valuation for your business. Finding the best method for your business will provide you with the best measure of value.

5 Passion
Add passion to your investment proposal. You have done the foundation work. Now you’re into marketing mode.
Stay away from clichés such as ‘unique opportunity’ and ‘once in a life time…” etc., bring your own flavour or secret sauce into it.

Convey the energy that made you set up the business in the first place.

Include the sacrifice, the struggle, the joy and the commitment. And of course the future opportunities.

Tip: Have an exit door
Always leave the exit door ajar. An investor will jump on the wagon (or jump off).
Consider you own future in the business. Perhaps you wish to reap the benefits of your
hard work and increase your personal liquidity. Or you would like to retain a minority interest as a shareholder and hand over the management.

Contact me for a FREE Consultation


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ffjyjgie6zvttpqGrowth is the measure of all things for most, if not all companies – I hardly know a company that wants to pursue a shrinking strategy.

More market share, more sales, increased profit are the common targets.

But why is it like that? Why is that not enough that has been achieved? Why must it always be bigger?

1 Growth as self-preservation

Companies exist to make a profit, so they can continue to exist tomorrow. They can only do that if they compete better than their competitors – this implies: be better, faster, bigger, more profitable than the competitors. Like any living being a company has a self-preservation instinct – it must grow and adapt to survive.

“In this country you have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place. And if you want to go somewhere else, then you must run at least twice as fast.”
(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

2 Growth driving increased profitability

In principle growth leads to economies of scale and smoothens the learning curve thus delivering more profitability. If a company sells 1,000 steel widgets per year, the company needs  to buy the steel, have a factory with a machine and a operator.

The profit from the sale of 1,000 steel widgets must cover the cost for the purchase of the steel, the factory, the machine, the operator and some margin for the owner.

If the company is able to sell all 2,000 steel widgets, the costs are distributed over 2,000 instead of 1,000 steel widgets – assuming no additional unit costs for the steel for another 1,000 steel widgets and the machine can also produce 2,000 steel widgets.

The same applies to the learning curve – the more the company performs a particular activity, the easier and more efficient it becomes the more routine is embedded and the company can thus work more productively and profitably.

3 The market share of today determines the market position of tomorrow

Especially in a growing market, it is crucial how quickly the company can grow. Growing slower than the competitors, its market share may decline – growing faster than the market, the market share rises.

Once the market growth stagnates or decreases, it may ignite a ‘cut-throat’ competition (like we can observe with the petrol companies such as BP, Shell). The companies that have grown in the past most have the largest market share and thus in the best position to assert themselves in the cut-throat competition.

4 Growth as a threat to small and medium sized companies

For some companies fast, rapid growth may be seen as a threat – a owner-managed small or medium-sized company may choose not to grow as the owner does not want to be a CEO of larger, more international company.

In summary, growth is not a bad thing – almost inevitable if a company wants to survive. However, a company must remain viable and most importantly manageable.

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