Business success

Business failure makes the headlines, success is often regarded as business as usual.

But every day businesses, big, small and in between are employing people to produce goods or services other people, here and overseas, want to buy.

One of these is the Fiordland Lobster Company:

Back in the 1980s, lobsters – or crayfish as we know them – were generally tailed, frozen and exported mainly to the United States. The bodies were discarded as waste.

The Fiordland Lobster Company is part of the industry-wide transformation that has happened since then.

The company is run out of a small office in Te Anau and has become a market leader in live crayfish exports to high-end customers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

It was set up in 1987 as a partnership between 15 Fiordland fishermen and seafood processor Mount Maunganui Seafoods.

The company now exports more than 800 tonnes of lobster a year and its annual revenue tops US$50 million.

Including casual workers, it employs up to 60 staff at the peak of each season.

This is not just a story about clever exporting.

It’s a story firstly about the company’s determination to manage the recovery of crayfish fisheries and then maintaining them at sustainable levels.

It’s also a story about careful and meticulous development of intellectual property and use of technology over more than two decades.

In the case of Fiordland Lobster, a key to its success is keeping the crayfish alive and in premium condition until they reach their overseas customers.

That is no small challenge. Over a number of years, it has invested heavily in research and development to produce holding tanks that are controlled to provide ideal water conditions, where the crayfish spend 24 to 48 hours before being packed for export.

They land at their destinations alive and command a premium price.

It shows that at a time of a relatively high exchange rate, there is no distinction between so-called commodity and high-tech exports.

All New Zealand exporters have to be smart to succeed – whatever their product or service.

We have hundreds more Kiwi businesses investing and growing like the Fiordland Lobster Company. . .

This is an extract from a speech by Bill English.

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