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Cosgrove: Vero Excellence in Business Support

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister for Small Business

Embargoed until 7.30pm 17 April 2008 Speech

Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards Speech

Venue: Logan Campbell Centre, ASB Showgrounds, Auckland
Time: 7.30pm; 17 April ‘08

Roger Bell, the Chief Executive of Vero, and John Lyon, the Executive General Manager of Vero; former Prime Minister, former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley; my Parliamentary colleague Lindsay Tisch; Jon Mayson, the Chairman of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise; Craig Lamberton, the Managing Partner of BDO Spicers; Brett Thompson, Managing Editor of the National Business Review; members of the business community; special guests; ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here this evening for the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards.

At the end of last year, I took on what I believe to be one of the most interesting and challenging portfolios within the government - Minister for Small Business. I say this because it is the area in which New Zealanders can really showcase their talent as born innovators and entrepreneurs. It is also an area in which I have personal experience as a former small business owner myself.

Running your own business, making the key decisions and being in charge of your own future is exceptionally challenging and rewarding. But I also acknowledge that it can be tough at times, especially when there’s no-one else who will pay the bills if things go wrong.

That is why events such as tonight’s business awards are so important.

These awards recognise excellence in the field of business support, by honouring those companies and individuals who make life easier for business owners by providing quality products and services. Tonight’s event also provides the opportunity for organisations to gain fresh ideas to improve their own performance by learning about the best practices of our finalists and winners.

It is a pleasure to be in the company of so many high-achieving organisations and individuals.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate this evening’s organisers, Sarah Trotman and Associates. I would also like to thank the award sponsors - Vero Insurance, BDO Spicers and the National Business Review.
Your support allows the finalists and winners of these awards to gain the recognition they deserve.

To the finalists, thank you for your commitment to business excellence and congratulations on your achievements thus far. You support our dynamic and vibrant small business sector, and I commend your tenacity and your vision.

Last year, when I addressed graduates of the Canterbury Development Corporation Hi-Tech Launch Programme, I said that “unleashing potential” is where small businesses come into their own.

Small-to-medium sized enterprises (or SMEs) play a significant role in taking New Zealand to the world. They are sources of innovation and keen adopters of new ideas and technologies.

As we know, 97% of our businesses are SMEs because they employ less than 20 staff. Ninety-six percent of the annual growth in business numbers comes from businesses with fewer than 10 employees. And SMEs accounted for 59 percent of all net new jobs in the economy between 2001 and 2006.

In New Zealand we are lucky to benefit from a business environment that is world-class. We maintained our second place ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business survey last year, and this year we are in a strong position to compete for the top spot.

This is in part due to the excellent work achieved by the Companies Office. Three years ago it took 11 days to register a new company and get a GST number, now it takes less than an hour – in fact, usually around 15 minutes.

The government is building on this progress.

Last year’s launch of the business portal ( has provided a single access point for business people wanting to find out what the government can do to help them grow their business. The government has also put in place a number of online tools to cut the paperwork for small business.

These include the Employment Agreement Builder, the Holidays Act online tool, and as of last week, the Business Compliance Cost Calculator, which will help ensure that departments take into account the impact of future policy on small and medium-sized enterprises, not just the impact on big business.

The potential of our small businesses is being unlocked as our markets continue to expand.

We recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Closer Economic Relations with Australia. We now have access to the Chinese market through the recently signed Free Trade Agreement offering unprecedented rewards for those who are willing to engage, and those rewards are by no means confined to the large players.

The next step is to highlight and explain to many of our small businesses the opportunities and advantages that can gained through our free trade agreement.
With their ability to adapt and move quickly, our small businesses have a vital role to play in our increasingly globalised economy. But we also need to be ready for the different challenges that these new opportunities can present.

First, we need to look to ourselves. We need to make sure our skills and capabilities are up to the challenge.

The Government, in partnership with private sector organisations, has been working on Management Focus, a series of events running through June and July which will showcase a group of champions of management - real business people - from regional New Zealand that have developed their organisation by improving their own skills.

The goal is to encourage SMEs owners and managers, through real life examples, to take action to improve their individual capability. Creating strong and dynamic leaders and managers is essential to maintaining economic success.

Secondly, we need to look to others. There is a great deal to be gained by looking beyond our shores, and adapting best practice models from overseas to our own, unique Kiwi business environment.

Thirdly, we need to look forward. I am pleased to see that the theme for this Small Business Expo series and Awards dinner is sustainability, and in particular, connections that create sustainable growth.

Last year the government announced six sustainability initiatives, recognising that the goal of an environmentally-sustainable New Zealand is central to future prosperity and international competitiveness.

What does sustainability mean to you as business owners? It can mean making a difference to your bottom line. For example, energy savings means lower energy bills. In the bigger picture, having a sustainable business can mean market advantages and a commercial point of difference that can be capitalised on.

The government is providing leadership through a number of programmes to ensure that becoming sustainable is a key focus for more New Zealand companies.
This government is focussed on unleashing the potential of our vital small business sector. And more government support is in the pipeline.

However tonight is about celebrating the achievements of the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards nominees and winners.

You have been recognised as being the best organisations and individuals who support our dynamic and innovative small business sector. By raising the bar you inspire others to follow in your footsteps on our journey to transform our economy and make our SME’s truly competitive on the world stage.

Congratulations on your achievements, best wishes for the future and enjoy this fitting celebration of your success.


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