Why your business needs to tap into ecosystems

Karna Luke is GM – SME and Enterprise Partnerships at BNZ. He currently leads the implementation of the bank’s venture investment fund, test-and-learn innovation hub, strategic partnerships, and digital activation for new channels focused on SMEs.

Connections are key in business – everything from connecting your ideas with market needs, to connecting with suppliers, to connecting with customers via the right channels.

But there are a huge array of factors that can affect your ability to connect; your timing, judgement, experience, skills and networks can all play a part in success or failure.

For example, I spent five years living in Tokyo and Osaka in Japan where I worked for major organisations such as Bank of Japan and Sumitomo. Initially I would go into my business dealings with a typically Kiwi ‘let’s get straight down to business’ approach, but soon realised I wasn’t connecting. Clients and colleagues actually wanted to get to know me a bit more before talking shop. 

Once I realised this, the idea of establishing a more personal relationship with contacts first really resonated with me because, being Māori, this is how we approach interactions in our own culture.

What are ecosystems?

In today’s business environment, I believe connections are now more important than ever.

And this is due to the changing way we’re doing business. We’re living in a globalised world, enabled by technology, and businesses are increasingly working in ecosystems, rather than in isolation.

In these ecosystems, participants interact with each other to both consume and produce – think of Airbnb, where you might offer a property for rent, but also book holiday accommodation. Or the Apple App Store, which is both a marketplace where consumers buy apps, but also where app-producers can sell their products.

Small businesses in particular are using ecosystems to real advantage because it means they no longer need the bench strength of bigger companies to compete. Instead they can tap into ecosystems to access external experts in a whole range of areas to help them grow and succeed.

Joining forces

Of course, in this type of business environment your ability to connect with others to create win-win situations is key – and this presents challenges as well as opportunities.

For migrant entrepreneurs, for example, language barriers and access to networks are often cited as some of the biggest obstacles to them gaining a foothold in New Zealand. They’re challenges we recognise at BNZ, where we’re helping customers connect – whether that’s to banking services through our Asian banking team, or merchant services such as AliPay, or our other partners in the business community such as ATEED, which provides support to migrant business owners as part of its suite of services.

And I also think the opportunities for our small business owners with strong links in to other global markets are hugely exciting. Migrant entrepreneurs, for example, can be highly valued as ecosystem participants because they naturally have networks and relationships in markets other players would love to access.

Ultimately, for all of us, it’s about understanding our environment – and learning to find our place in it. Only then can we create those real connections, and the win-win solutions for our customers and ourselves that today’s business environment demands.