Need help to launch, grow or manage your business? Business.govt.nz is a total business support portal that has helped thousands of Kiwi business owners since its inception.
It may come as a surprise to many people that one of the busiest business-related websites in New Zealand was set up by the government, and exists primarily to make the interface between New Zealand’s small to medium sized enterprises (97 percent of our business population) and the government easier and quicker. In 2012 Kiwi businesses and their advisors visited that site more than a million times.
Originally launched by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise in 2007, a year later Business.govt.nz had a new owner in the Ministry of Economic Development (now Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) – today it is one of MBIE’s key initiatives for improving interactions with business.
Now much more than just a website, Business.govt.nz also features a mobile business toolbox app, social media channels, e-newsletters, and a 0800 support phone line.
“Over the past several years we’ve added a host of interactive tools such as business health checks, quizzes, online training, templates and calculators,” reports Business.govt.nz manager Katie Wellington. “In 2012 we refreshed our entire content and information architecture following a body of customer insight research. In late 2012 we released ONECheck, which allows you to search company name, domain name, and trademark all in one go. And in December our website went fully mobile-friendly, reflecting the increasing use of that channel. “Key marketing events such as the annual Flying Start Business Plan competition also promote and contribute to the Business.govt.nz offering.”
Wellington says customer insight and feedback lies at the heart of the site’s success; they’re constantly communicating with the business audience.
“One of the common themes business owners tell us about is the stress and anxiety they feel around fulfilling their compliance obligations. So we’re launching a tool to help businesses figure out exactly what their compliance obligations are, leading them directly to the information and online transactional areas they need to interact with across government.
“Initially the tool includes information from more than 20 government agencies, presented in a logical way and all in one place.”
Employing staff is another common source of anxiety facing business owners and Wellington says they have several projects in the works to address this. “The first is an employee cost calculator that will help small businesses understand their obligatory and discretionary costs related to employing a staff member – it will package information from across ACC, Inland Revenue and MBIE-Labour.
“The second will go further, pulling together things you need to know and resources that can make doing it right easier in the recruitment and on-boarding process.
“In the meantime we’ll continue to roll out improvements to our content like the infographics on ‘Starting a Business’ and ‘Types of IP Protection’.”
Outside its product development initiatives, the ANZ Flying Start Business Plan competition has been Business.govt.nz’s biggest project in recent times.
“The idea for the competition came about three years ago when we recognised that awareness of Business.govt.nz as a great resource for small business was low,” says Wellington. “We knew we were starting to develop some good content, resources and services, but unless businesses know to come to us, they can’t take advantage of that. So, the business plan competition idea was born.
“It leverages the fantastic resources we have on the site around business planning, tackling a key topic of interest to our audience – the most popular topic on Business.govt.nz – and drawing people to the site.
“The competition also enables us to package this with great private sector initiatives such as ANZ’s national programme of business planning workshops, to help aspiring entrepreneurs get their entry sorted.
“Partnering with organisations like ANZ has been a great way for Business.govt.nz to work with a sizeable private sector company to run an event at national level that can make a real, tangible difference to those who enter,” says Wellington.
It isn’t just the winners who really benefit from the Flying Start Business Plan competition, adds Wellington, it’s the 600 entrants who all spent the time getting their business plan down on paper and taking a real look at their opportunities. “We hear from a lot of people about how great it has been for them to get their plan written out and see how well their idea is stacking up.” (To read how the competition impacted on Chia Limited, the 2013 Supreme Winner, go to http://nzbusiness.co.nz/articles/seeds-success)
Looking ahead to the 2014 competition Wellington says it’s still a case of ‘watch this space’. “But, all going well, we can confirm that we will definitely run the ‘pitch ‘n present’ style finale again.”
Although Business.govt.nz’s user base has increased significantly since a relaunch three years ago, Wellington’s aware that many businesses still haven’t heard of the website.
She firmly believes that it’s a worth a business owner’s valuable time and energy to check out the site. “We exist to make the interface with government easier and quicker, focusing on what businesses have told us are their key pain points. We do that by packaging things together in a way that makes sense to businesses, not how government is structured, and demystifying it a bit on the way. We use simple, clear and easy to understand language. Our goal is to give businesses a comprehensive overview of the information they need and lead them direct to the source if they need to know more.
“The one thing we always want more of is feedback. It helps us make good decisions, underpins our business cases and drives continuous improvement for the site.”
Wellington admits one of their biggest challenges is increasing awareness of the website on a tight marketing budget. Partnering with the private sector has helped but there is still more to do.
“Another big challenge is inherent to our work; we are an all-of-government service so fundamental to our operating model is a dependency on all central agencies who interface with SMEs to collaborate with us on everything we do. Coordinating multiple parties and contacts across all agencies can be time consuming – but that’s where the value is so we have resources dedicated to making this work.
“We’ve learned that the best way to make this happen effectively is to know your value proposition,” says Wellington. “Once our stakeholders understand how we deliver value over and above the work that they do, they buy in and invest in us as a valuable channel too.”
But the big lesson for the small team at Business.govt.nz in managing the site has been to listen and invest in customers, wherever and whenever they can.
“Without this, you can’t be sure you’re in the right track,” says Wellington, “and the risks of creating something that doesn’t meet a need or worse, isn’t used, are high.”
Glenn Baker is editor of NZBusiness.