FEW of us, if any, would be able to imagine living and working in a city in which people had to sometimes endure minus 40 degrees celsius. Let alone for five years. Yet, that is exactly what Hugh Campbell did in Moscow, the Russian capital.
Prior to that, the soft-spoken New Zealander had worked in the US for a joint venture involving Fonterra, the dairy giant.
In an earlier job, he had been export manager for General Foods in New Zealand, responsible for sending stuff like Watties frozen goods and canned food to Fiji and other countries in the Pacific. He now lends his business experience to small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand and the South Pacific.
The man with a commerce degree from Victoria University in Wellington, was in Suva this week as part of the New Zealand government’s aid to the South Pacific, which has for the past two years, matched SMEs needs in some South Pacific countries, to the skills offered by the organisation Campbell is a part of — Business Mentors NZ.
Campbell says they have been working in Fiji with small set-ups in the food, textile, small construction, finance and real estate sectors. In NZ the range includes engineering and small businesses that are involved in the various trades.
While his background is in the food sector and international business development, he is happy to lend his expertise and advice, free of charge, as do all the mentors, to any of their clients he has been assigned.
Typical SMEs which the mentors work with on average, have in their employ, one to 10 people.
In Fiji, the business mentors are matched up with their clients by the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation. The mentors are also working in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and in Niue for the past 18 months.
Campbell said the mentors, who are all volunteers and are not paid, had been very well received by the locals they are working with.
Campbell said: On a general basis we all have found our clients are still learning about the basics of busness strategy and the key to building successful business plans. Most seem committed to the program and utilising the advice and guidance given by the mentors.”
An advantage, he said of engaging a mentor, was having someone removed from the business, and with a fresh perspective to enable the business to grow, add more employees and enjoy all the economic spin-offs associated with an expanding venture. In Campbell’s estimation, around 80 per cent of NZ companies are SMEs.
The experience the mentors have from working in such an environment he says, can be of use to Fiji.
Campbell said one of the things they helped small businesses with, was drawing up business plans.
A well developed plan he said, could be very useful in helping a SME secure extra funding.
He said they also helped in the formulation of clearly defined vision and mission statements. Human resource issues is another area they have lent their expertise to.
Another area mentors are helping SMEs is in their dealings with government agencies. As Campbell puts it, they “put a bit of steel” in the SME’s backbone whose owner maybe a little hesitant or fearful of government bureaucracy. They also help SMEs get their governments to liaise with foreign governments to secure markets for their products overseas.
Mr Campbell leaves Fiji today.