Talent. We don’t like using that word.

Sir Ed would never have called himself talent. Yet talent is without a doubt the single most critical factor in business success.

I spend a lot of time in California at Booktrack’s San Francisco Office (just ask my very considerate wife!), where we work with the biggest tech companies in the world. These businesses go to extraordinary lengths to attract and keep talent – free transport, meals, laundry, car wash, child care etc – and that’s on top of salaries double that of those in most parts of the world for equivalent work. These companies know that without the very best people, they cannot compete. They use the talent word all the time.

I was recently in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, and was amazed to see the emergence of Google in the area. Right in the center of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Muscle Beach and the alternative lifestyles Venice attracts, Google has bought a whole block of office buildings. Why? Because Google knows that to attract the best people, it needs to be located in the places that people want to live – and Venice is a fantastic location. The Venice locals (including Arnie himself) have reacted with fear and anger to the potential “geekification” of the beach. Google’s response? They purchased another huge office block around the corner.

For New Zealand to succeed, we need to attract the very best people. We live more than 10,000 km from the nearest large scale market, so we immediately stand at a disadvantage. We need the best people – and their international connections - to overcome the tyranny of distance. Our unfair advantage in this battle? Clean air, free education and healthcare, beautiful natural surroundings and, most of all, a safe and family-friendly lifestyle. Not even Google can compete with that!

It’s time for us to start using our unique attractions to our advantage to build world-class New Zealand businesses with the best talent in the world. There: I said it. TALENT. That wasn’t so bad!

 

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