Headed home, looking to contribute.

Tomorrow evening I fly back to Auckland for the beginning of a phased return to NZ. I have some pending obligations and personal commitments in SE Asia so  after two months in NZ will be doing a long distance commute between NZ and SG until the middle of next year. But I have made the decision that it is time to permanently return to NZ and find a way to contribute in a non-academic capacity. To that end I am registering a NZ-based political risk, market intelligence and strategic analysis consultancy under the name Buchanan Strategic Advisors, Ltd.  As far as I can tell it is the first of its kind in NZ: a consultancy solely dedicated to international and comparative industry and market analysis, political context assessment and security threat evaluation. I will also focus on labour market characteristics, industry-political relations, futures forecasting (both strategic and sector-specific) and ethical and sustainable investment. The firm will have a public outreach component that will provide expert commentary to general and professional audiences as well as the media on matters of contemporary international import. As readers may know, I have long been concerned about the lack of strategic vision, both in its long-term and in-depth dimensions, exhibited by NZ public and private entities when it comes to foreign affairs. This is my way of helping to fill that analytic and policy gap.

It may seem counter-intuitive but I believe that basing the firm in NZ enhances its “brand” because of NZ’s reputation and image as a fair, transparent, honest and autonomous country, We may know that in fact NZ does not quite live up to its image in many respects, but having lived in nine countries I believe that it comes the closest to doing so. Since we operate in an age of telecommunications and rapid transport, I do not see NZ’s size and location as a major disadvantage to providing the intellectual value added services embodied in the firm. To the contrary, I see the firm as an ideal interface between NZ and foreign partners, complementing and reinforcing existing diplomatic and business networks.

I have been fortunate to have a number of Kiwis encourage me in this venture and have some leads on business opportunities. The real test is to see if public and private entities in NZ will pay for such services. I believe that it fills a niche for actors that do not have in-house expertise on specific subjects or whom do not wish to pay the full costs of maintaining a full-time, in-house political risk capability. But I also have offered this type of service for free to several NZ entities, only to have them baulk at continuing receiving my analysis and opinion on a fee-paying basis (this includes some specialised security agencies that clearly lack in-house capabilities in the areas that I am competent to discuss). Thus the real make-or-break issue is whether private firms and public agencies are willing to pay for this type of specialised advice. The next year or so will tell.

In any event, I am thrilled to be heading back home. I get to reclaim my house in the Waitakeres and breathe clean air (the Indonesian smoke haze in SG at the moment is at dangerous levels), feel the nighttime silence of the bush, and reacquaint myself with friends. That will make the pressures of setting up the firm all the more bearable. It may be a challenge after so many years of doing full-time academic work and part-time consulting, but if there is an ideal place in which to undertake a new venture like this, Aotearoa is my choice.

A press release on the establishment of the firm can be found here.

14 thoughts on “Headed home, looking to contribute.

  1. That is fantastic to hear. Having studied Political Studies at Otago I would listen to you having a chat to Jim Mora on National Radio and putting the issue of the day into perspective I felt, one that you were a huge loss to New Zealand and two a regret that I never had you as a teacher. That is in no way a criticism of my teachers at Otago.

    As your last blog pointed out the world is in transition. To have a person who has such a perspective view based in New Zealand and I assume prepared to explain it simple words to people such as me but who don’t read blogs is nothing short of a huge gain for New Zealand. Welcome home.


  2. As readers may know, I have long been concerned about the lack of strategic vision, both in its long-term and in-depth dimensions, exhibited by NZ public and private entities when it comes to foreign affairs.

    Sigh. Wish I had a case to make against this point.

    We may know that in fact NZ does not quite live up to its image in many respects…

    Sigh. Wish I had a case to make against this point.

    Thus the real make-or-break issue is whether private firms and public agencies are willing to pay for this type of specialised advice

    Given our unwillingness to front up cash for economically-beneficial research and development, I’m not feeling like this is a sure bet. That doesn’t stop me hoping like hell that you get a lot of business here and it’s a raging success. This country really does need what you’re offering.

  3. Good luck to you! I suspect you’ll have to go around those with narrow perceptions about value to their enterprise, and head to those who can make the decision directly.

  4. Thanks Guys, for the encouraging words. I realise that getting people to pay for political risk and related analysis is going to be tough, and have been told that the NZ market is simply too small to sustain a dedicated consultancy along the lines I propose, but I really do feel that there is a need for this type of service given the gaps readily apparent.

    Plus, I simply want to live in NZ as a matter of choice, and have the citizenship application to prove it (better to apply when in residence than from abroad).

  5. Pablo

    I thought you needed to have been resident in New Zealand for two years prior to the application for it to be successful?

  6. Hugh:

    I think that I have that covered. I lived continuously in NZ from mid 1997 to the end of 2007, and have been in SE Asia since then as part of my partnership agreement (i.e. the wife has work in SG). But I am a PR, have happily paid a load of taxes into the NZ system, own a home and now a business in NZ, so am thinking that, certain politicians and bureaucrats disapproval notwithstanding, I should be a decent candidate for citizenship despite my age (mid 50s). Plus I did fair bit of volunteer service etc so I would imagine that should count in my favour even if my previous employment relationship might not.

  7. Hmmm, well, all cases are ultimately up to the Minister’s discretion, but my impression is that the two year residency requirement is pretty strictly adhered to and that things like home ownership, having paid taxes, volunteer service etc etc will not necessarily outweigh that. I mean, I’m not saying you should give up, just be prepared for potentially quite a lengthy and contentious process.

    That being said on the positive side I don’t think your age would count against you – the DIA is very keen not to be seen to be discriminating against people on such grounds, hence their removing the lesser residency requirements for those married or in civil unions with citizens.

  8. It would probably be useful to have Australian (and others in our region) clients to assist in marketing the business to New Zealand ones and to convince the deciders for your residency claim (they tend to like international business migrants).

  9. I’m not convinced it is entirely ethical of you to use this kind of blog for free advertising but it is gratifying to see another vertabra added to the capitalist spine of this fair nation. Make sure you pay minimum wage and don’t exploit the 90-day clause – because I have to warn you – you just became fair game for every ding-bat who sees owning your own business as tantamount to joining the SS. . .I’m just saying . . If you see me around Tititangi – I’ll be the one with ‘monkey-boy’ on his t-shirt.

  10. Lee, with all due respect, the readership of this blog isn’t really the target market for Paul’s business.


  11. Monkey Boy,

    I think Pablo would rather be broadening the minds of the young and getting paid to publish serious research rather than relying on the forces of darkness for three square meals a day and a roof over his head, but maybe you haven’t been following his misfortunes in that respect…

  12. That was an odd rant, monkey fella. Not only is Lew correct in noting that this blog’s readers are not my target audience, but this blog’s perspective does not preclude me writing about events in my own life as well as things socio-economic and political. Some people may not like that (and I have heard from them before), but that is the way it is.

    As for me paying minimum wage etc. Should I be lucky enough to be something more than an involuntarily displaced intellectual labourer-turned-sole proprietor, the nature of the work, if not my own ethcis, would preclude sweatshop conditions. Quality research and analysis are not born of alienation.

    Pols Major: You obviously read me well. But one has to see opportunity in disaster.

  13. All the best Paul. Honestly.
    If NZ wakes up to the lack of depth in it’s intellectual international politics and strategic studies analysis you will do very well indeed.
    However, the pessimist in me says that you are likely to do moderately at best.

  14. Cheers Ash.

    I am back in NZ and pursuing some leads. I completely agree with you that it as much a matter of client realisation of the need for longer-term and in-depth analysis in areas of foreign contact as it is of what I can bring to the table.

    The next year will tell.

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