Ambitious partnerships —
Team New Zealand

Team New Zealand is an ambitious partnership with every New Zealander. As the guest of Team New Zealand at the launch of AC72 - the vessel that will take New Zealand to next years America’s Cup - I couldn’t help but marvel at the dogged determination of Grant Dalton and his ambition in taking on the billionaires and the world in the 2013 America’s Cup. There were so many well wishers – many who know him better than I, however I cannot imagine the toll it must've taken on he and his family to get this far.

I was involved from a brand strategy and sponsorship perspective in previous challenges made by Sir Michael Fay and Sir Peter Blake. Being up close with these people you begin to see what it takes to cross the line ahead of anyone else. 

Taking a partner and family with you in these extraordinary endeavors is never easy. Reading between the lines of Lady Pippa Blake’s recent memoir, you note her polite disenchantment with the macho world of yachting, which left little time for her or family. It's now so pleasing to see, through her own personal art endeavors, that she has arrived at a place in her life where she has moved on beyond the mantle piece of trophies and her late husband's formidable achievements.

Standing next to Brigitte and I at the launch was Peter Chrisp, the recently appointed CEO of NZTE, who spends his life living out of a suitcase in the interests of championing New Zealand business innovation and its exports. Amidst all of this ambition I couldn't help thinking about the people standing behind these achievers – the likes of Peters’ and Grant’s family - the wives, partners and loved ones - and think they all deserve a special mention of their own. I have been blessed with a most supportive partner in my professional life - Brigitte, who I would be lost without. I would simply have to retreat to a hotel and room service if anything (God forbid) happened to her. She does everything for me and is the quietest unsung hero in my own humble success.

Like many in the room, the captains of industry and commerce all have this wonderful ‘not knowing - can do quality’ which, of course, our little country needs in spades to succeed in a free-trade environment.

US-based market research group Practica recently carried out a series of in-depth interviews in New Zealand. Through this process, they found that our attitude to ambition is quite broad – specifically they found that in New Zealand our notion of ambition is not necessarily about advancing our social status or making money, but instead we are driven by the ambition to grow. The research also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents in its survey did little or no planning toward their goals. This is telling, when aligned with the 50% who said they were driven to achieve their ambitions. Apparently, we want to broaden our capabilities and activities. We’re ambitious for experience rather than simply wealth.

‘New Zealanders believe setbacks and failures can be a good thing, because they can make you stronger’ the research reported. It’s not just about having talent or being good at sports. We’re obsessed with stories of people overcoming hardship in order to realise their ambitions.

It appears about a third of us believe success is largely founded on luck. Which perhaps explains the huge rush on any Saturday night to buy lotto tickets across the nation. Perhaps these findings help us to understand why so many small businesses fail: our squeamishness about planning, our reluctance to think or talk too robustly about money.

Grant Dalton has surrounded himself with experienced business people who have driven the bid and they intend taking on the world’s best. I only wish such ambition is seen not in ticker tape parades down Queen Street, but rather the methodical doggedness and planning which will assure he and his team of their best chance.

We, as New Zealanders, need to sharpen our ambitions. We clearly have what it takes but we seem torn in our ambitions in terms of what wealth creation means to us.  The laid-back lifestyle appeals to many in this country, more so than for our counterparts overseas – as highlighted by the townies buying lifestyle blocks, magazines and television programmes devoted to people ‘downshifting’ and the idolisation of those who leave corporate jobs to do artisan activities like winemaking.

When I looked up at that amazing boat on Saturday night and was told it could top 40 knots downwind without a motor, you begin to realise what ambition really is. When I look around and see what we are capable of as a tiny nation I am convinced that a change of attitude will help us to realise our ambitions. I also believe that we can realise all of our ambitions and divide into a troubled world by being clever about how we go about it. And I think it can be done without sacrificing family but it's only later in life that I can see this personally.

So thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Grant Dalton and all the families who made it possible. Team New Zealand is an ambitious partnership with every New Zealanders.