Is tall poppy syndrome killing your bottom line? “Unfortunately tall poppy syndrome is still alive in New Zealand, which is a shame because it restricts a lot of people from getting external recognition,” Ross Buckley, executive chairman of KPMG New Zealand, says.
If you are Kiwi, you have probably heard of tall poppy syndrome, which is defined as a perceived tendency to discredit or disparage those who have achieved wealth or prominence in public life.
In short, it is cutting down those who have grown taller than their peers.
According to a report by the University of Otago in 2015, half of all the Kiwi entrepreneurs interviewed experienced tall poppy syndrome. One of the key findings of the study was that entrepreneurs may purposefully limit business growth because they don’t want to attract attention (Kirkwood, 2007).
I moved to New Zealand from the United States six months ago, and I absolutely love it. However, I often come across incredibly talented individuals here in New Zealand who have limited their ambitions or downplayed their success due to their environment.
It is even considered admirable here to hide from the spotlight, or live below your means as to avoid too much attention.
Now, considering I come from the land of the giant neon sign and Lebron James, I found this difference to be quite stark. While humility is an important quality for successful people to maintain, I could not help but wonder how it affected New Zealand businesses.
I have come to the conclusion that it has huge implications.
Kiwis seem to turn their noses up at the idea of having to “sell” to people, and when you consider the prevalence of tall poppy syndrome here, it is easy to see why.
An important aspect of growing any business is its marketing capability.
Perhaps this is because as you grow your business, not only will you grab the attention of your potential clients, you will also be noticed by your competitors and other potentially negative people in your circle. You may find that you become the target of attacks on you personally or your work. Now this happens everywhere in the world.
What is unique in New Zealand is that Kiwis often also become the subject of scrutiny and ridicule in groups of people who genuinely care about them. Thinking outside of the box is reason enough in New Zealand for family and friends to raise their eyebrows at you.
It is important to have a passion for and belief in what your purpose is as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs can change the way we live and work. Their innovations can create jobs, improve our standards of living, and contribute to a more prosperous society.
Most business owners I know are in business because they believe in what they are doing or they believe they can help people. If that is the case, why not shout it from the rooftops?
Have a passion for what you are doing and tell people about it every single day. Entrepreneurship is not a zero sum game, and there is enough success to go around.
Sales and marketing are cornerstones of a successful business. Don’t let the fear of judgement stop you from becoming a success.
Rachael Mason is the managing director of Strategy Elevation Limited. www.strategyelevation.co.nz