“One way of improving business performance is by learning that there is a distinct New Zealand business culture. The expert in this area is Tony Smale of Forté Management.”

– Tony Alexander, Chief Economist, Bank of New Zealand


We all know New Zealand is one of the most multi-cultured countries in the world, however national culture is much deeper and more complex than just customs and conventions. We can observe customs and conventions, we can learn them and adopt them, however national culture is hardwired into our brains and influences our every thought and behavior.

Globalisation and a multi-cultured country increases intercultural interactions, which increases the probability of cultural misunderstandings, tensions and conflicts. The need for managers to include national culture in their strategies for management of their staff and customers has never been greater.

Why is national and company culture important for business?


  • Things have different meanings depending on where you come from. Understanding national culture and factoring it into strategy is a neglected opportunity in New Zealand. Despite having an increasingly multi-cultural workforce, and trading extensively with people from other cultures, we have been slow to recognise the benefits of evidence-based national cultural competence.


  • By understanding how Kiwis “tick”, we can factor this critical consideration into all aspects of employee management and learning. This includes ways to do business, how to relate to others and build strong working relationships, and how to express our feelings in the workplace.


  • While we can see customs and social behaviour, such as the way people greet each other and their body language, we cannot see their ideas, morals and the way their minds process receive, process and respond to information. These all affect marketing engagements, sales, staff performance, productivity and management.


  • People moving to New Zealand, even our closest cousins from Australia and the UK, often find Kiwi culture, customs and conventions puzzling and sometimes disconcerting. They often struggle to fit in, whether they are being managed by Kiwis or managing Kiwis. Ironically, even some of the good things about our Kiwi culture (like our laid-back friendliness) can be disconcerting when you don’t understand it. This means they can be unsettled and less productive than they could be.

How can Forté Management help my business improve by focusing on culture?


Forté Management are widely regarded as New Zealand’s business experts on the role of national culture. Tony’s MBA dissertation is titled “The Impact of National Culture on New Zealand’s Innovation Outcomes”, and he has spoken and written extensively on how understanding national culture can benefit businesses (find out more here) both in New Zealand and overseas.


As a brief example, the below outlines the way Kiwis are viewed by key international markets according to NZTE research:

  • Focused on short-term transactional relationships
  • Highly risk averse and weak negotiators
  • Reluctant to understand the customers’ cultures and consumer needs
  • Inflexible with a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude
  • Less fun to do business with than Australians


Forté can help to transform your business by sharing knowledge, skills and techniques with a focus on cultural behaviours and attitudes relevant to your industry. We work with your unique business needs. This might be helping your managers work with cultural factors to develop beneficial strategies for managing Kiwi staff and those from other cultures, or by guiding your employees to drive sales and business with both domestic and international markets using an understanding of national culture. Improving these processes, behaviours and attitudes to work with culture in mind can lead to increased business growth, employee satisfaction and high productivity.

To speak with us more about how Forté can help your business with culture consulting, training or coaching, get in touch.


We offer bespoke business consulting to achieve unique solutions.


Culture deeply influences our thinking, our working and our behaviour.


Professional development and management training for modern Kiwi businesses.


Create a workplace full of energy, collaboration and optimal outcomes.