Six tips to grow a business in Papua New Guinea


How do you build a solid business in Papua New Guinea? Two seasoned business operators, S P Brewery Chairman Stan Joyce and Kina Asset Management Ltd’s Managing Director Syd Yates, share their tips with Business Advantage PNG.

1. Get the right people and set clear expectations

The Chairman of South Pacific (SP) Breweries, Stan Joyce, says that sourcing and managing staff in Papua New Guinea can be a challenge.

‘There’s no doubt that, in certain areas of business, the talent pool is perhaps a little shallower than you would find elsewhere in the world,’ he says. ‘That’s a matter of doing best with what you can get, setting your standards and never deviate from them to make sure you develop people to meet those standards.’

Syd Yates, Managing Director, Kina Asset Management Ltd, says staff needs to be seen as an asset.

‘You can achieve anything by training them [the staff],’ he explains. You invest in them by training and you maintain them by paying them well. Give them good returns, cover for medical, and make sure that you give them a career path if necessary.

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‘You generally attract the best staff by using that sort of approach.’

2. Think outside Port Moresby

Whereas Port Moresby offers key advantages to set up a business in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, other centres could offer other advantages.

For example, Joyce has spent a lot of his time in Lae, the second largest city in the country.

‘Lae is a modern industrial centre and [because of its location] it is able to provide a solid geographical base for people to conduct their businesses,’ he says. ‘I think there’s a little bit of a thing in people’s heads about the great big mountain range between the two [main] cities, but maybe they’re not as far away from each other as sometimes people pretend.’

3. Work with power providers and be ready

It’s no secret that power outages happen in PNG, and they occur often. But, how can a business deal with them?

‘Any manufacturing facility requires power generation capabilities. You need to work with the power provider. To this day, we still advise people to have their backup considerations in place,’ says Joyce.

Yates says, while things things have improved since he started in business in PNG, businesses must prepare in advance for power outages but also other shortages, such as water cuts. ‘You getting used to this by being more prepared,’ he says.

4. Plan and plan again

Joyce’s background in manufacturing has taught him about the logistical challenges that need to be overcome. He suggests not expecting things to work fine from the get go and always plan—’always planning, planning, planning followed by another plan,’ he suggests.

He explains that there needs to be really close control over the supply chain and make sure you are aware of where your products are at all stages.

5. Have patience and commit

Both businessmen agree that PNG has plenty of opportunities for those who are there for the long run, for investors and shareholders who can plan for a rainy season and wait for another boom cycle. ‘You have to plan for the future’ as Yates says.

‘The advice I give to everybody in family reunions: if you’re looking for a short term opportunity, then probably keep going. But if you are looking for a long term, relationship, if you believe you have the tenacity that is required to survive those shocks along the way, there will be a profitable long term history,’ says Joyce. Many of the companies I’m involved with have been here for many years, one of them is 100 years old.’

6. Focus on the population

PNG, as Joyce says, has a ‘fantastic demographic with young consumers, and it will grow. He also believes more projects will come through as the economy grows and that manufactures goods and consumer products will grow in the PNG market

One last word of advice: ‘There’s nothing wrong with failing and trying again, many people that are successful had four or five goes at it. So, you know, this idea that I’ll just start up a small business and everything will be perfect is new work,’ he says.

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