Doing business in PNG

Something that I have never blogged about, is how doing business especially here in Port Moresby is quite different to how we do it in New Zealand or Australia or wherever.

As a rapidly developing country, PNG is embracing the new, trying to transformational change its thinking, but retain its cultural identity.  In 2011, there was poor internet, disgraceful service delivery (although that still happens today), very few services, and bugger all to do.  It has taken transformational thinking to find opportunities and embrace them.  The PNG LNG project was set to deliver this to PNG, and although social media, and the newspapers abound state that PNG has not reaped the rewards of this project, I see it quite differently.  Without PNG LNG we would not have seen such a rapid change, and certainly a significant amount of Papua New Guineans firstly were able to develop new skills, but also build wealth and emerge as a real force in the economy.

Our Generation Y is different to most.  They want what you get in the USA/Australia/New Zealand, but reflect on the fact that it’s not nessessarily the best thing for them and their family.  They understand that to get ahead, they need to gain education, work hard, and the rewards will come.  They also know – that connections (even more importantly in PNG) gain business and deliver opportunities.  And they need to grab those opportunities and make them theirs.

Life is hard for most here in PNG, even our most affluent citizens are exposed to the hardships of living a subsistence life, and it wasn’t that long ago where most of our senior leaders were just kids trying to scrape together a few Kina for their education.

PNG is all about connections, having the right ones, knowing how it works, developing relationships, connecting with wantoks.  I am constantly reminded of how fine a line it is when someone walks out of a presentation, and everyone notes in in their journal.  It doesn’t matter if there are 10 people or 50, everyone notices.  And especially if you are an expat here, Papua New Guineans expect that you lead by example, be consistent, be honest, and be respectful.  If you get those four simple things right, you develop key relationships.  

There are opportunities to mix with very influential people (who can spot fakeness a mile away), but don’t forget our grassroots people.  You might be surprised when that roughly dressed individual is a representative of a landowner group worth millions of dollars.  And that Ples Man maybe the most interesting person you have met in your lifetime…

It reminds me of when I was in Sales back in the 90’s.  I was at an event, and a young lady walked up to our trade tent. One of our company owners was “on the clock” his turn for inbound enquiries, and he saw this girl walking up to our stand.  She was in typical “teen wear” back in the 90’s and he decided that she was beneath his sales expertise, so he turned to me and said I could deal with her.  It turned out that she was the Executive Assistant to the CEO of a very large multinational.  Needless to say, I sold one of the biggest deals of my career just because I didn’t look down my nose at her and sold her not on what we had, but what I could help her with.

Papua New Guinean’s are some of the quietest people you will meet, they are also the nicest, and they can also get pretty pissed off.  You need to give people the time to talk, take the time to listen, and then make sure you are adding value to the conversation.  Any less and you won’t succeed.  Oh, and it helps being a Kiwi 😉

Come to think of it, really – doing business here in Moresby isn’t actually different to anywhere else.  If you aren’t leading by example, being consistent, being honest and respectful – hopefully you struggle everywhere you go….

Myself and my team work on the following 5 pillars: Honesty, Loyalty, Respect, Trust and Communication.  We arrange this in an X with Communication in the middle.  We talk about those pillars being what we want to be to ourselves, our team, our company and our customers.  We believe that these 5 pillars form the basis for any high performing team, and establish a founding set of principles that we build on.  I wish that everyone coming to PNG could at least start there 🙂

Driving in Port Moresby

Thanks to the raskols and attempted carjacking in August, I didn’t really have the mojo to write for a while.  Got it off my chest – then stewed for a long time.  My head wasn’t in the right space over the last part of the year, and I needed to completely relax over the Christmas period in order to get focus for another year.  (Not sure that I relaxed but…)

I was sitting there the other night thinking about what PNG does, that makes you better at something…  And the first thing I thought about was …. driving.

So how does being in PNG make you a better driver?

1. Your reactions are so much better!  Ever had a car on the outside of a roundabout go right around it and in front of you?  yup, that’s “surfing” the roundabout…  How about being in the line of traffic, so you are driving and go to overtake when you realise there is a [insert vehicle here – truck, bus, van, car, 2 cars, truck and trailer, etc] parked in your lane, with rocks placed behind the tyres (presumably because the handbrake doesn’t work – nah – just cause you can) completely immobilised, and you have to instantly check to make sure you aren’t going to hit a car traveling at 120km/hr from behind you (yes the speed limit is 60km/hr) and “dodge” around the car on the road.

2. You can dodge potholes at any speed, including at night, after a couple beers, with someone driving towards you with highbeams on.

3. You know how to work your Hazard lights, that you sometimes have to use when there is a crowd of people walking on the road, or a car broken down (see #1)

4. You can now drive through torrential monsoon rain where you can barely still see your car, let alone the car in front of you.

5. You can ford fast flowing rivers and creeks – as that is what happens to the roads when it rains…

6. You don’t go anywhere without your license!

7. You have reminder checks on your vehicles safety sticker and registration, and make sure you get new ones well in advance of them expiring

8. Every time you jump in your car, you check that all your lights are working (instant traffic fine – no matter what)

9. You learn how to stop without a stop sign, all you need is a policeman with a machine gun standing there

10. You make sure you have every excuse, address, wantoks name under the sun dialed into memory just in case you get stopped at a roadblock

11. You never leave home without your phone – just in case #10

12. You can ring and drive (yes we know it’s dangerous!), whilst dodging potholes and random abandoned cars.  Sometimes text and drive, and on the old occasion email and drive (shock horror!).

13. You identify approaching hazards well before you get to them…  The dog on the road (he will just cross it), the pig in the village (heaven forbid you hit one of those), the pikinini playing by the side of the road (omg – lukautim pikinini lo yu!), the people waiting to cross – running directly in front of you…

14. You know how to use a horn, whilst dodging potholes, texting, dodging abandoned cars, and avoiding stray dogs that someone, somewhere will claim ownership of.

15. You know how to yell at the taxi or PMV driver so that he knows that you aren’t some dim dim with no idea.  KKK isn’t a white supremist here – is abbreviation for the swear words that you yell in tok pisin at the taxi/pmv driver

16. You can line up the coke cans on the road to crush them using your tyres for the locals (lotsa Kina in crushed cans)

17. You always have a few Kina on you to pay someone to change your tyre

18. You know exactly how to change your tyre (see #17) so someone else can do it for you 🙂 (it’s no fun doing this in 30+ degree heat!)

19. You routinely run carjacking exercises, where everyone in the car ducks and you can still drive 500 metres up the road without looking at the road, driving by feel – hehehe

20. You learn to love the AC, leaving your windows up and your limbs inside the car

21. You know exactly how to jump into your car and lock the doors in under .23 of a second

22. You learn how to change oil, water, check tyre pressures etc – all because you actually have too

23. You can reverse (super fast) back down a road, in the middle of the night without crashing

24. Who needs 3 point turns, you’ve now mastered the handbrakey turn

25. You can park exactly in the middle of a carpark (actually, excludes those with DC plates – they can’t park)

26. You have no issue sliding from lane to lane, at speed, whilst talking to someone on the phone and yelling at the kids to shaddup..

27. You don’t need a GPS – you know exactly where you are going, and if you get lost you just keep driving whilst ringing the person to where you are going to and see #26

28. You can identify a police car, not because is says police on it – you just know

29. You learn how to travel in Convoy following a madman who does #26 #14 and #19 routinely

30. You recognise all your friends car’s, and know all of their number plates (so you can tell the guards to let them into your compound), you remember all their phone numbers too.

31. You see dead dogs on the road and you don’t flinch, waver or cause an accident.  You slide the car past as if it wasn’t even in the way – without taking a breath.

32. Bonus: Your kids learn how to count (How many dogs were dead on the freeway today?  2 Dad!) and learn the alphabet by playing I Spy (I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with D D…   Dead Dog!)

33. Riding shotgun takes on a whole new meaning in Moresby…  You strategically place your passengers in the car, intimidation sometimes is best 🙂

34. You figure out who to wave to, and you can spot a roadside fruit seller 300 metres away

35. You learn the international signs for:  I don’t want any; piss off; come here; I’m watching you buddy; I’ll see you later; yes, its me, I live here; look at my sticker!

36. You figure out what #35 means

37. You know where to get air for tyres, and what fuel station doesn’t have water in the fuel problems.

38. You can shift house with someone standing on the back of your ute holding on to everything

38. And just for my mate Andrew – you can reverse a boat up 400 metres of winding narrow road, through a security gate, up a hill and into a garage – without a permit or anyone getting pissed off

love it 🙂

3 years on, our PNG adventure continues

I began this journey well over 3 years ago, but arrived here in Port Moresby on the 18th August 2011, 3 very short years ago.

Over the past 3 years, I think I have answered a few thousand emails from people wanting to move to PNG, met lots of people via my blog, and I think it’s fair to say, generally given people a balanced viewpoint on living and working here in Port Moresby.

Some people that have contacted me through my blog have become our lifelong friends, our family. Moving here with a young family has meant that we have watched our children and our friends children all grow up together, and as some of our friends depart these shores to parts and places all around the world, we know that in the future we will meet again. Our children will always have wantok’s no matter where they go, and the world becomes a much smaller place.

When we arrived here, my little one was 1 year old. She doesn’t remember living in NZ and Papua New Guinea is her home. We go “on holiday” to New Zealand, which must be amazing for a little girl. She doesn’t “see” race, or skin colour, and she is happy with the little things she has. My big kids need more, but they are now more in tune with the effects of poverty and hardship than they ever could be back in NZ, and I hope that when they grow up they will take a lot of the life skills they have learned here in PNG and turn them to do good in the future.

And although this might be the end of our 3 year contract, it isn’t the end of our journey here in Port Moresby. My company has extended my contract for another 3 years, which really sounds like a lifetime away now. As the older children transition into High School, we may have to reassess if things don’t work out, but we are still here, still trying to make a difference, and still helping new people and families with the information and tools that they need when they move here to PNG.

Sadly though, we have watched many of our friends depart. Some have finished contracts, some have had other opportunities, a lot are finishing up this year. It is sad knowing that your support group is leaving, but I am sure that those voids will be filled by other families, and our close bonds will get closer.

We have experienced amazing things; just 2 weeks ago, Xanthe (our eldest) had a week long school camp at Tufi Dive Resort. Last year it was Kokopo and Rabaul… Awesome memories! We have had some real highs, (Kokopo was a high) and some real lows (being stuck in the middle of a bush knife fight), but we have never really regretted the decision to come here.

We have watched Port Moresby grow into a very modern city at such a fast rate, and have watched as my staff have gone from
a young team, to one that could easily perform on the world stage.

We are onto our 3rd High Commissioner (maybe there is a job there for me one day – not!), and back home in NZ we are about to have another general election (the 2nd since leaving). Our home back in Dunedin is onto its 2nd lot of tenants, and the place might needed to be painted this year – it is hard having a rental back in NZ, and if I did it all over again, I would have sold the property so that would be one less thing to worry about.

We’ve also had some fantastic holidays, not just back to New Zealand, but also here in PNG, to Singapore, Australia, and Vanuatu. Next year we may go a little further and take the children to Disneyland whilst we are all together.

We never bought a boat here, and for some reason don’t get invited out that much, however – with 3 kids, it can be hard for others to invite such a big family… If I was to move up again, I would have thrown a couple of jetski’s into the container – much cheaper back home than here. But we are Ok with the time we get to go out, and of course are very grateful when we do.

I have some pretty cool ideas to take the next step with my blog, and have been doing some video’s that I intend to upload to YouTube so hopefully I can get that going soon.

But until that happens, there is plenty of work, Bedisloe Cup watching with the Kiwi Club, and the bi-annual Kiwi Club ball is coming up in October. There’s always plenty of parties – sometimes too many, we’d love to catch them all, but it can be hard. And there is the annual trip back to NZ for Christmas coming up soon. Jacinta and the kids get out for the entire school holidays as it is a little boring, but also damn hot here in Moresby.

As I turn another chapter over, I would like to thank everyone for commenting on my blog, and making it into the resource it is. There was nothing like this when I moved up here, and I trust that the information and insight into PNG and Port Moresby really does help.

Again, if you see us out and about, please stop us for a quick Hi! We really appreciate knowing that we helped in your decision to make a difference here in Papua New Guinea.


Don’t be shy!

I had to go and get some groceries today, and whilst sitting in Lei’s Cafe at The Waterfront enjoying a coffee with no wife nor kids, I noticed a couple of people kept glancing furtive glances my way.

Either I’m one scary looking guy, or they were working out if they had read my blog, and trying to figure out if it was me or not, and wondering if they should ask..

Ask! Shout me a coffee or a beer, I don’t mind! 🙂

I answer so many questions, send lots of emails, and yet so many people rock up to Port Moresby and then never say Hi once they get here.

So if you see a tattooed kiwi (I have a large maori tattoo on my left forearm), sometimes wearing an All Blacks cap, commonly wearing rasta jandals, more often than not with a wife and 3 kids – girl10,boy8,girl3 – and always drinking coffee. Then don’t be scared, come share your story and let me know if this blog helped you out, and if there is something that you can add – how about a guest post 🙂

We are often sitting down at the Sails Cafe area (Yacht Club) on a Friday evening supervising our children playing whilst enjoying a cool SP or two – none of our friends bite either 🙂


New Expat to Port Moresby?

I know my blog posts have died down, but that might have to do with all the emails I crank out… I thought I would create one of those posts where I hope some of my fellow Port Moresby resident expats can help by commenting … Please 🙂

So, you are thinking about the adventure, maybe you are just going through the interview stages and its looking good, or you might have accepted your contract and you are coming up for a look/see whilst your visa and work permit is being processed. You will be thinking – what to bring! So here is my list of things you should bring with you, even if you have no interest – trust me 🙂

  1. iPods, music systems – preferably big and loud (for the parties you will hold). You will want normal party music, lots of it. Don’t worry about what you like, just bring stuff that everyone else likes 🙂
  2. Portable hard drives. You never know when someone has that great movie collection, and you need to copy it.
  3. A great electronic movie collection – if you share, you make more friends!
  4. Something like a WD Live or Apple TV to connect your movies to your TV (which you should also bring)
  5. A good BBQ – at least 4/5 burner. Yes, you might have a small family, or just be a single – but trust me, a big BBQ is perfect for BBQ parties.
  6. Lots of wine glasses, and an extra dinner set including cutlery
  7. A proper coffee machine. No pods here – but the best ground coffee in the world
  8. A UPS for your electronic stuff, make sure it’s a good one.
  9. Surge protection, Belkin do great 6/8 way boards
  10. Black Tie for blokes, including bow-tie and ruffled white shirt.
  11. Ladies – maybe one cocktail dress, you can get plenty here in the 2nd hand shops so don’t go overboard.
  12. Sport shoes. Good quality ones, and if you intend to really pound the roads, bring a spare pair
  13. Tennis racket and balls – even if you don’t play, you will get invites
  14. Squash racket and balls – refer 13.
  15. Your favorite sporting team jersey or shirt. Even better if it a rugby one or league…
  16. Noise canceling earphones – for all the flying in and out
  17. A frequent flyer membership! Figure out how to use it properly, check
  18. Good quality dive/snorkeling gear. Make sure that they are suitable for the tropics.
  19. If you golf – bring your clubs, if you think golf might be something you’d do, bring some clubs
  20. Life jackets for everyone!
  21. At least 2 pairs of Polaroid sunnies
  22. Lots of dress ups! Face paint, crap like that, as you will be bound to go to dress up parties…
  23. If you like fishing, or would like to fish – bring some fishing gear
  24. Kindle – a normal one, the light is bright, so you really need the Matt screen
  25. Smartphone – easier for Facebook etc. you can pick up a cheap old school mobile for nix here
  26. Camera – spare batteries and cards
  27. Rechargeable AA and AAA batteries and charger
  28. Torch
  29. Freestanding Light (like a torch)
  30. Really good kitchen knife set
  31. Containers that seal shut
  32. iPad or other device
  33. DVD player
  34. Battery or power mossie zapper
  35. Suncream
  36. Top shelf alcohol
  37. Fitness gear if you have it.
  38. A good bed if you need it. If you don’t, then don’t bother
  39. A small chest freezer
  40. Pack of cards
  41. Laptop
  42. Good quality suitcases
  43. Good quality backpack
  44. Chilly bin/cooler/esky – Large, Small and fabric
  45. BPA free water bottles
  46. A good jug
  47. Toaster
  48. Frying pan etc
  49. Cotton clothes
  50. Good quality sheets, pillows etc

If you have anything to add – please do,