Posts tagged ‘business’


Is there a type that works from home more easily?

27.03.2020

Olivia St Redfern has featured yours truly in her lockdown day 2, part 1 podcast, so I decided to record another response.
   It brings to mind something Steve McQueen once said. ‘I’m not an actor. I’m a reactor.’ As in, he could react to a line from another actor.
   Anyone who has seen McQueen in a film, certainly anything post-Blob, would dispute that—the king of cool was an excellent actor. But for now, as someone who had avoided doing a podcast for two decades, I “react” to Olivia’s episodes, and recorded a response on Anchor:

   At some point I might do an entry independently but considering the first has only had one listen (out of hundreds who might read a blog post of mine), then there’s not a huge incentive! (Update: that episode has doubled its audience to two.)
   History tells us that it took a while for Melrose Place to be seen as more than a 90210 spin-off, for instance. And Joey never managed it post-Friends.
   This second one does make one point about working from home. As mentioned before, I’ve been doing this since 1987, so the only difference with the lockdown (and the days leading up to it) is that I don’t feel as “special”. But I also know that not everyone is enjoying their work arrangements, such as this British QC:

   I posted my 12 tips for working from home, but when chatting to Amanda today, there might be a bit more to it than that. Maybe there’s something about one’s personality that makes working from home easier.
   While I have things to do each day, I don’t make lists. I’m more substantive than procedural. In the daytime, I try to answer emails or see to urgent stuff. I almost never do accounts at night: that’s another daytime pursuit. I know to reserve time to do those but I don’t religiously set it to 2 p.m., for instance. The beauty of working from home is flexibility, so why re-create a regimented schedule?
   At night I tend to do more creative things, e.g. design and art direction. My work day is extended because I enjoy my work.
   My advice to those making the shift is to do away with the lists. Know the direction and get things done as the inspiration hits you. It’s meant to be calmer than the bustle of office life.

People should find exponential growth an easy concept to grasp, at least those of us of a certain age. Heather Locklear taught all of us with Fabergé shampoo.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, interests, internet, marketing, New Zealand, TV, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Cellphone? What cellphone?

29.02.2020

It’s true. I spent time on business development, answering emails, doing tech stuff on our sites, and generally kept on top of things. I often wonder if I would have become an active Facebooker or Tweeter had they been invented and come into my orbit in, say, 2002. We all may have been too busy with our own ventures. The fact they surfaced (for me) in 2007, and became part of my routine the following year as the economy slowed can’t be a coincidence. Instagram, in 2012, also falls into this period. I convinced myself that these social media would provide some advantage, or bring opportunities that otherwise couldn’t be readily located elsewhere, but that wasn’t the case. Like Linkedin, I’m not sure if any of these websites have brought work opportunities that resulted in an invoice.
   Once you fall out of the habit, then the device itself isn’t that useful, either, for someone who never really embraced the cellphone as a primary means of communication—I maintained a landline all these years. I never even had a regular cellphone number till 2006: I got people to call my colleagues who did carry them (I was paying for the damned things, after all). I’m not sure I want to be contactable in my waking hours that readily. I’ll take work calls in my office, thank you, and personal calls elsewhere; and if I’m out, then I’m driving or meeting with someone, and neither is a good time to be interrupted. The landline has this amazing feature called an answerphone, and it records and plays back messages when I’m good and ready to hear them.
   Since Dad passed, there’s one fewer need to be contactable day and night, and realistically I only see it as something that other members of my family and close friends should reach me on now. The number has never appeared on a single business card of mine, for good reason. As we head into the 2020s I’m hoping each of us decides where lines should be drawn. I think mine’s right here: no more cellphones for work; at best, they’re a last resort. I need to organize my schedule better and cellphones just don’t help, apps even less so. It comes back to this crazy belief of mine that technology is here to serve us, not the other way round. By all means, if your cellphone serves you, then use it—I can think of countless professions where it is a must. But for the rest of us, it’s a relief not to be burdened with it.

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Thumbs-up for Thomas and Professional Painting & Decorating Ltd. in Wellington

09.02.2020

On Linkedin, they say you shouldn’t connect with people you haven’t worked with, although in the early days of the site, there were some of us keen to connect with the “power connectors”, those who had amassed lots of connections. Who knows if they really had worked with that many people? But before we knew much about social media and one’s regular tribes, some of those numbers looked really appealing. In later years I found myself disconnecting from them to give Linkedin visitors a more accurate picture of who I had actually worked with; and sadly, in some cases, disconnecting from people I really had worked with because I noticed my contact list was getting raided by newer power-connector wannabes.
   But here’s someone I haven’t connected with on Linkedin, as I assume he isn’t on it (based on a fairly comprehensive search): Thomas Nguyen of Professional Painting & Decorating Ltd. And you know he must be good if he’s wound up getting a blog post about him.
   Thomas has been working on my partner’s rental property, both inside and outside. He’s proved to be reliable and accommodating. And when another contractor—who I still don’t think knew what he was doing—screwed up his part of it and walked off the job, we asked Thomas to finish things up, which he and his team did.
   So far he’s stuck to his quotes, been very flexible as we asked him to do extra things, and he’s even gone above and beyond in a couple of instances. He’s taken all feedback on board, too, like a real pro. Even his SMSs are well written!
   No surprise he’s received four 100 per cent ratings on No Cowboys.
   We checked out some of his earlier work before we hired him, so we aren’t one-offs.
   He’s been going for five years and relied on word of mouth to get business. I told him I had a particularly big mouth when it came to Twitter, but a blog post seems less fleeting, and more sincere—we really do think highly of him. If you need someone in the Wellington area, Thomas and Professional Painting & Decorating Ltd. are highly recommended.
   Daniel at Harrisons has looked after us on the carpet front and he’s also proved capable and friendly. Out of the carpet people we’ve approached, he’s also been the best, though admittedly you don’t have as much contact with the carpet sales’ rep as you do with your painters.

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Posted in business, marketing, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


Carlos Ghosn redresses the balance

10.01.2020

It’s been fascinating to watch Carlos Ghosn’s press conference in Beirut, and subsequent interviews, confirming my own suspicions back in November 2018 (as Tweeted and blogged).

   Criticisms of Japan’s justice system don’t just come from Ghosn. There was Mark Karpeles, who endured 11 months awaiting trial in Japan. From the Asia Times:

But Karpeles didn’t confess. Prosecutors kept re-arresting him and denied his lawyer’s request for bail again and again. During his incarceration, he suffered mild frost-bite, malnutrition and sleep disorders and went slightly stir crazy. He finally won bail in July 2016.

and:

It didn’t surprise me that the police and prosecutors didn’t want to find the real criminal: I had seen it before in the 2002 Nick Baker drug smuggling case. In that case, Japanese prosecutors declined evidence from overseas police agencies that supported Briton Baker’s assertion that he had been framed by his traveling companion. Their aim in the case was simple: conviction.

   The criticism isn’t coming only from foreigners. Carlos Ghosn’s own lawyer in Japan, Takashi Takano, recalled on his blog:

「・・・残念ながら、この国では刑事被告人にとって公正な裁判など期待することはできない。裁判官は独立した司法官ではない。官僚組織の一部だ。日本のメディアは検察庁の広報機関に過ぎない。しかし、多くの日本人はそのことに気がついていない。あなたもそうだ。20年間日本の巨大企業の経営者として働いていながら、日本の司法の実態について何も知らなかったでしょ。」

「考えもしなかった。」

「逮捕されたら、すぐに保釈金を積んで釈放されると思っていた?」

「もちろん、そうだ。」

「英米でもヨーロッパでもそれが当たり前だ。20日間も拘束されるなんてテロリストぐらいでしょう。でもこの国は違う。テロリストも盗人も政治家もカリスマ経営者も、みんな逮捕されたら、23日間拘禁されて、毎日5時間も6時間も、ときには夜通しで、弁護人の立ち会いもなしに尋問を受け続ける。罪を自白しなかったら、そのあとも延々と拘禁され続ける。誰もその実態を知らない。みんな日本は人権が保障された文明国だと思い込んでいる。」

「・・・公正な裁判は期待できないな。」

   The Asia Times story has a translation, and you’re free to copy and paste into a translation service.
   As someone who follows the car industry, and holds business and law degrees, this case has fascinated me far more than any Instagram caption from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—and it will also be interesting to see how Renault Nissan Mitsubishi deals with the fallout.

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Posted in business, cars, France, globalization, media, TV | No Comments »


The “fortress America” approach to the internet fuels piracy

21.12.2019

There are websites such as CBS News in the US that no longer let us here in New Zealand view them. US Auto Trader is another one. It’s a damned shame, because I feel it’s a stab at the heart of what made the internet great—the fact that we could be in touch with each other across borders. These two US websites, and there are plenty more, are enacting the “fortress America” policy, and I’ve never believed that isolationism is a good thing.
   Let’s start with the Auto Trader one. As someone who found his car on the UK Auto Trader website, it seems daft for the US to limit itself to its own nation’s buyers. What if someone abroad really would like an American classic? Then again, I accept that classic cars are few and far between on that site, and if photos from the US are anything to go by, the site’s probably full of Hyundai Sonatas and Toyota Camrys anyway.

   I went to the CBS website because of a Twitter link containing an interesting headline. Since we’re blocked from seeing that site, then I logically fed the same headline into a search engine and found it in two places. The first was Microsoft News, which I imagine is fine for CBS since they probably still get paid a licence for it. The second, however, was an illegal content mill that had stolen the article.
   I opted for the former to (a) do the right thing and (b) avoid the sort of pop-ups and other annoying ads that content mills often host, but what if the Microsoft version was unavailable? These geo-restrictions actually encourage piracy and does the original publisher out of income, and I can’t see that as a good thing.
   Some blamed the GDPR coming into force in the EU, so it appears CBS—which apparently is against Donald Trump talking isolationism yet practises it—decided to lump “not America” into one group and include us in it. But so what if GDPR is in force? It’s asking you to have more reasonable protections for privacy—you know, the sort of thing your websites probably had 15 years ago by default?
   I still don’t think it’s that hard to ask users to hop over to Aboutads.info and opt out of ad tracking on each of their browsers. We haven’t anything as sophisticated as some websites, which put their controls front and centre, but we at least provide links; and we ourselves don’t collect intrusive data. Yes, some ad networks we use do (which you can opt out of), but we’d never ask them for it. The way things are configured, I don’t even know your IP address when you feed in a comment.
   Ours isn’t a perfect solution but at least we don’t isolate—we welcome all walks of life, regardless of where you hail from. Just like the pioneers of the web, such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Make the internet great again.

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Big Tech and advertising: the con is being revealed

13.11.2019

People are waking up to the fact that online advertising isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
   Last month, Bob Hoffman’s excellent The Ad Contrarian newsletter noted, ‘I believe the marketing industry has pissed away hundreds of billions of dollars on digital fairy tales and ad fraud over the past 10 years (in fact, I’m writing a book about it.) If I am right, and if the article in question is correct, we are in the midst of a business delusion unmatched in all of history.’ He linked to an article by Jesse Frederik and Mauritz Martin (also sent to me by another colleague), entitled ‘The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising’ in The Correspondent. In it, they cast doubt over the effectiveness of online ads, hidden behind buzzwords and the selection effect. If I understand the latter correctly, it means that people who are already predisposed to your offering are more likely to click on your ads, so the ads aren’t actually netting you new audiences.
   Here’s the example Frederik and Martin give:

Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.”

   The summary is that despite these companies claiming there’s a correlation between advertising with them and some result, the truth is that no one actually knows.
   And the con is being perpetuated by the biggest names in the business.
   As Hoffman noted at the end of October:

A few decades ago the advertising industry decided they couldn’t trust the numbers they were being given by media. The result was the rise of third-party research, ratings, and auditing organizations.
   But there are still a few companies that refuse to allow independent, third-party auditing of their numbers.

   No surprises there. I’ve already talked about Facebook’s audience estimates having no relationship with the actual population, so we know they’re bogus.
   And, I imagine, they partly get away with it because of their scale. One result of the American economic orthodoxy these days is that monopolies are welcome—it’s the neoliberal school of thinking. Now, I went through law school being taught the Commerce Act 1986 and the Trade Practices Act 1974 over in Australia, and some US antitrust legislation. I was given all the economic arguments on why monopolies are bad, including the starvation of innovation in their sector.
   Roger McNamee put me right there in Zucked, essentially informing me that what I learned isn’t current practice in the US. And that is worrisome at the least.
   It does mean, in places like Europe which haven’t bought into this model, and who still have balls (as well as evidence), they’re happy to go after Google over their monopoly. And since our anti-monopoly legislation is still intact, and one hopes that we don’t suddenly change tack (since I know the Commerce Act is under review), we should fight those monopoly effects that Big Tech has in our country.
   What happens to monopolies? Well, if past behaviour is any indication, they can get broken up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is simply recounting American history when she suggests that that’s what Facebook, Google and Amazon should endure. There was a time when Republicans and Democrats would have been united on this prospect, given the trusts that gave rise to their Sherman Act in 1890, protecting the public from market failures like these. Even a generation ago, they’d never have allowed companies to get this influential.
   Also a generation ago, we wouldn’t swallow the BS an advertising platform gave us without something to back it up. Right now, it seems we don’t have anything—and the industry is beginning to cry foul.


Lorie Shaull/Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 2·0

Regardless of your political stripes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling for the break-up of Big Tech made sense as recently as a generation ago.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, New Zealand, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


A couple of days before it became official: thoughts on PSA and FCA linking up

01.11.2019


Companies in FCA’s and PSA’s histories did once produce the Plymouth Horizon, so historically there is some precedent to a trans-Atlantic arrangement—not to mention the type 220 and 179 minivans and the commercial vehicles currently in PSA’s and Fiat’s ranges.

This is a few days old, but it’s nice to know that these hurriedly written thoughts on a private Facebook group reflected what I read a day later in the automotive press.

   Copied and pasted from the above (and yes, I know it should be e-208):

I read that as well, Jonathan. Elkann would be chairman and Tavares the CEO. I guess Fiat had to move on from talking with Renault while they have their internal squabbles. While some praise Marchionne, I thought it was foolish to let the less profitable marques suffer as he did—the global economy doesn’t stay buoyant all the time and at some point not everyone will want a hotted-up Alfa or Maserati. Especially as there seems to be no cohesive platform strategy. I think Fiat realizes the shambles it’s actually in despite what the share price says. There is some sense to have PSA platforms underpin a lot of Fiats (let’s face it, very little of the Fiat range is on a Fiat platform—there are GM, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Ford and PSA bits—and the old Grande Punto platform can only go so far), but the more premium marques will still have to have unique platforms.
   Fiat really needs to do some rationalization of its own before approaching others but my sense is that it’s gone too far down this road and has no investment in either next-generation B- (Jeep Renegade) or C-platforms (Giulietta) where a lot of European sales will still lie. Its only real prize here is Jeep.
   Tavares will be able to slash a great deal and Europe could look good quite quickly, but I doubt anyone has any focus on the US side of things other than Jeep. PSA has some limited experience in South America but it won’t be able to integrate that as easily. And neither has any real strength in China despite being early entrants, with, again, Jeep being the exception. (Peugeot, DS and Citroën are struggling in China.)
   He had claimed that PSA was looking at some sort of alternative retail model for the US, but it also seemed a bit far off.
   If this happens, I think Tavares will “do a Talbot” on anything Fiat-related in Europe, eventually killing the Fiat marque (with maybe just a 208e-based 500 remaining), and keep Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep. Chrysler will remain with the Pacifica, Dodge might still have the Durango, but everything else would get the chop unless they consider bringing in a rebadged 508. Ram and Fiat Profissional will stay as separate entities. Fiat do Brasil will get some PSA tech. Then there might be some logic to what is left but I still feel Fiat has to get itself in order first.

   On reflection, maybe I was a little harsh on Sergio, as ignoring the mass-market brands has left FCA, with a portfolio of specialist and premium ones, a reasonably good fit for an organization that has the opposite set of strengths.
   One question remains: which is the cheap brand, the Plymouth, here? You can’t always go premium: sooner or later, economies weaken and people will want something entry-level. There may be wisdom to retaining Fiat in some shape or form. One more 108 variant can’t hurt …

Anyone notice a pattern here? That any company that owns Jeep eventually diminishes its own brand. Willys, Kaiser, AMC, Chrysler, and Fiat are either dead or no longer the forces they once were. Renault managed a controlling interest in AMC with 46·4 per cent in 1982, but that was bought by Chrysler five years later. At some stage, we must tire of these massive vehicles, and already there’s a suggestion that, in the US at least, nonconformist younger buyers are eyeing up sedans. Great if you’re Nissan in the US (and China), not so much if you’re Ford.

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Posted in business, cars, China, France, USA | No Comments »


The latest round of Facebook lies

26.10.2019

I believe one of the Democrat-leaning newspapers in the US compiles a list of lies by Donald Trump. I really think we should be doing one for Facebook, as it would make for impressive reading, though it would also take some time to compile.
   Founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed he talked to media from ‘across the spectrum’, but as The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz and Sam Biddle discovered, this is another lie: Zuckerberg cultivates relationships with US conservatives, not their liberals, based on the duo’s checks.

   This adds fuel to the fire that Zuckerberg dreads US senator Elizabeth Warren getting into the White House, and has said so, and we know the buck really stops with him when it comes to Facebook’s activities. Facebook even pulled Sen. Warren’s ads from their platform briefly: so much for impersonal algorithms, ‘We’re just a platform,’ and free speech. We also know from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning of the Facebook founder that he claims he passes the buck on what media are considered legit to a conservative group, something he’ll have sanctioned, so be prepared to see Facebook reflect his (and Trump-supporting, Facebook board member Peter Thiel’s) right-wing political views.
   As Schwarz and Biddle also note, Facebook’s VP for US public policy is a George W. Bush aide and a board member for the former president’s museum.
   Jack Morse at Mashable, meanwhile, reported that Zuckerberg is attempting historical revisionism on why he started Facebook. Retconning might work with comic books but less so in real life. Apparently, instead of the truth—a website which scraped photos of students and asked people to rate who was hotter—Facebook is now something created to give people a voice after the Iraq war in 2003.
   Sorry, Mark, we know you didn’t have such noble intentions, regardless of what they eventually became.
   It’s an insult to all those entrepreneurs who actually did start businesses or ventures with noble intent or socially responsible purposes.
   Frankly, sticking to the truth, and saying you discovered the power of connecting people, is a far more compelling story.
   Except, of course, Facebook no longer connects people. It divides people by validating their own biases, including less savoury viewpoints. It stokes outrage because that’s worth more clicks and time spent on its site. At worst, it’s a tool used for genocide. It’s a shame Facebook refuses to acknowledge the Pandora’s box it has opened, because its top management has no desire to do a thing about it. And as such it loses my respect even further. Don’t want the likes of Warren calling for breaking your company up? The solution is actually quite simple, but you all have become too rich and too establishment to want to break things.
   I actually had to write this in my op–ed for Lucire’s 22nd anniversary last week: ‘In this respect, we see our mission as the opposite of social media: we want to bring people together, not usher them into silos and echo chambers.’ The narrative Facebook wishes to spin, like so many in its past, is an easily seen-through joke.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Has Google My Business ever given you business?

22.08.2019

I had a call from a nice gentleman working for Google called Shabhaz today. No, he wasn’t about to tell me that I wasn’t on the ‘first page of Google’: he worked for Google My Business, where they want to verify businesses and suck them into the ecosystem, complete with dashboard and social features.
   I’ve always ignored the postcards that come and the one time my curiosity was piqued, the blasted site didn’t work anyway. I can’t remember the specifics now, but I recall my usual reaction: ‘What Google says and what Google does are entirely different things.’ You come to expect it from US Big Tech.
   I suppose if you ignore it for enough years, the Big G phones you.
   I proceeded to tell Shabhaz all the reasons I hated (actually, that’s not strong enough a word) his firm, but kept repeating, ‘I’m not angry at you, only at your employer.’ And words to the effect of, ‘A man has to make a living, so I don’t have a problem that you work for them, but this is a firm with highly dubious ethics.’
   He did say, ‘If I had that experience, I’d hate them, too,’ and I had to correct him and expand on the stories: ‘It’s not just about my experience—it’s all the things Google does that violate our privacy, not just mine, but everyone’s.’
   Nevertheless, you can’t stay angry at a guy who has had nothing to do with his bosses’ incompetence, greed, avarice and tax avoidance, and is only trying to collect a pay cheque, so I agreed to help him out.
   Of course, it didn’t work as planned, as updating the address leads to this:

   The house has only been there since 1972, and Google Earth has it, but then we all know that Google Earth operates in some kind of parallel universe—parallel to even Google My Business, it seems. One day, I suspect Google will catch up with houses built in the 1970s.
   But seriously, with three businesses all linked to my email address (Heaven knows how) I wonder if anyone has ever got any business through Google My Business.
   I’ve been on Linkedin longer than most people I know and I’ve never received any work enquiries from it.
   And I’ve yet to have anyone tell me that they found my business through Google, so I’m tempted to delete the listings for Jack Yan & Associates and Lucire from the My Business dashboard.
   The thing is, I don’t want to read your reviews about my businesses on Google. I don’t want to risk getting piled on by unethical actors, which totally can happen in this day and age. If you want to reach us, there’s a good contact form with all the addresses on our sites.
   So what’s the prognosis out there? Since I actually don’t use the site except as a last resort, and have little desire to, your experience far outweighs mine.

On a related note, this also made me wonder about competence.

   I’ve never given my permission to be in the Yellow Pages. And the fact that Lucire does screen printing is news to me. Who makes up this bullshit and tries to pass it off as authoritative?
   A Tweet to them is so far unanswered, so I may get in touch with them to have this listing removed. This one I can answer: since I’ve never been in the Yellow Pages, I can say, hand on heart, that I’ve never had any business from them. By the looks of it, they’ll never send me anything relevant anyway.

In summary, today’s thought about Google:

PS.: Yellow has deleted our entry (done within hours of my complaint).

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Surely, it can’t be this hard

25.07.2019

Is it just me, or are companies getting more stupid by the day?

July 25, 2019

Marshall Freeman Collections (NZ) Ltd.
PO Box 302-218
NHPC
Auckland

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am in receipt of your letter dated the 19th inst.
   If you are indeed an extension of Plumbquick’s credit control department, you should check with them about their procedures.
   You may wish to ask the following.

   (a) When booking the job, did your client take down my credit card number?
   (b) Did your client advise me that if the invoice was not paid that they would charge that credit card?
   (c) Did I offer your client’s plumbers payment on completion of the job on the day but they said it would be sorted out with their accounts’ department, especially if they already had my credit card on file?
   (d) Did your client send out their invoice dated May 21, 2019 with a due date of May 21, 2019, which would result in my reasonably expecting that (b) would take place?

   Now, since I am not in possession of a time machine, and considering I received the invoice on May 25, 2019, all four questions above should be answered in the affirmative.
   Your client needs to be advised to, first, contact the customer themselves (well before July 19, incidentally), secondly, follow their own procedures, and thirdly, not provide a credit controller with a fiction about a late payment. I have no desire to affect excellent credit that I have spent decades building because of another party’s negligence.
   I trust this clears this matter up.

Yours faithfully,

   In case you’re wondering, my credit card has been charged.
   I also highly recommend Bernie and Pipe Dream Plumbing in Tawa.

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