How to make it as a Kiwi in New York

New York City is one of the most dynamic, creative and busiest places on earth.  It requires a certain amount of skill to navigate the business ecosystem and connect with key people of influence. The good news is that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. 

To successfully sell in NYC you need to understand ‘the rules’.  New York has incredible abundance, attracting people from around the world who are at the top of their games. The population of NYC is greater than 39 states and 21,000 people work in the Empire State building alone.

Rule #1: To have an edge over your competitors, start early and finish late

The hustle is fast and furious, everyone is in a hurry and everyone strives for success.  One of the first lessons is that the city starts late and finishes late. A lot of business is done after five and preferably over a drink or dinner.  If you’re organising the engagement, more often than not, you’re paying.

Rule #2: Time is literally money – be sharp and succinct when presenting your offering

In Silicon Valley, it’s common knowledge that the skills mix needed for a start-up is developer, designer and hustler. Often underappreciated, the hustler (salesperson) is responsible for ensuring that the business has a steady and increasing cash flow. The art of the hustle is clear communication and hard work.  The difference between New York and Silicon Valley is that in New York everyone hustles!

The hustle has nothing to do with misleading people, unlike ‘hustling’ a pool table by being deceptive about your skill level. Instead, the modern hustle is all about sales, business development and a bias for action. In New York, you can’t survive (no matter what your industry) unless you can deliver a short and effective pitch for yourself and your product.

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Rule #3:  Always deliver value to the people you meet – If you won’t someone else will

New York is so incredibly competitive in every field that the ability to communicate and persuade your customer is part of every discipline in a start-up.  To succeed in New York you need energy, enthusiasm and the willingness to put in hard work. The benchmark is higher than in any other city. Invariably, any conversation is quickly confronted with the question, “So what do you do?” Translated this means, “So what can you do for me?”.

Rule #4:  In a city that goes 100 miles an hour 24/7, there is a point of difference by cruising at 80

Because of the size and complexity of New York, you can meet dozens if not hundreds of people a month through networking and events.  It can become very transactional very quickly.  To stand out, slow down, delve a little deeper and ask more pertinent questions.  New Yorkers respond well to relationship selling. It’s refreshing and an alternative to the daily hustle of the traditional salespeople they meet.

Rule #5:  You’re a postman…always deliver

If you promise to do something, follow through on it – always! Because of the sheer volume of opportunities available, if you fail to meet even the most basic of obligations you won’t get a second chance.  Send the email, make the call or facilitate the introduction. You create trust and friendship by proving that your word is your bond.


Rule #6:  Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘Rolodex’ – You’re judged on the quality and size of your network (and yes, they still call it your rolodex)

Unlike London, nobody is particularly concerned about what school you went to. Oxford, Cambridge or Eton have little influence.  While not discounting the fact that Ivy League schools such as MIT and Harvard are recognised as the best, they’re not an influential point of difference like they are in London.  Two key influences will determine your success in New York City: firstly, your energy and desire to help others succeed, and secondly your connections and ability to shoulder tap the right people.

Rule #7:  Don’t talk politics!

One last point, never talk politics!  Politics is taken very seriously over here, there is little middle ground and you’re either a Democrat or a Republican and each sees the other as extremely bigoted.  People can be easily offended by your political stance and you can easily lose a deal as you are perceived as not politically aligned to their values.  NYC is a liberal (blue) state, however, like the rest of America the political climate is divisive.  If you wish to indulge in political debate, tread carefully.

New York City is one of the best cities in the world to conduct business.  Fortunes are made (and lost) with relative ease.  It’s also unforgiving, make an error or miscalculate and it will metaphorically spit you out onto the sidewalk.  Use these seven simple rules to help you hustle and succeed in the city that never sleeps!



graham200By Graham Dockrill 

Graham is an entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in the information technology sector and founder of several hi-tech start-ups. 

He is currently the President of Sales for Citrus Tree Consultants, a global business consultancy and President of Client Relations at WhosOnLocation, a visitor management software startup based in Wellington with global clients. Graham is also a strategy and client relationship advisor for many startups in New York and the United Kingdom.