#StandWithManaaki – Tall Poppy Bashing

The ongoing campaign to destroy the good work of Manaaki and its founders Pat MacFie, Andy Hamilton and their colleagues, is sadly, and simply, a perfect example of New Zealand’s penchant for chopping down tall poppies.

In more advanced economies, they recognise that failure is the gateway to success, that people who have learned from their failures, make better business leaders in the future. But that is not the case here in Aotearoa, where our past misdeeds come back to haunt us, again and again; where the business media is amongst the first to take up the scythe when there are tall poppies to be felled.

The tall poppy in question here is not actually Manaaki itself (who have quietly and humbly gone about their business), but the inimitable Andy Hamilton, who has dedicated the past few years of his life to supporting his co-founders at Manaaki, honing the work he did in founding and building The Icehouse, to support business success. There is no doubt that Andy has made some enemies along the way – he is driven, opinionated, and definitely not always right! Well, I certainly haven’t always agreed with him.

But those of us who know him, whether we love him or not so much, will vouch for his relentless passion for raising up business builders, and in particular his willingness to give freely of his time and his unbelievably vast network of contacts. Andy is a giver.

Seeing him bowed down under the weight of the current campaign to discredit his co-founders at Manaaki, and destroy the great work they have done (and want to keep on doing) to support small business NZ, is simply heartbreaking.


This concerted campaign, led by a small number of vicious haters – some not even living in NZ – is putting Manaaki’s very survival at risk. Armed with leaked private investigator reports, commissioned by a government agency, and passed on to other agencies, individuals and journalists (probably in breach of every rule in the procurement privacy book!), these bad actors have whipped up support from well-meaning commentators, spouting forth on things about which they are not fully informed.

How could they be, when Manaaki itself has never been afforded the courtesy of access to the evidence against them, nor the opportunity to respond. Despite this, they are taking positive actions to find and redress their failings, as detailed in their post yesterday, linked HERE

This takes courage. This is the action of an ethical organisation.

Here is an organisation, with over 6,500 members, many from the Māori and Pasifika communities, doing good work to support business owners and job seekers to build better businesses, to succeed. 

Now it finds itself a victim of bullying, of tall poppy bashing, at the hands of people with the power to influence whether it lives or dies. Ironically, at the root of the allegations, there appears to be concerns about founder bullying – with the emotive overlay that the founder is question is neither male nor Pakeha, and therefore inherently more vulnerable in the face of the big, bad ‘investor’ guys. Allusions have been made to other founders who were bullied (by other players, including most notably the business media), and the need for more founder protection.

Be that as it may – and more about that in my next post, specifically about founder bullying.

But meanwhile, consider this. These are people who founded a business to support their people, who built a community of mutual trust and support. They have a “past” (don’t we all?) that they do not deserve to have trawled through the media. They have been successfully supporting small business – the lifeblood of the New Zealand economy – funded mostly by government contracts, won in fairly contested procurement processes, creating real impact for the business owners they support.

In the words of a small business owner posted on the Manaaki platform this week:

“I find it sad when others have to tear down people who are doing so well and helping others get ahead in life. It is hard enough at times just living life on your own terms. When you have someone who turns you down time into some horrible monster, they should be ashamed of themselves, as we all have a story or 2 or 3 that can be told. I for one have learnt so much from this group, and the support has been really great”. …Hold your heads high as you have a lot to be proud of. 
The old tall poppy syndrome! Sad but often true.”

If you, like me, want to take a stand against the destruction of yet another #TallPoppy, please #StandWithManaaki and show your support by sharing, speaking up, and telling the haters that this is not okay.


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