Guest Post – If you want to win you need to pay for competent advice


With local government elections nearing and national ones next year, we have all sorts of individuals coming out of the woodwork who want to run for office.  Reading your article about polling companies and how Facebook and Twitter are offering a service now as well makes me wonder again about the lack of common sense in our potential candidates.  Mind you, is it a bad thing to have the Darwinian theory in action?  Do we really want to help those who do not understand the very basics of fighting an election?

Every election round a friend of mine who has been elected to a number of boards is approached by those who want help getting themselves elected.  “You are successful, so please tell me how to do it.”  And they appear oblivious to the consideration that she may actually standing herself, and why should she train her competition!  And they want help for free.  Mentoring they call it, hopefully in the belief that with that label they wont have to pay.  And then of course they don’t do what you suggest anyway, so why bother.   

Technical expertise costs money and has real value.  Running for election costs money, and the bigger the prize the higher the cost.  Local bodies may cost less than National elections, but unless you are very well known, liked and trusted it is likely to cost you between $5,000 – $30,000 and it is hard to find people who will put money into your campaign unless they are certain you are going to win, and that you can deliver on whatever they want if you did get elected.  And nothing is certain in local body elections, either in winning or in delivering on your promises.  Unless you are Mayor of Auckland, you have limited powers on Council unless you build a team around you that you know and trust.  And trust is hard in politics!  In fact any experienced politician knows that loyalty is a very very rare commodity as politics is about deals and trade offs.

Many people who have not worked as true insiders in political parties also believe that the “Party will pay” for their campaign.  In the three political parties I have known, that is not true.  You have to pay for your own campaign and are usually expected to fund the head office campaigns as well.  You dig very deep.  You have to build your own team.  And if you want to be high up on the “list” you have had to bring in big donors for the head office as well

From time to time over the years I have considered running courses for aspiring politicians.  But my own market research repeatedly tells me that:

  1. No one wants to pay
  2. They won’t believe what you tell them to do is correct so they don’t do it. And when they lose they blame the trainer for not teaching them how to win.

So I have taken that off my list of services!

Winning elections is not an amateur sport.  It is a professional game and requires a professional approach.  And most candidates won’t believe me, and will lose.


Frances is dead right. If you want to win then you have to do three things. Pay for advice, make sure that advice is from someone with a track record in winning and lastly, you need to listen to them.

Politics is not for amateurs. It is a professional sport these days and professionals deserve to get paid.


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  • shykiwibloke

    I’ve been a technology consultant of one sort or another most of my working life. I have been able to charge multiples of my usual NZ rate when working overseas for new clients who don’t really know me, but value quality advice. Companies in NZ – even those that have used and value my services for more than a decade baulk at paying a modest rate. Conclusion? Kiwis do not like paying for services – we value tangeable products, but not services.

    • R&BAvenger

      Yes true. It even comes down to the service people ‘are’ prepared to pay for such as tradespeople be they blue collar or otherwise.

      people have a penny pinching mentality and think that they can just do it themselves. Many can and do successfully but most do not and cannot.

      • shykiwibloke

        Remember when ‘Desktop Publishing’ was going to remove the need for the marketing and printing industries, or even further back when ‘COBOL’ was going to remove the need for programmers.
        People often don’t value expertise until they try for themselves and fail. In politics – you don’t often get a second chance.

    • JustTinkering

      The best course of action is to review your rates. If you haven’t increased for a number of years make a substantial increase. You may lose 1 or 2 but they will be the complainers. The rest will accept and have a better appreciation of your value. Works for me every time. Don’t undervalue your services.

      • shykiwibloke

        Agreed. Sack bottom 20% of your clients each year. (The most time consuming are almost always the meanest also.)

    • I don’t have set rates. I assess the ability of a client to pay and charge accordingly.

      • shykiwibloke

        Fair enough – but does the assertion still hold true in your experience that NZ sees less value than other countries?

        • Yes. Especially in politics. people think they shouldn’t have to pay for expertise. But they pay their lawyer and they pay their accountant, but they won’t pay for a political coach.

  • cows4me

    Is paying such a bad thing ? Surely it must be better to vote into office someone with financial means rather than someone on the bones of their arse. Look at the socialist drongos who want to dig into the public purse to pay for their campaigning. This tells me what I’ll get should they gain power, a lot of bludging wasters happy to live of the labors of others.