We are blessed in New Zealand with the Companies.govt.nz website. It means that we rate consistently as one of the easiest places to form a company, and it gives us the power to look up the ownership and directors of any New Zealand company. The information is a goldmine for untangling just who owns what.
The site itself is, however, almost completely unusable.
I’ve circled the bit on the home page you need to click to do a company search. On virtually no other website will you see a “Do it now” action button. You also would not expect it to be underneath, the same size as and look similar to the help or “learn more” button.
I could go on at some length about how poor the site is, and in fact have done so in person to some lovely people from the Companies office.
They agreed – the website is horrible to use, and they are working on a replacement. That relacement was meant to arrive an age ago, and I am not hearing any rumours about impending launches. That’s sad.
In the meantime I do the sensible thing and go to Coys.co.nz.
Do Anton a return favour and check out Carjam.co.nz – his public service alone deserves your visit, and you can also see the history of your car. Computerworld has more. Entertainingly Computerworld didn’t do the basic detective work (using Coys of course) to find out that Carjam is operated by Carjam Online Limited.
Bizoffice takes advantage of the lousy Companies website and charges healthy fees for doing so. A simple redesigned companies website would do almost everything that Bizoffice does, and for a lot cheaper.
Coys is another take on interfacing with the Companies website, is free and does one thing well. It’s the best way to find out about who owns what. Put in someone’s name or a company name and then follow your nose.
Let’s look at the Telecom page:
We see that Kevin Roberts is a director – but what else is he a director of? Let’s click on his name:
There are 30 responses, including companies where he is no longer a director and those that have been struck off (generally not a bad thing – usually a change of control or a dead shell). The first company is something called Red Rose Music – so let’s look at that:
Whatever. But now let’s see what other investments he owns in New Zealand:
and on you go – the site lets you follow the trail of who owns what, and it means greater transparency for all.
Coys won’t tell you what companies do or are worth, but you can use Google for that. What it does do is quickly show who is accountable for what – and it’s a great tool for journalists, bloggers and business folk.
So back to Companies.govt.nz. If you work at the NZ Companies Office, then why not give Anton a call? It’s easy to find him through the domain name, and he deserves not only your thanks, but perhaps a bit more. Here are three suggestions:
- Pay him to replace the Coys brand with your own on his existing site. It’s advertising. He is making nothing from the site right now, and has not even put other advertising in it. At the very least consider paying him the hosting fees – he is making your life easier while your own project languishes.
- Buy the site from him, and pay him to keep running it. I’m sure he would be reasonable, and we all just want the service to keep going.
- Hire him to do the new site for you. It’s been far too long, but you’ve already got the back end database that works, so ask Anton to build a simple skin for the task of searching and maintaining companies. At the very least open up the API so that he can do an aftermarket one for you anyway.
And let me add my own thanks to Anton – he certainly makes it easier to write about businesses in New Zealand.