Regional Queensland Australian communities are richly endowed with mineral, agricultural and environmental resources supporting our four-pillar economy.
Similar primary industry clusters in Europe, Canada, United States, China, India have created multi-national businesses, such as Caterpillar, Bechtel, Tata, Adani, Phillips, George Weston, Blackberry, Microsoft, Google, Kraft, H.J. Heinz.
Yet our Australian regional communities have very few locally-owned very large national businesses. Small businesses often grow to medium size; suffer growth pains, and then stall. Like Peter Pan they never grow up, leaving them vulnerable. If helped to grow into national companies they could employ hundreds or thousands of high paid workers, grow more local businesses, support research and innovation, and philanthropically grow their community.
Around the world countries are successfully focusing on growing their local businesses into big businesses, through productivity grants, export assistance, government trials and contracts. The great companies of the US were grown from a mixture of government research grants, agricultural subsidies, government contracts, and protective trade barriers.
Yet ask our politicians how they can help improve grow our small businesses in global businesses and we hear our “businesses must fend for themselves” on “a level playing field”, or, “the best thing government can do is to get out of the way of Australian business”, or, “we will help businesses by reducing red tape”.
How can we grow small regional businesses into large national and global companies to strengthen communities and broaden their economic base?
There is a general apathy to helping our businesses to grow. Perhaps it is too hard?
Historically we have waited until a crisis: the mine, crops or tourists fail.
Australia faces such a crisis now, as our large manufacturing sector fails. The United States and Canada went through this “rust belt” crisis in the 1980s. Both countries fostered innovation, small business creation and business growth policies. The author studied these policies, programs and public/private partnerships over a decade from 1998 -2008 travelling across both continents, leading to the development of the Mentoring for Growth program, Brisbane Angels and other public/private partnerships in Queensland.
World Best Practice Productivity
Around the world countries are focusing on growing their local businesses into big businesses. All Australian businesses need to operate at world’s best practice to remain competitive or face being acquired by global competitors. Adequate reserves to fund growth, survive downturns or natural disasters are a pre-requisite.
Economic theories assume two things, perfect knowledge and continual growth.
Overseas global companies, close to major customers and with access to superior global market knowledge, advice and large cash reserves, can turn knowledge into global growth strategies. Our small regional businesses do not have access to global knowledge or the resources to grow or grow fast enough. They are easy pickings for predators.
If the State Australian Government was to facilitate a program to address the longevity and profitability of Queensland’s Australia’s best family businesses it would be as:
- the inward dissemination point of world best productivity practices; and,
- the as an outward conduit to global business networks
to enable our best family businesses to take advantage of the latest efficiencies and market opportunities. Such a program might be called Productivity Australia or simply Grow Australia.
Stewart Gow LLB, MBA, GAICD is a company director, business owner, angel investor and University of Queensland Industry Fellow. He has access to global business networks with 20 years experience advising and mentoring hundreds of business owners from all industry sectors in his role as Australian Vice Consul (Silicon Valley), Senior Executive in State Development (Qld) and as founder of the award winning Mentoring for Growth programs, Brisbane Angels, the Australian Association of Angel Investors Ltd and now Facilitator in the Business Excellence Roundtable.
Stewart can be contacted at: email@example.com or 0403 310520