There recently was a very good article around South Australia’s exports and how we fare in comparison to other States. The article in full can be found at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-22/sa-businesses-urged-to-make-most-of-low-australian-dollar/7107304 . The article makes for sobering reading for our state’s export performance with only 4% of our small businesses exporting and those businesses only accounting for 5% of total exports in Australia. These figures are very low if you compare our performance in relation to our population as a % of Australia’s population and downright poor when you compare them to countries like New Zealand where a large amount of businesses are primarily exporters.
This article gets to one of the root causes behind our poor economic performance as a State and our corresponding high unemployment rate which is the highest of the mainland States. Put simply, our lack of focus on exporting by businesses means that we do not bring in revenue from interstate and overseas sources which would allow us to grow our businesses and employ people. These “new dollars” so to speak are so important in allowing us to create new opportunities and markets that are not constrained by static population growth in South Australia. Further, it allows businesses to scale and grow with confidence knowing that they are not reliant upon one market with diversification providing new opportunities for their products and services.
The challenge is to be able to communicate this critical message to small businesses in South Australia. Government employing people to help is not the answer. Most of these people have not grown an export business so are not in a position to provide real advice that will add value. Further, governments embarking on large projects in our State is also not an answer as we are artificially increasing employment and growth opportunities but at the cost of deficits or more taxes that small business owners cannot afford medium to long term. The focus of government should be to reduce red tape, remove taxes that drive the wrong behaviours and get out the road of businesses that are looking to export and create real jobs for our State.
I believe the solution lies in having capable people teaching small business owners how to scale and systemise their business to operate on a global scale. The use of technology, systems and networks that open up the doors and windows for export growth. The ability to utilise the technology disruption that is occurring to transform small businesses on to the global arena is now an opportunity for all of us regardless of whether we are in London or Adelaide.
The measure of success around improved economic growth lies with businesses that successfully export. Our percentages highlighted above must double both in small businesses that export and our share of the exports in Australia. The NBN is here and it means isolated states from a geographic perspective are no longer constrained due to technology that breaks down many barriers. If we measure these two KPI’s year on year and see a positive trend, watch employment grow and unemployment drop. It might sound simplistic but it really is a critical ingredient for our long term success.