We are struggling in South Australia from a business perspective. When speaking with other business owners, they are being challenged in every way to continue to stay afloat during what is a very difficult business environment. There are few things that have changed recently for the better with optimism being very low in our State. There are some significant challenges we have coming up that we need to be proactive as business leaders in putting together an optimistic plan for our economy that is focussed, clear and can be executed. This plan needs to be focussed on ensuring that we are competitive long term not just short term as without the long term game, we will have a short term lift that will bottom out quickly.
Part of this plan should work through how we create more great companies that operate on a global scale. This to me lies to the core of building a growing and sustainable future for our State. We have some terrific people who run outstanding companies in this state like Coopers, Redarc, Seeley International, Thomas Foods that have been very successful in achieving this outcome. However, we don’t have enough of them. This is a major cause for concern as I believe a key metric that we should be measuring is how many companies in South Australia employ more than 10 people. If we could double or triple this key statistic I believe we will have a growing and thriving economy. The reality is we have a number of companies that employ a lot of people but it drops very quickly which is very concerning long term as this has implications for our long term prospects. I believe this needs to change for us to improve the nature of our economy and ultimately the GDP per capita for our people. Without this growth, we will not be able to care for our people and there will be a greater divide between the rich and the poor which causes a range of social challenges.
The question is can we build more of these larger companies that will create a better future for South Australia? Do we have the capability, capacity and people to do it? Does our great lifestyle prevent the “burning platform” from really driving the change needed for this to occur?
I suspect our government knows this is a big challenge. They come across as optimistic about the future but their plans lacks detail and they don’t have the right people in the right roles to really tackle this issue. I also don’t believe that this core issue is up on the priorities which it needs to be. There is a lot of work to do and we need to deal with this significant challenge by breaking it down one bite at a time. Some of the key bites that I see we could look to do to get the ball rolling include the following:
- Target our South Australian expats who are very successful globally to come back and share their experiences on how we address this key challenge. Put them in the right roles and empower them to deliver outcomes that focus on this key metric;
- Become an early adopter around technology to unlock global opportunities and markets that will fast track growth in companies as well as connect us to other economies. If we have expats who work in the technology industry globally, we need you to come back to South Australia to help us grow this critical part of the emerging economy;
- If you have a business with a Board, look to hire someone on it from outside South Australia that has had experience in building a global business. This outside perspective is critical to our future growth and we need more people with diverse experiences in Asia, Europe and America. The idea of adding a Director that is local because they are part of an established network should be replaced with what skills do I need to tap into now that will support our vision and aspirations globally;
- We lack a supply of entrepreneurs who can turn ideas in to global companies greater than 10 people. This must be a priority to either bring in or build capability fast to allow us to really inject this in to our economy;
- We need to work with the investment and funding personnel to help fund global capital funds to support companies to build and scale global activities. These companies need this support from people who have had experience in doing this with other companies so that we can learn from them; and
- Interview companies that are doing this successfully now and who are on the track to achieving this. Really listen to this feedback and focus on sharing these lessons learned and leverage this to benefit others who plan to progress down this track.
Global and scalable must be our goal for companies in South Australia in the future. Without building this base of companies and increasing our depth exponentially in terms of the number of companies, we will rely on too few to drive this change. This key metric above must be our imperative if we are to move from surviving to thriving in this great state. We must encourage all of us to provide input to addressing this challenge and find ways to have a positive impact in building great companies for South Australia.