Current Issue #476

Back to Business

Back to Business

South Australian business leaders need to give voice to “young, struggling entrepreneurs fighting for air in a miasma of irregular conservatism in Adelaide,” a conference has heard.

South Australian business leaders need to give voice to “young, struggling entrepreneurs fighting for air in a miasma of irregular conservatism in Adelaide,” a conference has heard.

Premier Jay Weatherill, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall, and South Australia’s business owners, gathered at the Adelaide Convention Centre in early February for Business SA’s event: Back to Business, to discuss the health of industries and forecast future trends.

KWP! Director of Strategy David O’Loughlin was part of a panel of state business leaders sharing their views on surviving and thriving during the uncertainty of coming years. His concern for start-ups corresponded with a SouthStart event at the other end of the Convention Centre that day for entrepreneurs exhibiting their wares. While established heads of business scratched their heads over a raft of challenges facing their fields in the global arena, young hopefuls were mustering their confidence to try to claim a place in the city’s creative landscape.

With such drastic differences between large corporate businesses trying to strengthen the backbone of traditional South Australian services, and independent, emerging startups feeding the often fleeting trends that form Adelaide’s hospitality and entertainment pulse, how can South Australia provide a fertile ecosystem of coexistence, and indeed symbiosis between these groups?

Weatherill headlined his views with fear rippling from cross-border politics: LNP’s Campbell Newman had just lost the Queensland State Election in a defeat that shocked analysts, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott faced a severe popularity blow in the aftermath of a poorly-received Budget sales campaign. A sign, said Weatherill, that big, bold plans are tough to sell and arrogance is out.

“People need to be treated with respect,” he said. While acknowledging most discussions on business development in Adelaide resulted in a debate about high taxes, Weatherill reminded the community of the government’s commitment to keeping key industries afloat, introducing WorkCover reforms, supporting companies such as Nyrstar, OZ Minerals and Hewlett Packard to create more jobs in South Australia. He promised solutions in the healthcare industry for “too many services scattered across too many sites”.

While maintenance and expansion of established industry is preoccupying the Government, Steven Marshall pointed at the uninterrupted trend of youth packing bags for Melbourne and Sydney in search of better opportunities. He encouraged moves to lower the cost of doing business, including taxes.

Speakers from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Deloitte, Bedford Group and Flinders Ports reminded the business community that South Australia is not immune from ongoing shockwaves from the Global Financial Crisis and needed to continue to find new ways to adapt. Bedford CEO Sally Powell said her workforce needed to more than double by 2019 to address demand for carers in South Australia. “We need to create new ways to find them – targeting workers from declining industries, migrants, the long-term unemployed.”

Red tape and work health safety paperwork were common barriers for businesses looking to grow.

As major companies nutted out the challenges of sustaining global expansion, emerging entrepreneurs bravely offered solutions to social and business problems. An app for subscribing to fruit trees in your area, Ripe Near Me, which allows people access to sources of fruit and vegetables growing in their area, was among the success stories. Along with new businesses, a raft of support-style entrepreneurs has perhaps opened up a whole new field in Adelaide. Need a prototype for your product made? Want to workshop ideas with a group? Need social media guidance? A logo? For every emerging emerging business are sub-companies looking to capitalise on Adelaide’s start-up trend.

Representatives from banks such as ANZ were there to offer guidance in how to obtain business loans, warning future owners to thoroughly research their market and design their business plan. An ANZ representative, who describes the business ideas that cross his desk in Adelaide as “400 flavours of ice-cream and no vanilla”, said the most common problem was too much passion for an idea and not enough assessment of the basic logistics: who will want to buy my product? How many, and can I cover the costs to create enough? In other words, a great idea needed to meet reality.

Interestingly, Back to Business did not venture far into the industries trending in marketing campaigns for Adelaide. Arts, hospitality and entertainment did not get much of a look in as leaders looked to solve bigger problems affecting brands subject to fluctuations in global markets. The smaller community issues inspiring a lot of businesses appeared to come behind bigger barriers to staying afloat for these companies.

However, all speakers agreed that attracting more people to visit Adelaide was important to sustain growth and inspire industries to find new ways to stay profitable. South Australia’s way to prosperity for both established and emerging domains could involve developing new ways to stimulate the flow of services between passionate entrepreneurs and larger companies.


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