Encouraging Australian Entrepreneurs To Expand Their Horizons

When it comes to generating business ideas, Australian entrepreneurs rank among the best in the world according to the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute Index. However, the same cannot be said about the commercialisation of these ideas.

Among the number of issues that negatively impact the Australian entrepreneurial community, a primary problem faced is that of entrepreneurs outgrowing government funding programs too quickly and having difficulty raising capital. In addition, the previous Federal Government over-promised and under-delivered in the small business sector including in appointing six small business ministers in three years, each forced to divide their time across several other portfolios leaving little focus on this sector. Competition from large enterprises coupled with limited access to capital often means a death knell for hundreds of entrepreneurs and small business owners.

In September 2013, Bruce Billson was appointed Small Business Minister and the small business portfolio was promoted into the Abbott Government Cabinet – both actions receiving great community support due to Bruce’s experience and championing for the entrepreneurial community. A CPA survey two months later showed that two in three businesses were more optimistic about growth in 2014 and that confidence across the sector was rising.

With around two million small business owners and entrepreneurs across Australia, Bruce has communicated the much-needed urgency in competition policy reform, emphasizing the significant threats and opportunities to the sector. He acknowledges that the government has had difficulty distinguishing the sophisticated entrepreneurship ventures from the small-to-medium or family-owned businesses, something he is keen to address. “We know less about the type of cutting-edge entrepreneurship that can transform economies. How university researchers, business and government interact around small enterprise innovations is on my radar screen.” (Source: Australian Institute of Company Directors).

Australian Entrepreneurs have no shortage of ideas. It’s the commercialisation of innovative intellectual property that we need to improve and at an accelerated rate to build businesses and economic growth. This includes the whole entrepreneurial community; Australian companies, entrepreneurs, researchers, universities and inventors. We have been talking about this for years, its time to act. Begin the relationships and partnerships; promote what you are doing, understand how to make an effective pitch, know your market and invest in improving your knowledge and networks.

Directors who want to add smaller fast-growth private or listed company boards to their portfolios often look to entrepreneurial companies, and a policy change could link experienced directors with notable entrepreneurs to provide knowledge, mentorship, networks and sources of finance – something typically exclusive to larger enterprises. In addition, improving director liability laws could allow and provide protection for confident and reasonable risk-taking.

Lack of gender diversity among the entrepreneurial community has also been noted in Australia with a ratio of one female entrepreneur to four males. Created as a response to the need for a female business owners and entrepreneurs support network, the Behind Closed Doors Entrepreneurs program encourages discussion around business strategy, exports and business challenges in a confidential environment and provides opportunities to network and collaborate to create a stronger, entrepreneurial ecosystem in Australia.

With the optimistic outlook for the sector supported firmly by the new Small Business Minister, things may take a positive turn for the entrepreneurial community. According to Bruce, the government needs to be doing everything to eliminate obstacles for startups and instead support them to expand domestically as well as internationally.

Ultimately, it’s about encouraging more people to expand their horizons..

We would like to hear from you. What is holding you back? What are the key impediments to growing your business?

Donny Walford
Managing Director Behind Closed Doors and Bottom Line