I’ve found Australia to be a great country to grow a business in a time when other global markets are facing recession. My top ten tips for entrepreneurs entering the market are:
1. Seek UK government assistance: UK Trade & Industry helped us put together a growth plan for our Australian business before we decided on the level of investment. Their highly knowledgeable advisers helped us to think about areas such as seasonality, key industry sectors, and which cities to target.
2. Get help from the Australian government: There are government departments that are responsible for attracting businesses and growing enterprise in each state. For example, the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation in Queensland runs industry-focussed seminars on how SMEs can win government work. It also runs supplier briefings every month, which are open to all companies. Attending these free events will enable you to win government tenders faster.
3. Join the club(s): Australians are extremely sociable and friendly. It really is all about who you know, especially in smaller cities such as Brisbane and Canberra. We have found that joining local chambers of commerce and marketing associations such as Brisbane Marketing has given us great PR and new business opportunities, as well as enabling us to learn about the market quickly.
4. Employ locals: It seems obvious, but local talent will help you grow quicker. Locals know where to go and who to talk to much better than people from out of town.
5. Partner with universities: Australia has some great universities brimming with talented students. Our relationship with Queensland University of Technology has enabled us to recruit fantastic graduates. We are also working in partnership with QUT on a research and development project.
6. Understand immigration: Be extremely diligent in ensuring staff have the correct visas and you, as an employer, fulfil the immigration department’s requirements meticulously. Take the time to build relationships with your case officer – they’re usually friendly and helpful, and while you can do the paperwork yourself, it’s still worth getting advice from an expert.
7. Local lawyers and accountants will be able to help you navigate your way through the Australian legal system, which can be very different to the UK. They will help you with areas such as employment law, Australian Securities and Investment Commission (Australia’s Companies House) and the Australian Tax Office. Ask your UK contacts if they have offices or partnership agreements with Australian companies as a starting point.
8. Events and speaking opportunities: One way to launch yourself into a local Australian market is to find out what events are happening in your sector and offer to speak. Often event organisers will be looking for people from out of town. We spoke at a major design conference just as we opened our office in Brisbane and it helped us make important initial contacts.
9. Keep your bank close: Always bank locally and get to know your bank manager. They will be able to give you advice about local banking rules and how to borrow money should you need to.
10. You will never gain an Australian’s respect in the art of barbecue. Don’t even try. Australia is also a fun country to do business in. Places such as Queensland have a frontier feel to them that doesn’t exist in other, more established business markets. It’s also a fantastic place to use as a springboard for entry to the rest of APAC.