There is one thing every Australian business and business owner will face, especially as they start to do well.
Tall poppy syndrome. For some reason we have been brought up for generations to cut the people who stand out from the crowd back down to size. The romantic notion of it for society is great, a "we are one" mentality helps bring us together. But in business, it's killing us.
Part of the problem is, in some ways, the understanding of what entrepreneurs and start-ups are. It isn't a movement business in Australia has embraced as much as in other places and there is a breakdown between the perceived and the reality. Part of it is the deep seeded idea that business is in some way wrong or bad, and therefore has to be kept in check.
So then, what is the key to letting a business stand tall?
There are fantastic businesses throughout all industries in Australia, driving new and innovative products and services. They are things we should be proud of and sharing with the world. Unfortunately, it seems to be that until there is external validation from somewhere else - usually the USA or Europe, we won't get loud. It's the same thing that used to happen (and to an extent still does) with Australian music, and it has to stop.
We're hearing a lot about the need for Australia to diversify its economy, moving away from the traditional reliance on minerals and agriculture. It's a valid and true assessment, but the problem isn't all as scary as it is made out. We have the talent, the creativity and the drive. Unfortunately we just aren't proud and supportive enough of it to enable it to succeed. There are Aussie entrepreneurs driving amazing projects which are literally changing the world and changing industries. Most of them have left Australia to make it happen though.
There are a range of issues that drive the move away, including (and significantly) access to levels of investment and funding which really enable ideas to become great products. It is an important part of our business landscape that needs to evolve to keep up with the rest of the world. Things do need to change across the spectrum, but to make that happen we need to make our voices heard.
As start-ups we are small, and our budgets are tight, we need to think outside the square to make ourselves heard because we can't spend to compete with big advertisers. I don't see this as a problem though, after all, our point of difference is that we are different, thinking outside the box is why start-ups and entrepreneurs do what they do.
Being a single tall poppy though doesn't work. It's tough to get coverage, to be supported and to convince your audience that you're genuine and credible. Not because of yourself, but the bias towards (or rather against), individual success. Whether you're communicating with your market, your customers or a media audience, breaking down that bias is the most important way to get through to them.
My solution then, is this - band together. The start-up community is always growing in numbers and support for each other, we should use it. Instead of going one out, present as one voice tackling issues and providing solutions. There is an enormous array of platforms for start ups to speak from, from who works together, who's work compliments each other's, where companies are based and where is a hotbed for a new industry, social change brought about by start-up communities and how many people a "small" start-up community actually employs.
By presenting as one, as businesses breaking the mould and working together to overcome problems, not just make money, the voice is loud and clear. Remember too that it's ok to disagree with a popular opinion - that is part of what makes small business different, the willingness to look for something better.
It's a golden rule with media to link to an issue, the start-up and small business world is made for it. So link together, share what you're doing and why you're changing the world. The more voices singing the same song, the more people can't help but listen.
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