October 11, 2015

The Telstra Small Business Awards 2015 Experience; A Retrospective Look

Barmco Mana McMurray was absolutely delighted to be part of the 2015 Telstra Small Awards, both in winning the award for the ACT Micro Business category in July and to be part of the national awards in Sydney in August. Sincere congratulations to the winners on that occasion Nexba.

We are very grateful to Telstra for its continuing support for small business in the ACT and around Australia. In fact, we have found that this is more than just support; as second-year finalists, we have realised that the nomination and interview processes involved in the awards are also a strong internal and external accountability exercise, motivating us to explore questions like “How are we doing things better than last year?” and “What does the future look like for us?” with much more than superficiality or just undertaking a box-ticking exercise.

The other great benefit is seeing how other micro and small businesses are working and evolving. There is always something to learn from the success of others (and also from any ‘dead ends’ that they can share!), and the awards also provide a great opportunity for networking.

Barmco Mana  McMurray is not only committed to its core business in building services but also to the success of small businesses generally in the ACT and beyond. Frequently one hears the phrase ‘small business is the economic driver in Australia’ bandied about, but what does that actually mean in a small jurisdiction like the ACT, dependent as it has been on the public sector?

We think that it means support for small businesses such as ours, with encouragement to grow and the opportunity to take some risks. The Telstra awards are part of this, and we could also point to organisations such as Canberra BusinessPoint, as well as helpful developments such as the 2013 changes to tendering practices for local small-to-medium enterprises by the ACT government. The Barmco Mana McMurray wish list includes a hope for ACT government procurement procedures to rub off on Commonwealth procurement!

The ACT has such potential to be an innovation hub for the region—and the nation. An example that readily springs to mind is the ANU TechLauncher program, which enables students to develop skills in technology and to get good ideas up and running—something that we see as having a genuine positive impact in engineering and beyond. Too many good Australian ideas end up ‘getting legs on’ overseas. We need more of those good ideas to be Canberran born and bred.

But those of us who are small business owners have our part to play also. As part of the Telstra award process, we revisited a list of reasons for small business failure and realised how helpful it is to do the opposite—to turn these around into positives and then assess them on our own ‘how well are we doing?’ list:

  • Leadership—are we providing the vision and drive required to keep our business growing and adaptable?
  • Value and niche—are we actively identifying what is uniquely ours in a busy marketplace and searching out new possibilities?
  • Customer needs—what does this customer need for this project? Let’s not assume that it will be ‘just like the last one’.
  • Business model—will the model we are using yield profit? Is there something better that we could use?
  • Financial management—are we making measured, ethical decisions with an eye to the future? Let’s be neither wasteful, nor skimp now and sell ourselves short down the track.
  • Expansion—are we growing at a pace that takes the right amount of risk to have a go but not getting carried away with a bubble that may burst?

Pondering these sorts of questions is what sets the innovative small business apart from one that is simply ‘chugging’.

Small business has its own challenges and rewards. The small business owner needs to be up for those challenges, because the rewards will never just fall into his or her lap. The Telstra awards are part of recognising those challenges and encouraging all small businesses to keep exploring where they can grow, innovate and thrive.

Again, thanks to Telstra for their sponsorship of the awards.


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