20/06/2012 - 10:40

Breeding ground for achievers

20/06/2012 - 10:40


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The past two weeks have given plenty of encouragement to those of us who see an enterprising future for business in WA.

The past two weeks have given plenty of encouragement to those of us who see an enterprising future for business in WA.

LAST week, at the State Function Centre at Kings Park, nearly 50 chief executives from fast-growing businesses gathered with their staff and families for WA Business News’ annual Rising Stars awards.

It’s always uplifting to meet with people from a diverse array of businesses, all achieving great things in their own fields.

There was room for only 10 winners, who were profiled in last week’s edition of the newspaper.

Just a few days earlier, I had the pleasure of meeting another very impressive group of business leaders – the finalists in the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

The finalists came from 12 very different businesses, and all of them feature in this edition.

Readers who are looking for inspiration and ideas for their own businesses should take a look at these success stories.

And people who claim that Western Australia is just a big hole in the ground, with minerals simply dug up and shipped overseas, should also take a closer look at these businesses, and read the accompanying thought-provoking article by the University of WA’s Raymond Da Silva Rosa.

These businesses tell a great story of hard work, persistence and innovation.

They include contractors and engineers that are tapping directly into the surge in resources sector activity.

But they also include many other businesses that have little, if any, connection to resources.

Just to reinforce this point, we had another reminder this week of the great entrepreneurial talent residing in WA.

Little World Beverages, owner of the Little Creatures label, is a WA success story born 12 years ago, with a very strong brand that has been taken to the national market.

Japanese group Kirin’s takeover offer (via Lion), valuing the group at $381 million, put a very tangible figure on the value of the business.

Hats off to Howard Cearns, Nic Trimboli and others who conceived the Little Creatures concept, put money into the venture and built it up over the past decade.

The ability to find a profitable niche in a mature industry like brewing is a great example of entrepreneurship.

Some of the Rising Stars winners and Entrepreneur of the Year finalists are doing similar things.

Dale Alcock, who runs the state’s largest home building business and is aggressively pushing into the Victorian market, is another notable entrepreneur.

Then there’s Sean and Lisa Clarke, who started their vehicle hire business in a caravan park in Karratha more than a decade ago and now have contracts with global companies including Chevron.

Across all of the wining businesses there are many examples of entrepreneurial thinking – improving the way they service customers, refining the technology they deploy, pursuing mergers with complementary businesses.

There are also businesses that are built on innovative technology breakthroughs that have come out of WA universities.

One example is Invisible Zinc, which Adil Bux and Andrea Horwood-Bux took from a start-up in 2003 to 20 per cent market share in Australia.

Like Little World, their success attracted a larger international suitor who plans to take their product to a wider market.

Another innovative venture is Sensear, which is commercialising headsets that block out industrial noise but allow people to communicate. Officials at the London Olympics will be wearing Sensear headsets.

A recent Ernst & Young survey of 400 entrepreneurs across the globe reinforced the value they deliver.

While most countries around the world struggle to create jobs, entrepreneur-led companies expanded their workforce by 16 per cent in 2011.

Despite tough economic times, two thirds of them also expected to hire in 2012. 

When the entrepreneurs were asked what kind of jobs they created, 81 per cent said they needed ‘experienced personnel’, usually with university degrees.

Most are looking to hire more people, not just in their own country, but in other markets.

And it wasn’t to chase workers in low-wage countries; in most cases, it was to help them enter new markets.



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