The other night I MC’d my first Business News event – their Rising Stars Awards. Before joining Business News, I’d attended their business breakfasts and 40under40 Awards, but never Rising Stars. It was a great night. I was gob smacked by what these private businesses had achieved.
When I ran my own (small internet) business I remember celebrating with our 7 staff when we got to $1mn in annual revenue. It took us 8 years to get there. $1m in online revenue – wahoo! To enter the Rising Stars, you need $2m in revenue, and 20% sales growth. So it’s a step up from where I ever got to. Some of these businesses had $140m in revenue, having formed their companies only a decade (or less) ago. Some had doubled their revenue in the past year, GFC and mining slowdown headwinds notwithstanding. Quite incredible.
The winner, a wonderful family business from Geraldton, Bhagwan Marine sold its one cray fishing boat business in 1998 and moved into marine services supplying the oil and gas industry. They now have 100 boats, 450 staff, and are just as down to earth as they have ever been. Watch the video above for a quick interview clip I did with the son of the founder, and current MD, Loui Kannikovski.
The other 9 Rising Stars for 2013 are:
BG&E - 40 years in the engineering business, a strong focus on company culture includes looking after staff and ensuring that they are satisfied with their responsibilities and work environment. A number of staff has been with the company for 35 to 40 years and the organisation enjoys a very low staff turnover. The decision to remain specialised in civil and structural engineering ensured participation in major projects, including 80 storey buildings in Dubai and the Fiona Stanley hospital, which has contributed to the company’s quadrupling of revenue and staff increasing from 145 to 215.
Primero Group - this engineering and construction firm came into life when the founding partners identified the opportunity for a smaller player to deliver design and construction services for clients developing smaller projects in the mining, oil and gas, petrochemical and critical infrastructure sectors. The company has enjoyed impressive growth during the past year, with its annual turnover forecast almost doubling to $22.6m and staff growing from 26 to 50 during the same period. This resulted in the company twice having to seek larger office space.
Vesco Foods – between 2006 and 2009, this frozen meal manufacturer struggled to retain market share and revenue dropped significantly. But a new strategy saw the company nearly double its revenue from $45m to $85m and indicators are the $100m mark will be cracked over the next financial year. Cost reduction through more efficient production methods facilitated growth into new sales channels and the company has doubled its staff complement to 310.
Alyka - started out with a partnership of three. At the outset, this digital solutions service provider operated from sub-leased premises, shared with three other businesses and partnered with other complementary businesses. They won their first government contract after their 10th attempt, having put in more than 300 hours into their pitch. The business gained momentum and has since grown into an operation of 26 staff with dozens of corporate and government clients, in just 5 years.
Site Projects Group - set out to provide complete site accommodation management, specialising in the hiring and supply of mobile camps, caravans and temporary buildings. From its first job hiring out two accommodation transportable units to a mine site, they have grown to have a hire fleet of more than 70 site caravans throughout Western Australia. Today, the company employs 33 full-time staff and three contractors, and is preparing to double its workforce over the next year by expanding nationally and targeting industries besides mining.
Yahava Koffee Works - started out its operations in a shed in Metricup, in 2001. Recognition of the brand grew and soon prompted a move to a larger facility in Vasse. In 2009, two larger stores were opened under franchise licenses, followed promptly by a third in Singapore. The success of the first 2 stores led to a doubling of revenue during the past 3 years, and the tripling of staff. The operation now boasts mobile vans and drive through stores.
Global Electrotech - formed by two partners in 2000. They applied the rationale that each industry experiences highs and lows and therefore pursued growth in diverse areas, such as the design, installation, commission and maintenance of electrical, fire and security systems. The company’s 168 employees now offer electrical, fire, security, design and 24-hour service and maintenance. The service and maintenance division, established in 2004, currently looks after more than 1000 clients.
Monford Group - established in 2007, with 37 employees specialising in civil construction services and the provision of labour hire. Starting out in Perth, they opened offices in Karratha, Sydney and Brisbane in their second year and expanded to include a plant and equipment hire division. Today, the business employs 181 employees, includes haulage and structural, mechanical and piping divisions. The company continues to grow by implementing audited management systems, employee development programmes and delivering quality work within time and budgetary targets.
Present Group – a decade old engineering services plant and plant commissioning company, like many of us it was hit hard by the GFC and had to change tack. The organisation helps oil & gas companies create renewable energy plants, power stations, desalination plants, refineries, mines, ports and rail projects. The company’s 248 employees, up from 55 in 2009, work from the company headquarters in Perth and offices in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Cebu (in the Philippines), and Singapore.
There was also a winner for the nominated company that raised the most money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation – and Meridian Services decided to have their directors kidnapped and the rest of the staff had to raise money in 4 hours to ensure their release. $4000 was raised. What a brilliant way to engage staff and rally them around a cause, in a funky way.
Entrepreneurship, hard work and achievement are alive and well in WA.
In Walter Isaacson’s admirable biography on Steve Jobs, a central belief is noted: “If the big guy wins, it holds back innovation; they are a force for evil; we must be the force for innovation“.
I’m not sure I totally agree with this notion, but I get what Apple were on about. Until recently, they were always the underdog, and tried to do things beautifully. Ultimately, this idea bore them great success.
So imagine you are a small business, with a monopolist lording it over the market. The #1 company is listed, and is driven by an insatiable appetite from shareholders, analysts and the financial markets. ‘Much wants more’. They have deep pockets. Consumers use them almost out of habit. The company rams home their #1 advantage. Ten years go by, they are as powerful as ever, if not more so. Rivals have come and gone… but mostly gone.
I don’t believe that long term market dominance by one company is good for anyone. It’s not great for consumers, suppliers, competition, choice, innovation or even for the #1 site itself. In their heart of hearts, even they know it.
So what to do?
Consumers and competitors should have faith in the market and their part in it. Markets are dynamic because they are fueled by ever changing consumer demand. Apple was nearly dead and buried in 1997. MySpace was the number one website in the world in 2007. Kodak ruled supreme for generations.
If the #1 is not nimble, not re-inventing itself, it can be tumbled off its perch. Rivals should keep striving, keeping the #1 company honest, keep coming up with ways to connect, making things better. The best does rise to the top eventually… if not forever.
Three years ago I wrote one of my first ever posts, ” Trend for 2010: it’s mobile stoopid!” Later that year the iPad was launched and the trend to mobile stepped up another level.
Consider these stats:
* Australia – 14th in list of countries in the number of smartphone subscribers (16m) = 50% of total phones, 44% growth year on year. China has 240m subscribers (24%)
* only Japan, Korea, Canada and Sweden have greater % smartphone penetration (Jap 65%, Korea 59%, Can 55%, Sweden 54%)
* 1b smartphone users globally, compared to 5bn phones (so there’s still upside)
* globally, 13% of all internet traffic is on mobile (up from 1% in 2009, 4% in 2010)
* in India, mobile internet usage surpassed desktop internet in mid 2012.
* mobile app revenue worldwide is a US $19b industry (up from $0.7b in 2008)
* 2013 – number of tablets + smartphones exceeded desktop + laptops in operation
* 2002 – number of mobiles surpassed landlines (which peaked in 2006) and is now 4x landlines
* 2008 – number of smartphones with cameras shipped exceeded the number of cameras shipped
For more: Mary Meeker “Internet Trends” Report Dec 2012, KPCB
Almost unbelievable that this classic TED talk from Seth Godin is 10 years old, but still spine tinglingly good. 17 mins of your time spent well.
You have an idea, a new product, a new way of doing things… how do you get lift off? Simple, says Godin – make it remarkable – something that people will remark about.
Don’t talk to the mass market, talk to the fringes. The masses have too many options, not enough time, and have stopped listening. Who listens? The innovators and early adopters. Talk to them, and make it easy for them to talk to the rest of the market.
That second bit is now made easier with social media, as the early adopters/innovators are all over social media.
Now go do it.