I attended the AMCHAM luncheon last week featuring Raymond Spencer, the Chair of the Economic Development Board in South Australia. I was curious to hear his view and outlook as clients and candidates have consistently been telling me over the past few months – it’s tough. In 24 hours I had a job offer recalled due to ‘cash flow’ and ‘revenue concerns’ and another candidate told me he had his interview cancelled due to the company deciding to “not proceed for now”. Let me just mention – both of these examples are in the apparently ‘booming’ resources sector. It demonstrates the current feeling of caution by businesses in Adelaide and this mentality of “let’s wait and see”.
Raymond certainly wasn’t backward in coming forward and was quite open in his observations and thoughts of the Adelaide business community. I found his opinions to be refreshingly honest. In short, some of his comments included:
- SA businesses aren’t aggressive enough – it’s just not part of our DNA and in general we have a glass half empty approach – being too quick to see what’s wrong vs. what’s right
- There is a real skills shortage and this means we need to attract external talent to SA by looking at transferable competencies rather than exact experience
- We are very very lucky, there is a real opportunity here in SA right now – we just don’t realise how good we have it
- Not enough attention is paid to organisational culture and embedding the right values and behaviours that deliver successful outcomes
- We don’t support risk with the possibility of failure here vs. the US where innovation and risk are supported and expected
- “People are our most important asset” – everyone says this, but how do you transfer this to your bottom line? It must come back to your culture and be entrenched in everything you do
I certainly felt he illustrated the conservatism in the Adelaide business community that “newbies” to our city usually describe and perhaps our definite lean towards pessimism not optimism. What they really mean is that we generally don’t like change and there is a fear factor about doing something different, taking a risk, considering alternatives or developing new relationships. Doing things the way we have always done them tends to be our auto pilot strategy.
The bigger picture here of course is what Raymond highlighted – that we are potentially missing a much larger opportunity. This could pass us all by if we don’t come together as a business community and support each other, consider new alternatives such as joint ventures to win bigger business and be open to change.
His over-riding theme and certainly based on his own business success, was clear and not linked to the economy, market conditions or political landscape – it was this: business success still comes back to people, culture and leadership. Without these key elements at your business core, the rest is pointless.
Let’s agree – Adelaide is a great place to do business. We have growth industries, we have talented people, we have the lifestyle and the cost of living, so we should all be open to new ideas and ways of doing things and embrace the opportunities before us by taking action with an attitude of positivity.