It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Professor Brian Gibson, well known by many in the SEAANZ community and respected internationally for his contributions to the small business sector.
Brian was a pioneer of SEAANZ and actively engaged in much of the ‘behind the scenes’ work which has made the organisation the success it is today. While he only assumed a more public role in serving as President of SEAANZ 2010-2012, he also played a vital role as Editor of the SEAANZ journal "Small Enterprise Research" (2005-2007) and his dedication to the organisation and to the journal continued for many years after.
Recognition of his tireless efforts in the small business field came with his Presidency of the International Council of Small Business (ICSB 2008 – 2009) and later, award of the prestigious Wilford White Fellowship from ICSB.
Brian epitomized the four pillars of SEAANZ, effortlessly combining his firm belief in the value of education and research as informing and as being informed by policy and practice. Just before his untimely death Brian made a further contribution to SEAANZ by reflecting on his time as President and what he saw as the future of SEAANZ.
Brian's comments were as follows:
Question: What has SEAANZ contributed to the advancement of small enterprise?
Brian: "SEAANZ has been a focal point for researchers, educators and government since its inception. While direct involvement with practitioners (however defined) has fluctuated, the focus of the other groups has always been on improving internal and external environments for the advancement of small enterprises and their owners. SEAANZ through its conferences, journal and other activities including affiliation with ICSB has been a clearing house for ideas and discoveries that have facilitated that advancement in Australia and New Zealand."
Question: What are the main highlights from your time as President?
Brian: "When I became President in September 2010, SEAANZ had low membership and was facing a challenge from plans to introduce a competitor organization. I was glad to play a part in seeing that challenge off and strengthening the reputation of SEAANZ. We were also able to re-establish the SEAANZ conference in 2011 (which had effectively lapsed in 2010) even though numbers were small and it was early career research focused. This was followed by successful ICSB World Conference in Wellington New Zealand in June 2012."
"While the aftermath of that conference presented some significant financial challenges, these were overcome through sponsorship arrangements that I and Claire Massey, as Conference Chair, were able to negotiate. The Board, during my Presidency, was also instrumental in implementing the transfer of the production of our journal Small Enterprise Research to a commercial operator, a process I had instigated as the Journal Editor in the preceding years. While that had some significant teething problems we were able to persevere and hopefully provided the basis for a smooth transition to the present publishing arrangement."
Question: What should SEAANZ aim to achive over the next 30 years?
Brian: "More of the same. Compared to 30 years ago, small business and entrepreneurship are more widely recognized for their economic importance and receive much greater attention from researchers and government. However, there are still strong biases that work against small firms and favour large and the eradication of these will still require efforts in research, education, government and practice that SEAANZ can continue to facilitate especially if it is able to maintain a balance across those four pillars that are the foundation of its membership."
"It needs to be reflective of its ever-changing environment and consider alternatives to its traditional facilitation through conferences and journals. Greater communication through digital media (eg webinars, online conferences) should possibly be considered to allow conferences to become less frequent (perhaps every two to three years). Publications other than the journal should continue to be offered to facilitate nonacademic knowledge dissemination. I also hope to see SEAANZ continue to work with international colleagues through the ICSB and the more recently established Asian grouping of ICSB affiliates (ACSB)."
We are the poorer for his passing but he leaves us enriched by his dedication and vision to uniting Small and Medium Enterprise professionals in practice, education, and training and to promote SME development, communication, and dissemination of ideas and information.
President and Directors of SEAANZ.