Professor Tim Mazzarol talks to Tom Murrell from the UWA Graduate Management Association about the small business sector and how to enhance employment, innovation and business growth by targeting the average small firm rather than the start-ups or the "gazelles".
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The quality of research undertaken within Australia’s university sector is not in question. Where the challenge lies is in bridging the divide between the academic and industry communities. This will require a change of mindset on both sides. It will also require an adjustment to the way in which academics are rewarded and how they and their institutions perceive their role within the national economy.
If Australia only had 100 businesses only one would be large, another three would be a government department and two not-for-profits, a further six would be small to medium sized firms and the remaining 90 would be micros, most of which would have only the owner as an employee.
Australia’s long term international competitiveness will depend on its ability to develop an ‘innovation-driven’ economy. This is an economy built on high-value added, R&D intensive, high-tech industries. Australia is already regarded as having an innovation-driven economy. However, there is no room for complacency and it is not something that should be taken for granted. If Australia cannot keep its economy moving in this direction the only alternative is to fall back onto being either a ‘factor’ or ‘efficiency’ driven economy.
Over the longer term there is a need for Australia to reinvent its approach to manufacturing. It seems that our economy’s ability to maintain sustained economic growth may depend on how we rebuild and refocus our approach to manufacturing. If the economic analysis cited above is correct, the Australian economy cannot maintain long term growth and high living standards on the back of agriculture, mining and services alone. Manufacturing still matters.
In 2014 the majority of Australia’s 39 universities were offering courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Around 33% were offering postgraduate degree programs in these subjects, and around 18% had full undergraduate degree programs. There were also 8 university-based centres that specialised in entrepreneurship. Several universities also had research clusters that focused on entrepreneurship, innovation and/or small business management.
The co-operative enterprise continues to offer benefits to Australia’s farmers just as they still do across most other countries which compete with us within global food supply chains. They have a different overall purpose to investor-owned firms and this “co-operative difference” revolves around the fact that they are owned by their members who also supply to and buy from them. They also operate with a highly democratic governance model in which it is not possible for a small number of shareholders to take control of the company.
Whether formal planning is or is not of value to small firms continues to be debated. The emergence of effectuation theory has assisted in helping to explain why formal planning may be of less value to start-up ventures, or guiding the entrepreneurial process. However, it does not refute the need for planning.
It is important to note that the ABS only estimates the number of indigenous entrepreneurs in Australia because the task of clearly defining who or what is a "indigenous" business is difficult. This is an issue addressed by Professor Dennis Foley from the University of Newcastle in a recently published article in the Indigenous Law Bulletin. Entitled "Jus Sanguinis: The root contention in determining what is an Australian Aboriginal Business", Foley examines the nature of how indigenous businesses are defined and why this process of definition is important. In fact it is inextricably wound up with the entire issue of Aboriginal identity.