COOMA PROBUS CLUB
THE speaker at the June meeting of the Cooma Probus Club was David Shelley.
David has an impressive CV and has been in the Snowy Mountains and Monaro region for 18 years, the last 11 as the manager of the ANZ and then Westpac banks.
Born in Sydney and raised both in country NSW and the city, David undertook secondary education in the areas of agriculture as well as sheep husbandry and wool science. Although, based on this training, it was intended that he enter a career within the wool industry, his grandfather, concerned with the future of the industry, encouraged David to move into commerce. After joining the workforce David continued with advancing his education attending two universities studying business related disciplines. He explained that he had worked in a number of fields and upon moving to Jindabyne had for a short time even operated a horse and carriage in Thredbo and the surrounding area.
David pointed out that over the years society has seen and continues to see an evolution in business from those huge transitions in the mode of transport from horse-drawn vehicles to the automobile, cargo handling facilities automate and more and more cargo transported by air. More recently in the area of communication we have seen Australia Post downsizing due to a decrease in standard letter writing, as email and Facebook become the mediums of expression. Business operators must adjust to the changes in their respective industries or face the inevitable outcome.
In the area of manufacturing the three Australian car manufacturers have announced closure of their local production as the scale of the local market, local labour costs and competition from imported vehicles combine affecting profitability. Market saturation even affects businesses in Cooma where we have seen the number of furniture retailers adjust as players enter and exit due to the available local demand, returning to the market equilibrium point.
Unfortunately, in the Australian business community, indeed in the wider community, there is a welfare mentality, which demands such things as paid leave loading, overtime at weekends, and so on.
This payment came about because the unions argued that in an industry where you could expect overtime or shift work, when you went on holidays you missed out on that shift work, and so were due compensation. Perhaps we should accept that anything over the base salary, we get when taking on a job, is simply the cream and not an entitlement.
On a national basis we need to have a critical look at what we demand of our employers and this might also extend to the proposed paid parental leave scheme. How can paying someone not to work be touted as a productivity measure. We are in an increasingly competitive worldwide market where productivity is "King" and that competition does not just come from other businesses constrained by our Australian industrial awards and perhaps excessive concessions.
In order to be successful it is imperative that business owners understand their market, its opportunities and gaps in services provided, not just copy other successful local businesses resulting in oversupply; they must also look for a point of difference. Another source of business expansion is to look to external markets, including export markets.
The economic task force set up by the mayor and council was focused on identifying a better understanding of Cooma's demographics, needs and business opportunities. The recommendations of the task force bring together the resources of council and various associations / bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce to act in concert to drive the positive future of the town and region.
Recently the Chamber suggested the slogan "Be local, buy local" be adopted by Cooma's businesses and it was interesting to note that the ACT Chamber of Commerce was recently trumpeting the same call!
Too often we assume we have to go to Canberra or Sydney to get the best price for goods and fail to look locally at what is actually on offer from our own businesses. David illustrated this by saying that he recently bought white goods in Cooma at the same price or better than that offered in Canberra or on the internet. (And even if it is a little more expensive, if you add the price of petrol to the transaction, you can still buy locally). So don't assume that the Canberra or internet price will be necessarily lower; ask your local business.
The added advantage of buying locally is that you have local back-up services, and you can address your woes or complaints over the counter.
David implored small business owners not to ignore the many agencies that have been set up from which advice or assistance can be obtained, including our own Chambers of Commerce, Regional Development Australia and Business Enterprise Centres, all of which put on various seminars and workshops designed to educate and update the skills needed to improve profitability and / or adjust to changes affecting the business. Do not as a business owner protest non-support when you fail to make use of what is on offer.
In our region it was highlighted that many of our local businesses are farming operations. They too have agencies and associations focused on supporting the industry. The Farmers Association and the Young Farmers groups arrange field trips and demonstrations for people on the land, and at a time when prices of produce are low, such services should not be ignored.
Questions and comments after David's talk came thick and fast, and this is always a measure of appreciation of the material presented; so on behalf of the Senior Retirees of the Cooma Probus Club, a sincere vote of thanks, David.
And don't forget, if you are an active retiree, we would love to have you join our ranks and lower the average age of our members. Ring Bob Weston (6452 7008), Simon Allen (6452 3561) or Derek Watson (6457 1321) to seek nomination.