Sir Richard Branson: from small record shop to 300 companies

SIR Richard Branson, who built his career from record shop owner to Virgin Group billionaire, told a QUT Business Leaders' Forum yesterday that business leadership was about bringing great ideas to market and benefitting communities in the process. He urged business owners and leaders to take a higher view of their businesses and to have faith in their best ideas.

Sir Richard Branson (seated, centre) with members of his Carbon War Room initiative: yesterday in Brisbane he commented that carbon taxes should be applied on a global basis, so as not to disadvantage some countries.


Sir Richard told a sold-out QUT Business Leaders' Forum at the Hilton Brisbane about his career as an entrepreneur, which began with a student magazine he launched at 15 years old. Earlier he had made a keynote address at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre - and today's Summit keynote speaker is former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

More than 300 companies in 30 countries are now part of Sir Richard's Virgin Group empire, including businesses in air and rail travel, telecommunications, media and space tourism.

In an hour-long interview with ABC journalist Kerry O'Brien, Sir Richard talked about his drives and vision for business - and how business interconnects with and assists communities.

Sir Richard said his best businesses ventures were not based on making money.

"The most successful businesses I've launched came out of the desire to create. I hated flying on other people's airlines," he said.

"I thought I could create an airline I would want to fly on. I never thought I could make lots of money doing it. I created an airline that I wanted to fly on, other people liked it."

Sir Richard later joked he was financially illiterate.

"I never use accountants when I'm launching a new business," he said.

Sir Richard called on businesses to play a greater role in philanthropy and discussed the work of Virgin's independent charitable arm, Virgin Unite.

"More and more business leaders are turning their companies into forces of good," he said.

Sir Richard urged business owners to delegate the "nitty-gritty", day-to-day processes of running a business to others to free up time to "think about the bigger picture" and try new ventures.

"Just give it a go. Try it out, you'll soon know if your idea is going to work or not," he said.

"If you do fail, you haven't really failed. You've just had a great education."

Sir Richard also spoke in earnest about challenges facing the music industry and book stores in the last 10 years - and their precarious future.

"I don't think music shops will survive. You'll get a few second-hand, historic music shops that may still be around in a decade's time. I think the writing's on the wall for music shops, I think the writing's on the wall for book shops," he said.

"People who swore they would never read books on an iPad or a Kindle, more and more people are doing it now. Obviously, it's sad. I think it's just the way things are. Other things will hopefully replace these."

Sir Richard also talked about testing times in the airline industry, which for him included when birds flew into the engine of his first Virgin plane during a test flight.

"I jokingly said about 27 years ago that the easiest way of becoming a millionaire is to start off as a billionaire and go into the airline industry," Sir Richard said.

"It's certainly a very challenging industry."

The next speaker at the QUT Business Leaders Forum will be Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly.





Flood affected businesses get free mentoring support

Businesses directly affected by the Queensland floods can gain one-on-one assistance to develop strategies to help rebuild at special sessions in Brisbane on Friday.

Brisbane business Furniture Concepts is one of those fighting for recovery post-floods.


The Mentoring for Recovery (M4R) sessions being staged at the Archerfield Airport Corporation Terminal Building on Friday, May 20, may help to get many businesses back on track.

M4R is a mentoring program specifically aimed at assisting enterprises that have been significantly affected by the recent floods by providing access to private sector business mentors who can help in addressing business challenges and issues as a result of water inundation or supply chain interruptions. 

M4R may be a great first step for business owners and managers looking for a sounding board or for those wishing to test new ideas for recovery on a select group of business professionals.

M4R is a free fully subsidised service provided by the Queensland Government   Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Brisbane Southside Service Centre and is run in partnership the Brisbane Metro Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) and South West Chamber of Commerce in addition to industry professional advisors.

The session will run from 9am to 5pm and participants must register first through the Brisbane Metro BEC.

Contact Alice Langford, Brisbane Metro BEC manager. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Busiensses may also contact the South West Chamber of Commerce Inc. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Tel: 07-33979899 or 0419 00 77 09.



Franchise Council calls for Federal stability and uniform state laws

Franchising, and the small business sector more broadly, needs policies to stimulate investment and promote growth,  not saddle it with more regulation, according to the Franchising Council of Australia (FCA), which represents the $130billion franchising sector.

Steve Wright, FCA.

Stability and uniform national laws should be a focus of consideration of business needs as political negotiations to form the Australian Government over the next three years are thrashed out among Liberal, Labor, Independent and the Greens candiates.

FCA executive director Steve Wright said the FCA would be asking the Greens and the Independents to give serious thought to small business issues in their deliberations. 

"We need stability - we have just had a long review of franchising rules and the government implemented what it called sweeping reform on July 1," Mr Wright said. "We don't need the regulatory debate reopened. 

"And we certainly do not want different rules applying in different States, as is currently being proposed by Labor in South Australia," Mr Wright said.

The South Australian (SA) franchise sector is being threatened by a proposed new set of state-based franchising rules which have drawn strong opposition from leaders in the SA and national franchising sector. 

An FCA member survey found 95 percent opposition to the proposed changes and franchisor, franchisee and supplier members of the FCA have petitioned the SA Government against it.

Mr Wright said franchising had been regulated nationally for its entire 30-year history in Australia.

"To suggest different rules for SA was a ‘Back to the Future' move which harked back to the days when South Australia had a narrow-gauge railway system, at odds with the rest of the country," Mr Wright said.

"Obviously this is not good for economic efficiency or business investment in SA. And this is precisely what our survey found -- 84 percent of respondents told us they believed the proposed rules would detract from the value of franchise systems in SA. Close to 80 percent indicated that if implemented, the legislation would influence their attitudes towards investment in the state."

The FCA objected to the SA Franchising Bill when it was introduced by SA MP Tony Piccolo in the last SA Parliament, before the last state election.

"There is no upside to this legislation - it would be disastrous for franchisors, franchisees and damaging to the South Australian economy broadly," Mr Wright said.


Women in Technology win with board readiness program

Women in Technology (WiT), a not-for-profit organisation based in Brisbane, has received the exciting news that one of its flagship programs, WiT Board Readiness, has been named among 109 global 'best practice' programs by the EU-funded project PRActising Gender Equality in Science (PRA.G.E.S).

The Women in Technology (pictured) Board Readiness program has won global accolades.

WiT president, Anne-Marie Birkill, said of the accomplishment, "We are very pleased that Board Readiness has been included among such a prestigious cohort of similar programs. This is a great outcome for a volunteer-lead organization, and a credit to the wonderful team of women who developed and contributed to the program over the past few years.

"While the Board Readiness has been singled out in this way, this is the standard to which we aspire for all our programs and events."

WiT's Board Readiness program focuses on the need to promote board diversity including a focus on the inclusion of technology capability.  The Board Readiness program was developed by WiT in 2002 and is designed for women who have the desire to apply their skills as executive and non-executive directors. 

The program has generated an enormous amount of interest from government, industry, other associations and executive members.

Ms Birkill said, "Women are dramatically under-represented in the Board Rooms of Australia, the WiT Board Readiness Program seeks to contribute to turning this situation around by equipping women with the skills to take on board roles, and the tools to navigate their way into the Board Room."

The PRA.G.E.S project consists of a coordinated set of actions, lasting 21 months. The main objective has been to take stock of programs and initiatives found in specific institutional settings (such as universities, institutes, faculties and departments, but also networks, associations and science and technology-related enterprises) aimed at promoting gender equality in scienceand technology.

To achieve this objective, a necessarily complex path was followed. A preliminary survey of programs implemented in Europe, North America and Australia was carried out and then over 1,100 representatives of institutions, organisations and networks which had promoted these programs were contacted.

First-hand and web-based information on a set of programs was collected. Finally, by adopting a benchmarking approach, a database was created providing a description and short assessment of 109 selected programs, including the WiT Board Readiness program.

"Along with the wonderful feedback we receive from our members, this sort of recognition makes it all very worthwhile", said Ms Birkill, who is chief executive officer of i,lab and has led WiT as a volunteer for many years.

With over 400 members and 1600 subscribers throughout Queensland, WiT is one of the leading technology industry associations for women in Queensland. Since its inception in 1997 WiT has been a pioneer in the development of industry development programs such as:

  • Board Readiness 
  • ICT & Biotech Awards
  • Getting Back to IT
  • Biotech Research Grants
  • CIO Pathways
  • Professional Development workshops

WiT is also the first technology industry association to bring together members from diverse technology disciplines. The introduction of its Women in Biotech Chapter in 2005 has highlighted the common ground shared by women in all areas of emerging technology.  WiT membership ranges from students through to senior executives and is not limited to women only. This means catering our services for multiple targets audiences.

WiT prides itself on delivering innovative ways of developing skills including:

  • Workshops
  • High profile speaker inspirational events
  • Major networking events
  • Mentoring


Griffith Uni asks: Franchising better than independent business?

Griffith University's Asia-Pacific Centre for Franchising Excellence is being funded to explore if franchising is more sustainable than independent business.

Professor Lorelle Frazer.

Last month the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced nearly $300,000 for the linkage project, Survival of the Fittest: The performance of franchised versus independent small business during economic uncertainty and recovery being conducted by Griffith University. 

Industry partners, the Franchise Council of Australia and the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research are also contributing significantly to the project.

The project team will be led by centre director and professor Lorelle Frazer and also includes centre deputy director Scott Weaven with centre researcher and associate professor Debra Grace.

Professor Frazer said the project will shed light on the topic of franchise survival and whether franchising is a more sustainable business model.

"The project will investigate factors influencing small business survival, both independent and franchised, in regional and urban localities, in periods of economic uncertainty and recovery," Prof. Frazer said.

"Through the research we hope to identify key survival factors for small businesses, as well as to what extent small business survival strategies influence business performance in these uncertain times," she said.

Results will provide business owners and peak bodies with tools to improve business performance in periods of economic uncertainty and recovery.

Preliminary findings from the study will be released next year with final results available in 2011.


Teams are Lifeline to business success

According to international business speaker, Lindsay Adams, a customer who has a bad experience will tell 12 other people. So, how do you ensure your team is doing the best job for your business?  Lindsay Adams from Teamocracy will deliver insight into effective, profitable teams, and word-of mouth-marketing on Wednesday August 26 at the Business Lifeline seminar at Royal Pines Resort.

LIndsay Adams.

This event follows five successful Business Lifeline seminars, after the program was launched on the Gold Coast in March.


Mr Adams, a workshop facilitator, team builder and referral marketing specialist, believes business owners need to make sure they make the most of their internal and external teams in order to sustain business growth.

"This seminar is all about leadership and how to engender teamwork, getting everyone in your team to work towards your vision and make it happen with you," Mr Adams said.

"I'll also be sharing how to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing to drive sales for fast, sustainable business growth."

Business Lifeline patron, Zarraffa's Coffee founder Kenton Campbell, said assessing and harnessing the power of your team is one of the most beneficial activities a business can undertake.

"Zarraffa's would not see the return of customers if it weren't for excellent customer service, which of course starts with satisfied, productive teams," said Mr Campbell.

"Like Lindsay says, a customer who has a bad experience will likely tell 12 other people ... We try to ensure that every customer has a positive experience at Zarraffa's so that they spread the good word and more people will want to try our coffee," he said.

Mr Campbell believes the Business Lifeline seminar is the perfect opportunity to develop your own teamwork action plan and accountability.

"Anyone seeking to grow their business should attend this seminar to learn other ways to improve and evolve their teams and customer service."

Another speaker at the seminar will be Professional Investment Services CEO Robbie Bennetts, who has been voted one of the 10 most influential business people in Australia.

He believes a positive attitude can be a key factor in employing staff.

"I always tell people we recruit on attitude and train for skill," said Mr Bennetts.

You can hear more about Mr Bennetts' rise to success and Lindsay Adams presentation on teamwork at Royal Pines Resort on August 26 from 6pm to 9pm.

Tickets are $66 or $44 for members. 

Business Lifeline is a membership program offering seminars, coaching and mentoring, in-house training programs and other support at very low cost and is ideal for those seeking a genuinely collaborative business network.Money raised through Business Lifeline goes to sustaining Lifeline's vital community services. 

Those interested in attending the seminar can phone Vicki Gaastra on 5579 6020.


COSBOA: Get advice before hiring/firing

The Council of Small Business of Australia has issued a warning to small businesses to act with extreme caution when making any changes to their existing staffing arrangements, including hiring, firing, changing staff hours or rates of pay, after next Wednesday, July 1.

Jaye Radisich.

"In just two business days' time the Fair Work Act will come into place, which sees the most broad-sweeping workplace relations changes in years," Council of Small Business CEO Jaye Radisich said.


"Unfortunately, most small businesses are not aware of the significant impact that this legislation will have on staffing matters.

"A report released by Telstra in April indicated that most small businesses didn't know about the new workplace relations changes or were not ready for them. Anecdotal evidence collected by the Council of Small Business of Australia indicates that situation has not changed, due to a lack of information available about the new laws."

Ms Radisich urged small businesses that fall under the federal workplace relations system not to take any action with regard to staffing decisions until they contact the Workplace Authority.

"Although Fair Work Australia is the new body that will help people navigate the Fair Work Act, no website or phone line is available yet so small business owners, managers and their staff should call the Workplace Authority on 1300 363 264 about their rights and responsibilities under the new arrangements," Ms Radisich said.

"Unlike large businesses, small firms do not have in-house lawyers or human resources departments to help them navigate major workplace relations changes. Nor can they often afford to hire expensive consultants to prepare their internal business systems for the changes," Ms Radisich said.

"The new laws are designed to enhance the protections afforded to employees. It is disappointing that small business employers have not been afforded the benefit of early notice of their compliance obligations under the new scheme.

"Ironically, both employees and small business employers could be in a more vulnerable position from Wednesday, due to the lack of awareness and understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities.

"Although the Fair Work Act passed through Parliament in March 2009, it was only last week that two further key bills passed the Parliament. The transitional legislation repeals the current Workplace Relations Act 1996 and sets out transitional provisions for the movement of employers and employees into the new system."

The second bill deals with consequential amendments to other Commonwealth legislation resulting from the Fair Work Act. This bill also deals with additional amendments consequential to any state referrals of workplace relations powers.

The National Employment Standards and Modern Awards will come into operation from  January 1, 2010.


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