Looking at the biggest names in tech entrepreneurship, one could be excused for imagining that disruptive AI innovation was largely limited to Silicon Valley in the US. Of course this isn’t actually the case. While Facebook, Google, and Elon Musk have dominated headlines on their development of artificial intelligence, Dr. Catriona Wallace has been putting it into practice in Australia. While big names are concerning themselves with attention-grabbing super AI, Wallace is working at the cutting edge of AI technology to develop practical applications and create real value for businesses and their customers.
Growth is a complex process for businesses, especially when they’re transitioning out of their initial startup phase. Business owners often view cash flow issues as their biggest barrier, but there’s an additional challenge that needs to be overcome after financing has been sorted. Continuing to satisfy a growing client base while going through a growth phase is an enormous challenge. It means finding new suppliers, buying equipment, acquiring new facilities, and, most importantly, expanding your workforce without seriously disrupting your current activities.
Every small business owner dreams of making it big with a massive contract that doubles the size of their business with a single signature. Accommodating rapid growth like this, though, presents a number of significant challenges. Businesses who aren’t ready to manage these may miss out on major growth opportunities, or even jeopardise their business in some cases. Those who meet their business’ rapid growth needs well, on the other hand, can enjoy incredible growth while minimising many of the risks that businesses often face when scaling up.
Online reviews have become increasingly relevant to online, and increasingly also brick-and-mortar businesses in the past decade. Initially they came about as a way to get a feel for the quality of a product or service online, where customers couldn’t interact directly with products or businesses. Over time, their popularity has increased, and 4 out of 5 online consumers now consult online reviews before making a purchase. As a result, online review sites have emerged as a battleground.
While many successful startups are built on a single disruptive innovation, it takes a consistently innovative company culture to grow into an industry leader. A single brilliant entrepreneur can almost never do the back-breaking work of running a business while also continuing to come up with transformative ideas. Rather, many of the longest-lived and familiar brands we know today rely on the innovative potential of their entire staff to drive them forward.
Entrepreneurs rarely go into business with the goal of remaining small in the long term. While each business owner’s ultimate ambitions might vary, success for entrepreneurs normally means pursuing competitiveness and growth. Considering this, it’s worth noting that over 97 per cent of Australian businesses are small businesses. Growth is difficult, and it’s very common for entrepreneurs with big dreams to join the ranks of small businesses that survive, but don’t quite thrive. That doesn’t mean, however, that growing and scaling up are distant dreams.
Along with co-founder Hayley Barna, Katia Beauchamp has taken the beauty industry by storm, transforming the way millions of people select and purchase beauty products. Founded in 2010, her startup, Birchbox, brought beauty products into the subscription economy, and has since taken over a significant portion of the beauty industry. As of 2017, Birchbox was working with 300 brands in six countries.
As startups become larger, their workforces tend to also become more diverse. Business owners, unfortunately, often don’t recognise this as the opportunity that it is. While businesses usually do pursue policies to avoid discrimination, they often don’t adequately consider how to benefit from their diversity. One of the most important, and universally applicable of these is generational diversity.
Since starting out as a co-op student at GM in 1980 at the age of 18, Mary Barra has become the highest paid, and arguably most successful, CEO in the automotive industry. Unlike many of her counterparts, her educational and professional background are centered around engineering, and her approach to leadership has reflected that of an engineer. Since assuming her position as the CEO of General Motors, Barra has been named the 5th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, received an honorary doctorate from Duke University, and was featured on the cover of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”.
In their first few years of operation, small businesses are in a very precarious position. Not only do entrepreneurs need to go through the bureaucratic, strategic, and mundane work of getting their business running, they also need to satisfy startup investors and lending institutions, and attract new investment. Those who don’t often rely on personal savings and investments by friends and family members to launch their businesses, which places them under even more personal pressure.