Enablers: factors that enable success in business
1 Role of women in the operation of the business and the support of parents
The close and practical involvement of a spouse or other female family member in Indigenous businesses appears to contribute positively to business success.51 They are often the bookkeeper or the office or shop administrator.52
Mentors and advisors consistently rated the role of women as crucial to the success of businesses as they tended to have a holistic view, are able to maintain systems and processes, and build self esteem. For example, a business mentor53 relates that:
When I agree to take on a business mentoring role with an (Indigenous) entrepreneur or a small business I often get conflicting stories as to what is working and what is not. If there are no women associated with running the business, then the risk exposure in my mind is up very high. Then I'll look at tax obligations for the business and rarely are they in order and up to date. Over the years advising these two indicators are fundamentals for having a successful business.
Many interviewees also remarked that supportive parents who encouraged their children to complete their education helped the children to pursue successful business careers. This support has sometimes come at great personal cost, with one mother foregoing the money to buy her medicine to support her son's education.54
One of our Indigenous interviewees55 recounted the story of how he was challenged by his mother to study and make something of his life. To show how deeply she valued his education, she put to him her own challenge to 'get off the grog': if he studied through to year 12 she would cease drinking. This made him realise just how important she rated the need for him to pull out of the poverty cycle that embraced the family.
Her encouragement and personal sacrifice drove him to succeed and to this day, close to 30 years later, it still motivates him. He is now a senior partner in an accounting firm in regional NSW, with a very broad agricultural and small business client base. He continues to work with his community and family members as mentor and role model for the community.
2 Finally, access to business expertise, particularly business mentors, is also seen as an enabler.56
Several business mentors assist with basic matters:
…there is so little hand-me-down knowledge about business in these communities, no history of Dad having run a business: they are not exposed to simple business practices. Their networks in these circles are close to, if not, zero people to talk with. Yet, for whatever reason they have the drive to try and have a go. From such a low base of learning they need a lot more basic help than non-Indigenous business. That's tough on us because there is not many of us to go around and under our funding arrangement we have to have results. It is not the best model but at least we are trying.57
An officer from the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission58 suggested that businesses need particular support with administrative advice and mentoring early on. The officer states that:
Too many businesses grow too rapidly and forget the administrative side. We try and stress that the first one or two years are critical…Taxation and BAS (business activity statements) are the harsh realities of commercial life. Mentoring is critical. A mentor needs three things: good rapport, transferable skills and a knowledge of the industry the business is in.
Indigenous Business Australia also recognizes that mentoring from the commencement of operations helps to ensure success of the business.59 In 2006-07, they committed $6.2 million to provide 700 clients with business support.60
There have also been mentoring success stories with the Koori Business Network.61