Business owners face enormous challenges every day. Every challenge we face, from day-to-day operations, meetings, and sales reports to new revenue opportunities, falls under a single umbrella: growth. It’s why we do what we do. No one, after all, goes to work every day hoping to run a stagnant business. Growth is the ultimate prize.
Truth be told, it can also be a bit daunting. When we think of globalisation, we tend to think of millionaire entrepreneurs like Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes. These two home-grown software engineers typify the potential of local companies to go global.
Image credit: Dee Kramer Photography
The Global Company Who Happens to Be Local
Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes are the founders of software maker Atlassian, which The Australian Financial Review called the “tech industry’s poster child.” The two started Atlassian straight out of the University of New South Wales with $10,000 in credit card debt. Today, Atlassian is valued at $US3.3 billion. The company counts among its customers Telstra, Audi, and NASA.
Both Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar call Sydney home, and though the business recently moved its legal headquarters to the UK, Atlassian is still based in Sydney. Atlassian is the poster child for more than the tech industry, though: they embody the local business gone global.
In a Financial Review report, Caitlin Fitzsimmons said this of the company:
“Like the Chinese merchants who sold picks and shovels in the gold rush era, Atlassian has ridden to the very top of the tech wave in part because it is in the business of making and selling technology, as opposed to those who use technology to sell something else – be that real estate, jobs or clothes. Importantly, it has shown that a global technology company can be based here.”
Crucially, though, that success isn’t limited to technology companies. Steve Case, a former AOL executive whose venture capital fund Revolution Growth invested in Bigcommerce, articulates the opportunity technology affords any business: “technology can enable any entrepreneur, in any industry, located anywhere, to build a successful, high-growth business.”
The Local Company Who Happens to Be Global
Nowhere is that sentiment more alive than in Jane Cay, founder of Birdsnest, a retail clothing store.
Cay started Birdsnest after falling in love and moving to the NSW Snowy Mountains. Not long out of university, she’d studied commerce. At the time, she saw no future in computers and the internet.
"I left school not being able to turn a computer on, literally. Computers were for nerds and boys," she told The Canberra Times. Her degree, however, required her to study information systems. It was during these studies that her eyes opened to the possibility of technology.
"All of a sudden I was like, 'Wow, this thing called the internet is really going to transform business'," she said in the Canberra Times interview. ''I'm passionate about business but systems in business. All of a sudden I saw the power of that and the power of understanding that.''
Excitement met necessity in the small town of Cooma, where Birdsnest had opened its brick-and-mortar retail store. The store had reached “a million-dollar turnover in a town of 8,000. We’d reached our capacity. Literally there were no more women left in the Snowy Mountains.”
Cay turned to technology, establishing an e-commerce site. Today, the shop fulfills 1,000 orders each day and ships internationally. Still, the company is deeply rooted in community.
"We're a family business. We're very much about a sustainable business model. We're not in it to sell out. We want to stay in this community," Cay said. Her business practices testify to that: Birdsnest currently employs more than 100 people in Cooma.
Birdsnest has evolved because of a willingness to embrace new tools while still remaining true to its roots. Cay has created an authentic culture of the Birdsnest community, and her primary mission is to “put smiles on the faces of customers.”
The Role of Technology
Technology allows any business to have greater flexibility, increase productivity, and scale to sizes that simply would not have been possible as recently as a decade ago. Education is perhaps the most relevant example of an industry that’s utilizing technology to expand its customer base. The rise of the Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, allows students to access top-tier courses and lectures from their living rooms.
Other industries are following suit. Financial advice can be given over the internet. Writers can work for clients the world over, as can accountants, marketers, legal advisers, even retailers like Birdsnest.
Nor does a company need global ambitions to expand their reach. Florists can set up multiple shops and funnel all orders through a single entry point online, then coordinate efforts on a local level through technology.
At BMS, we specialise in leveraging emerging technology to help businesses in the Illawarra (and beyond!) grow their business. We’re proud to operate locally, but we realise the opportunities of an expanding market.