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How to be ‘that’ business

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on February 8, 2017

6 min read

To mark 25 years of the Telstra Business Awards, we asked some past winners and finalists what it takes to be ‘that’ business.

Today we are celebrating a truly special milestone; 25 years of the Telstra Business Awards – the longest running program honouring the achievements of Australia’s best small and medium businesses and charities.

While the Awards program has evolved considerably over the years, it still remains true to the founding principles of recognising the courage, grit and determination of Australian businesses by championing their success and giving them a platform to reach even greater heights.

Over the years we’ve recognised more than 2,000 finalists and winners, from every corner and every sector of Australia. They are great examples of Australian businesses and charities who have become ‘that’ business – a leader in their field, a name that is trusted and admired, an organisation that inspires others.

(l-r) Felicity Rodgers, Jamie Cook, Pamela Brooke, Michelle Bourke Photo: Kit Haselden Photography
(l-r) Felicity Rodgers, Jamie Cook, Pamela Brooke, Michelle Bourke Photo: Kit Haselden Photography

What drove you to start your own business?

Pamela Brook, Brookfarm (2007 Telstra Australian Business of the Year): Two things drove us, a passion for Australian farming and a passion for making products in Australia.  As macadamia farmers we realised that the macadamia industry was selling nearly all its crop overseas for other people to do clever things with and no value adding was taking place in Australia. We were determined to change that and to create premium products containing macadamias that people would eat and enjoy every day.”

When did you realise your business idea could really be successful?

Michelle Bourke, ArtLiveMedia (2016 Telstra Victorian New Business Award winner):  “I think the moment came once we had turned over a million dollars and I could see conversations with large companies becoming easier because they could see the results we’d achieved with other companies like them. I began to see a pattern of success and how it could be replicated and scaled. Once I could see that whole business model in my head I truly felt that we could take this somewhere amazing.”

Pamela Brook, Brookfarm: “We had great consumer feedback at the Bangalow Markets where we started, and we never gave up even though it was really tough and we did everything ourselves. Martin’s determination to grow our markets throughout Australia meant that after three years I could give up dentistry, and we could both work full time in the business.  That’s when we knew our business would be successful, when we had our first employees.”

What advice would give to people starting their own businesses?

Felicity Rodgers, Cargo Crew (2015 Telstra Australian Small Business Award winner): “The first question to ask yourself is are you 100% passionate and committed to your idea or product? In my opinion most successful start-ups are begun by people who genuinely have a love and passion for what they do.”

Jamie Cook, Stone & Wood Brewing (2014 Telstra Australian Regional Business Award winner): “Find the right people to be partners in the business with, people that you have worked with in the past and know how they operate under pressure, people who have the required complimentary skills. Invest in your people too, at the end of the day, they are your business.”

If you could turn back the clock, what might you do differently?

Michelle Bourke, ArtLiveMedia: “I would have spent more time learning from others in our industry. So often those who you might consider competitors are actually your colleagues. They are excited to share what they’ve learned in business, and they often have extremely sage and worthwhile advice that will save you a lot of pain!”

Felicity Rodgers, Cargo Crew: “We would have built international shipping into our website earlier. During the first two years of our online store international customers had to email us to get a shipping quote and the transaction would then be processed offline. Time differences amongst other things made this process clunky. The introduction of our international checkout in 2016 has seen a significant increase to our international market.”

How has technology changed your business?

Pamela Brook, Brookfarm: “Technology is embedded throughout Brookfarm – from our farm, throughout manufacture, warehousing, logistics, sales, marketing, finance and administration.  Technology has helped us work smarter not harder.  It’s created new jobs and career pathways for our staff as roles change and expand.  It’s enabled our business to grow rapidly – when all our resources were stretched, technology put us back in control again.”

Michelle Bourke, ArtLiveMedia: “Our business has never existed without it, we are lucky to have come into existence in an age where so many amazing applications that would previously only have been available to big businesses have been completely democratized by disruptive start-ups. So, it’s not so much how technology has changed our business, but how it has shaped us from the very beginning. It has shaped us to be a technology led organisation. We are constantly thinking about ways of automating and making what we do more efficient so we can give our customers more and more value for the time they purchase with us.”

What was the most surprising benefit to your business thanks to the use of technology?

Jamie Cook, Stone & Wood Brewing: Keeping our team connected using mobile technology whether it be guys out on the road, the people working from home when they need to, or the team staying in touch and inspiring each other by using Yammer as our in house social media platform.”

Michelle Bourke, ArtLiveMedia: “The power of workplace flexibility being a major motivator for great talent. Because we are built from the ground up on cloud infrastructure, as long as there is a good internet connection, our team can work from absolutely anywhere. And when great talent is scarce and we’re competing against much larger companies for access to that talent, being able to offer something they might not has been a major advantage.”

Entries are now open for the 25th annual Telstra Business Awards, the event that celebrates the achievements and entrepreneurial spirit of Australia’s best small and medium businesses and charities. If you know a brilliant business that deserves recognition, nominate them today at

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