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Small business tips: get online and use technology

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on February 13, 2018

3 min read

Last week at the launch of the 2018 Telstra Business Awards, past winners shared their stories about the positive impact the recognition had for their businesses – and innovative use of technology was a recurring theme.

In the 26-year history of the Telstra Business Awards, we have uncovered some incredible success stories. We’ve recognised hundreds of businesses across diverse categories for their courage, grit and determination, and given them a platform to propel themselves to even greater heights.

Once again, we’re encouraging small and medium businesses to enter the Telstra Business Awards in 2018 to receive the recognition they deserve – and to make this year ‘that’ year they hit it big.

“A big tick of approval”

A recurring theme from the panellists was the credibility the Awards have brought to their businesses. Co-founder of 2017 Australian Business of the Year GenWise Health, Dr Sebastian Rees, said the program provided an opportunity to share the GenWise mission with many more people, gaining invaluable exposure within the healthcare industry, and allowing them to grow as a business.

Alecia Hancock, of Hancock Creative, said the Awards were a big tick of approval that has opened doors.

Similarly, Jen Geale of Mountain Bikes Direct said “this has had a huge impact for us in terms of trust and credibility for new customers.”

Critical factors of business success

To coincide with the launch, we also released the 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report. The report examines the discrepancies between small businesses and consumer expectations.

The report revealed that businesses underestimate the importance of being online and struggle to provide the e-commerce experience most customers expect. For example, only 50 per cent of small businesses have a website, but 62 per cent of consumers won’t consider a business if they can’t find it online. In addition, only 57 per cent of small business e-commerce websites are mobile-friendly, while 48 per cent of customers shop at least once a week on a mobile device.

Ms Geale offered some helpful advice to businesses who want to meet the technological needs of their customers.

“Don’t feel like you have to do it all but stay open to new opportunities that crop up,” she said.

The message is clear for Australia’s small businesses: to remain relevant, you must ensure your adoption of technology reflects the wants and needs of your customers.

If you feel your business is performing and responding well to customer’s expectations, you should nominate yourself for a Telstra Business Award.

A refreshed program

At the event, we announced some changes to the Awards program, to provide even more value to the business community and ensure the program remains a prestigious sign of business excellence:

  1. Entry form – A streamlined entry form makes the process simpler, with the first phase taking only around 90 minutes to complete.
  2. Business Benchmark Report – Each entrant receives a comprehensive report, including an in-depth review of their business with insights and guidance.
  3. Judging criteria – Our judging criteria has been updated, with innovation and technology remaining a key consideration. The six judging criteria are: strategy and vision, customers and marketing, operations, people and culture, social responsibility and financial acumen.
  4. Award categories – There are six refreshed categories to recognise Australia’s most innovative and entrepreneurial businesses:
    • Emerging and Energised
    • Small and Succeeding
    • Medium and Making Waves
    • Social Change Maker
    • Alumni Achievement
    • People’s Choice Award

Make this year ‘that year’ for your business – nominate before the 28th of March. Anyone can nominate, so if you know a business that deserves recognition, nominate them today.

Download the latest consumer and SMB insights at Smarter Business.

For Abode New Homes, the future’s in the data

Business and Enterprise

Posted on November 30, 2017

2 min read

Telstra Business Award winner, Abode New Homes, is a great example of a business that started small but thought big. Owners Karinda and Justin Gill have put smart technology to use in their home construction business and revolutionised the way they work.

They’re one of many small and medium businesses (SMBs) we’re helping to make the most of their technology with the launch of unlimited broadband data on our L and XL business bundles.

Karinda, who started Abode New Homes with husband Justin, and is involved with seven other businesses, said technology has been integral to her ability to remain both innovative and competitive since she started her journey as an entrepreneur.

“Technology has fundamentally changed every industry and job role, but the associated costs with data usage can make it a more difficult cost/benefit decision than it needs to be,” she said.

“Cloud storage, video conferencing and software that facilitates collaboration all lead to more innovative ways of working, which goes to the heart of entrepreneurship. They’ve been central to Abode New Homes’ growth over the last decade.”

For many of Australia’s two million actively operating SMBs, things like backing-up data to the cloud, using high-definition video, running a Wi-Fi service or a multi-site network are critical activities that can often be data intensive.

Which is why Telstra has introduced unlimited broadband data to its L and XL business bundles. It provides SMBs with peace of mind, knowing they can invest in and use technology to realise their vision, grow their business and bolster their competitive advantage – without having to worry about the costs of exceeding their limit.

For our existing SMB customers on L and XL ADSL and nbn business bundles, we’re also upgrading them to unlimited broadband data at no extra cost.

The introduction of unlimited broadband data follows a six-fold increase in fixed line data usage onTelstra’s network over the past five years. This is something we expect to continue as more and more SMBs look to cloud storage, software and apps to improve productivity, grow their online presence and eCommerce capabilities to find new sources of growth, and use data storage and back-up services to secure their business operations.

Learn more about unlimited broadband data bundles for SMB customers and how they could benefit your business.

Feed yourself, feed the world: meet the Perth startup on a mission to end world hunger


Posted on October 4, 2017

2 min read

I grew up often not knowing where my next meal was coming from. Orphaned at the age of 10, I grew up in foster homes and often had to rely on external support during my childhood.

I spent some time on the streets and relied heavily on charities for food and support. I have always wanted to help people who are in the same hard situation that I faced while growing up.

I am now focused on paying it forward through technology. In February 2016, I founded Feedmee — a social enterprise for food discovery that lets people donate to food charities.

The Feedmee App works like Tinder for food, where users can choose from restaurant and recipe options. Each time someone buys a meal through the app, Feedmee donates money to food rescue charities such as OzHarvest and SecondBite to help them distribute food to people in need.

We have integration arrangements with UberEATS and Deliveroo, and a partnership with Quandoo. They pay us a referral fee that goes directly to OzHarvest, who collect food waste from commercial food providers and deliver it to people in need.

I chose OzHarvest as our non-profit partner because the money goes directly into feeding the community. We have covered the cost of more than 2,000 meals for people in need since we launched the app around 10 months ago.

I run the company with our chief technical officer Anthony Manning-Franklin and chief operating officer Brenda Lai.

Spacecubed and Telstra’s startup accelerator muru-D run the Plus Eight accelerator program, with support from Seven West Media and Hawaiian. This year the program is supporting six Perth-based startups.

Growth Hacking, Use Your Digital Powers for Good


Posted on October 3, 2017

4 min read

People talk about automation and jobs changing and, well, for the most part, they are all doom and gloom. I see these changes as a positive. Our script for the future isn’t written. If we put new digital skills in the hands of everyone, that empowers us all to determine and shape our own future.

This is why I am passionate about the Tech4Good work of the Telstra Foundation. It brings together the best of the tech and startup worlds and introduces it to the non-profit sectors. We at Telstra can have that local impact by helping our communities and sharing new skills to tackle society’s problems.

The word ‘hacking’ can have negative connotations. But it simply means to ‘hack through’ a problem. All sorts of people get together, to use their unique skills and knowledge to create innovative, new solutions to everyday challenges. You can make a difference outside of your day-to-day work life.

Telstra Foundation is partnering with Academy Xi for a special hackathon, Growth Hack Idol, to help non-profits tackle growth and outreach goals through digital marketing.

This is a competition in two parts. On October 11th, we will meet our hackers and non-profits, and learn about their purpose and challenges. The audience gets involved by assigning teams with problems to solve over the coming month. These teams will meet with their organisation to establish a strategy to achieve their marketing growth goals.

Next month, the groups will return and see what worked and what didn’t. The organisations will present what they learned and what impact the new ideas had on their growth. The audience will be involved in deciding the winner over a series of categories, including the most creative use of data, the best metric and the audience prize.

And that’s the way using Tech4Good can deliver new outcomes. We can change the way that folks think about solving problems by applying the lean startup approach. Fail, try again, and learn from that failure. It’s about changing the way we tackle problems, the way we get stuff done and the way we do work.

Growth Hack Idol’s purpose is to use technology or people’s skills to move things forward for non-profits. These organisations are doing great work, however sometimes they don’t have the time or the resources to apply new digital skills. If we can contribute to that, that’s a great outcome.

One of the non-profit partners is eOrygen. They are reinventing youth mental health services through science, big data and technology. This is close to my heart because my daughter, a student at Melbourne University, is studying data science.

She told me she wants to use big data for good. She wants to use analytics to help people. And if people like my daughter, Telstra employees or myself get involved we can use our capabilities to drive a good outcome for their future.

Sign-ups are now open for the event here. I encourage you to sign up, bring friends and family to make a difference in the lives of young people.

The non-profit teams are The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, StartOut and eOrygen. Even if you aren’t in the tech scene you can sign up to be in the audience or for the bold; you could learn new ways of thinking. We all have skills that we undervalue. And it is often surprising how easy it is to learn and apply new digital skills.

We have so much knowledge inside of us, all we need is the right opportunity to learn, to exercise that muscle. If you are newbies to the concept of a hackathon, it is about opening your mind to other ways of getting stuff done. It will give you a chance to get outside of your world and deliver services in a way that is going to be impactful.

The time is now to sign up and see how you can use your Tech4Good powers to help create a future you didn’t know was possible!

Stephen Dubner: Turkeys and why data is useless without experimentation

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on September 27, 2017

6 min read

In a wide-ranging talk at the 2017 Telstra Vantage conference, opening keynote speaker Stephen Dubner — an acclaimed journalist and co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics — used stories of poultry farming, hand hygiene compliance in hospitals, and even rat plagues to illustrate the importance of good data and experimentation in an ever-changing business world.

To begin, Dubner pointed out that poultry consumption has vastly increased in Australia and the United States over the past half century. He wondered why, and while researching he learnt that turkey meat is the big riser and that most turkeys bred for consumption are now bred through artificial insemination. Looking deeper, he found that most chickens still breed naturally but turkey consumption habits have changed. Many people now eat turkey breast as part of their ordinary diet, whereas turkey used to be primarily consumed whole on special occasions.

In order to meet demand for turkey breast meat, poultry farmers bred turkeys to have larger breasts. Eventually their breasts became so large that they became physically incapable of breeding naturally — these big-breasted turkeys could not have sex with each other.

This story, Dubner explained, can help illustrate that you need data to understand the world. But data on its own has little use, especially today — when, contrary to 15 years ago, we don’t need more data so much as we need more people who know how to ask the right questions of the data.

In his experience working with businesses, Dubner said that “the people who are most comfortable with data in the firm are often the IT people, [but] the people who most need to unlock the mysteries of that data are in different departments”. Those two groups don’t necessarily communicate well with each other.

In the latest of our Telstra Vantage Behind the Mic series, Adam Spencer speaks to Stephen Dubner. Subscribe to the podcast via apple.

Look beyond the noise

Dubner explained further that the noisiest part of a problem is often the symptom, not the cause. Artificially-inseminated turkeys with gigantic breasts are a symptom of the agricultural revolution, which has for over a century repeatedly squashed arguments that we will run out of food to feed the world’s population. The US throws away 40 percent of food bought for consumption, he stated. The problem causing famine is not a lack of food but rather that political, social, and economic dysfunction prevents the food from reaching the people who need it.

The challenge, then, beyond asking the right questions to find the root cause of a problem, is finding the right incentives to fix the problem. Or as Dubner put it, “If you want to make a good decision, if you want to change someone’s behaviour, you have to understand the incentives that are at play.”

To illustrate that point, he next turned to bathroom hand hygiene and the difference between declared preferences and revealed preferences. He polled the audience: who doesn’t wash their hands after using the toilet? No hands went up. That’s people’s declared preference — the thing they hope to do, their expected behaviour. But his own efforts to measure this, by lingering at the sink at public toilets, have suggested that only around 70 percent of men actually wash their hands after using the toilet. That’s the revealed preference.

Hopes don’t always match behaviour, even among doctors at a hospital — who in one study self-reported hand hygiene compliance of 73 percent but were then recorded by their nurses as having an average compliance rate of only 9 percent.

Poor hand hygiene leads to bacterial infection, which is the most common cause of preventable death in hospitals. Doctors are the most educated people in a hospital, so clearly education is a poor incentive for good behaviour. Dubner talked about a committee for hand hygiene at a US hospital that tried to find the right incentive. First they hypothesised that it was a communication problem, so they issued a memo. Nothing changed. Then a subcommittee thought to use positive reinforcement — they hid in the room before a doctor arrived for his rounds, then if he washed his hands they jumped out, applauded, and handed over a $10 Starbucks gift card. Doctors loved the free gift and hurried to wash their hands whenever they heard the subcommittee was nearby.

But it didn’t change the overall rate of hand hygiene, either.

The winning solution finally came from a quiet member of the committee — “the best ideas often come from quiet people who like to sit in a room with their own thoughts” — who got everybody in the committee to press their hand into a petri dish and then got those cultured. Most returned covered in bacteria. The committee then took a photo of one of these palm-shaped cultures and used it as a screensaver on every computer in the hospital, with an explanatory label. Compliance leapt to 100 percent.

Be ready to experiment

“The moral of the story is that the incentives that you think may work don’t always work, [so you should] work hard to use data to find out what’s actually the behaviour and be willing to experiment,” said Dubner, who also pointed out that sometimes incentives can even backfire and produce the opposite behaviour — as was the case in a town that had a problem with rats eating people’s trash and spreading disease.

The government first offered free extermination, then when that didn’t work they offered free bins with lids. That also didn’t work, so they offered a cash reward. For every dead rat, they promised to pay the equivalent of about US$4. That then gave rise to a rat farming economy. Far from exterminating the rat population, people would breed rats to kill them and claim the reward.

“The next time you come up with a plan that seems perfect on paper, experiment, try it out, gather some data,” Dubner concluded, “because it may work brilliantly or you may just end up with a pile of dead rats on your doorstep.”