|Simon McArthur, business doctor, change agent.|
Friday 17th May, 9.30am
Stand-Out Business Identities
Dr Simon McArthur
How would you describe your role in business?
Day to day I am like a tourism and business doctor – I diagnose why a destination or business is struggling and determine what needs to be done to get it healthy again. People pay me to do this because they are so operationally focused every day, they lose their big picture. They lose sight of who their target market is and what these people want. They don't know any more whether they are meeting their customer's needs better than their competitors, and they need to know what to do to strengthen that competitive advantage before they get overtaken.
Most of this work I do in the tourism sector, because I love the extra challenge the sector presents. The diversity of tourism and its markets makes it one of the most challenging to competitively position. The key market (leisure tourists) are one of the hardest to predict because they make so many of their decisions intuitively rather than logically. I am seeing the smart operators use a deeper understanding of these people to adjust their offer and prioritise their scarce resources to capture more market share. Meanwhile the lazy ones that don't change, trade down their market and its spend, and eventually lose market share. Sometimes it's too late to help them.
Branding and promotional activities are often thought of as a luxury smaller businesses don't have much time or resources for. What are your thoughts on this?
Wow…I cannot understand any business saying that it's a luxury to understand how their customer views them and what unique competitive advantage they have. A branded product is easier to choose over a non-branded product, because the brand shows what people think, feel and expect from the product – the brand is your distinctive and compelling promise.
It's not expensive or onerous to determine a brand, especially when you contemplate the opportunity cost of not having one. I think people avoid branding because they don't understand what it is and how it can make their life easier, and / or because they can't be bothered to be different, and try and really connect with their customers.
Can you give us some examples of branding success stories?
The big companies are the easy picks, like: Facebook, You Tube, Virgin, Apple, Disney and Red Bull. Yes they have budget to build brand awareness, but before they had budget they still had to do the hard thinking to determine how they could stand out. What's more, after defining their brand, everything they did with their business was aligned to it.
Some success stories among smaller Australian business that I like include: Circus Oz, VIVO Café, Boost Juice, SBA (Small Business Accounting), Jimmy Possum, Republica Coffee and Red Balloon Days.
What thinking can regional businesses apply to succeed in a dynamic, increasingly global market?
Well, the usual 'one liner' is work up a brand and Business Plan, and make sure that every working day implements both. Going a little deeper, it's about going outside your normal operating environment to look at potential markets that are evolving into new needs that you might be able to meet. We also encourage some competitor research to not only know who you are up against and what they might be doing better, but to start thinking about what they are not doing so well that you might be able to do a touch better. Then you've got to get this stuff into big poster-like tables so you can see patterns, holes and opportunities – stick them up on the wall and stare at them while you're having a coffee, and see what they trigger.
Name two business leaders who inspire you and why?
|Grant Hunt, Anthology Travel|
First there's Grant Hunt, the Chairman and Founder of Anthology Travel, a boutique nature based tourism management and marketing company. He is best known for his pioneering work in the development of projects such as Longitude 131 in Central Australia and Wildman Wilderness. He has created some amazing tourism experiences in some of our most sensitive landscapes, connecting people with our wilderness, outback and heritage in ways that are authentic and cutting edge.
Grant gives back beyond what could be expected of him. He has acted as Chairman of Tourism Northern Territory, as a Director of Tourism Australia, ATEC, the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management, and Voyages Hotels and Resorts, and is currently a member of the CSIRO Stakeholder Group on Climate Change. Grant has been an industry pioneer in the area of corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices.
Then there's Jason King, of Bells Milk Bar in Broken Hill. At the tender age of 25, Jason’s mum convinced him to move to Broken Hill to manage Bells Milk Bar, a run down local milk bar on the wrong side of the famous ‘Line of Lode’. Jason has restored the milk bar to its 1950s glory, added an Australian Milk Bar Museum and is developing a new market for the Bells handmade syrups and cordials by packaging and selling them in a range of retail sizes, both in-store and online.
|Jason King of Bells Milk Bar, Broken Hill|