The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level. The objective of the Entrepreneur’s Programme is to drive business growth and competitiveness by supporting business improvement and promoting economic growth through research connections and commercialisation of new products, processes and services. AusIndustry is a division of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and focuses on enabling SME’s an opportunity to access advice, assistance and tailored support to help them improve business performance, capability and competitiveness. It is a key component of the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, popularly known as “Welcome to the Ideas Boom”, and importantly, is a free service for participating businesses We are fortunate enough to work with the Department through this Programme to provide the best possible service to Australian businesses– with a difference. We have assembled a team of 11 industry experts across Australia to work with us on this exciting programme. These experts are all senior respected leaders in their fields, and will deliver a tangible difference to participant businesses. Today, we want to share with you one of our expert’s insights into the benefits and services that can be gained by businesses participating in the Entrepreneurs Program. Tony Shannon is a Business Advisor for the Entrepreneurs’ Programme in the ICT and Professional Services sector, based in Sydney. We asked him a few questions. 1.What are some of the benefits that businesses can expect when participating in the Entrepreneurs’ Programme? When a business signs up for the Entrepreneurs’ Programme (EP), often the first thing our clients remark on is that the business adviser or case manager that comes through their door walks and talks like they do. They are a lot more relatable than expected, however that is the intention. The business advisers, of which I am one, are independent former business people with no agenda to push other than helping their clients improve their business. The business advisers are independent former business people with no agenda to push other than helping their clients improve their business. The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is actually a selection of business assistance services developed specifically for SMEs. (You can find out about all the services and the eligibility criteria here: http://www.business.gov.au/advice-and-support/EIP/Pages/default.aspx). What binds the services together is that they are tailored to the individual business’s needs by leveraging the expertise and real world private sector business experience of the business advisers or case managers. Indeed, a business adviser can also tap into the knowledge of the entire team of advisers if specialist knowledge is required. That is a big benefit. In the Business Evaluation service, where I spend most of my time, business advisers work with their clients to overcome the particular business problems they are confronting – strategic, financial, resourcing, operational, markets and sales – or, better still, take advantages of the opportunities that are emerging or help them create new opportunities. There is also $20k in matched grant funding that many businesses can access under the Business Growth Grants scheme. Business advisers can also link our clients into other beneficial government programmes; and often this is an introduction to an individual not just an email with a web address or a 1300number. 2.What are the main types of issues facing your clients in the Enabling Technologies sector? Advisers help find ways to demonstrate the value that a particular technology can generate for the customer Change. Uncertainty. Disruption. Change and more change. Against that stormy business landscape our clients are trying to balance building their existing businesses with investing in new opportunities. That is, developing new products and services and trying to build business in markets already crowded with competing services that are too often indistinguishable to their potential customers who themselves are grappling with similar issues of change; and trying to establish a foothold in entirely new markets where they have little previous exposure. Of course, there are also operational and people issues and questions about management systems but the big issues tend to revolve around crafting and exploiting a solid value proposition. Finding ways to demonstrate the value that their particular technology can generate for their customers so that IT is viewed as an investment in business building rather than a blunt cost. 3.Rapid advances in key technologies are set to disrupt many industries. How do you help your clients embrace and capitalise on disruption? As a specialist in the “Enabling Technology (ICT) and Professional Services” sector I am often in the business of helping my clients disrupt the industries in which their customers operate. I encourage my clients to promote their tech services as commercial weapons, not just as inert support services. The most successful IT firms in the next wave of business innovation will be those that position themselves as business thinkers who can help their customers craft a strategic business advantage through novel and creative exploitation of IT. That said, I also like to help my clients create their own new business models – or rebadge business models lifted from other industries – to give themselves a defendable advantage over their competitors. I do this by working with my clients to zero in on what is really important to their customers and figuring out new and better ways to service those critical customer needs, be that through business model innovation or service renovation. 4.How are your clients differentiating themselves in the market, and creating an innovative and effective value proposition for their clients? This is very difficult for many of the businesses in the programme and especially those in the service-heavy Enabling Tech sector. In the first instance, they need to shed themselves of their existing, and often rather passé, notions of a value proposition: excellent service, working with the client to understand their needs etc (have a look at just about any website for an architect, web designer, marketing business or similar service business and you’ll see the problem). Companies that have successfully reinvigorated their value propositions have tended to review their business relationships rather than their products or services. This might include productising services (wrapping a vague service up into a set of delineated and easily understood features) or designing a service methodology or commercial model and that is unique. Critically, though, it can’t be unique solely for uniqueness sake it must be better than the competitors in meaningfully beneficial ways. The advisers encourage clients to uncover and understand the precise nature of a customer’s problems and what the customer values most. To tap into that wavelength, I encourage my clients to uncover and understand the precise nature of a customer’s problems and what the customer values most. Businesses can then mould their offering to precisely meet those criteria and promote the specific benefits and value that they can deliver. In this way businesses can develop value propositions that are customer specific rather than trying to create a static one-size-fits-all value proposition. With a little luck, this will allow them to charge the customer a higher price because the price is commensurate with value generated. If you would like to find out more about participating in the AusIndustry’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme and to find out if your business is eligible, please visit the webpage http://www.business.gov.au/advice-and-support/EIP/Pages/default.aspx, or contact us directly.