You’re on your own.

Well, for business leaders, that’s close to reality. We can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on government, regulators and many commerce associations.

Politicians seeking, then winning, office often do not honour their electoral promises. It is understandable and reasonable for many in business to question whether Prime Ministers, Premiers, Treasurers and Ministers have any honour.

The recent Western Australia state election was a timely and, potentially for large numbers of entities, a costly case study.

Promises of no increases in taxes were broken at the first budget. Increased imposts in payroll and gold taxes/levies were referred by the Premier and Treasurer as being temporary and short term. Interestingly, their time span is longer than the four-year term of an elected government. Can one reasonably conclude that the incumbent state government is temporary and short-term.

Few governments create jobs or wealth. At best, they can facilitate both, primarily by standing back and allowing individual business leaders, entities and networks to get on with the job.

The history of those in business, waiting for elected members to take the lead is littered with broken promises, shattered dreams and unfulfilled expectations.

“Attribution Theory” is alive and well in the political spheres. Politicians are quick to claim to be parents of business success. Failure is an orphan.

Between election campaigns business leaders and owners need to recognise the prevailing, often government-applied, parameters and optimise their productivity and competitive advantages.


On balance, the charter for most regulators is to monitor, administer and enforce compliance and conformity. In short, to maintain and sustain the status quo.

In the prevailing economy that offers little hope or scope for individual growth – unless one is prepared to ‘push the envelope’, to be innovative, creative and disruptive.

Staying tight, ‘holding the line’ and conforming with the prevailing status quo will inevitably lead to ‘going down with the ship’.

Many sectors are drowning in regulations, which contribute little to striving for and enhancing increased productivity, velocity and volume.

The exceptions, those who are thriving – not surviving - are those who dare to be different. They are typically recognisable because they are pilloried for operating outside the norm, the established practices.

Wearing the disdain of established competitors comes with the territory. It is a cost to be borne, one that does not impinge on profits, market acceptance or relevance.

Globally, their identities are established, recognised and supported. The include UBER, Amazon and Facebook. Within Australia they are equally successful, profiled and are strikingly non-competitive (that is, they dominate their sector and targeted audiences).

In each instance, discounting, sales and bargains are not the norm. Lower prices, consistently applied, are. A different, unique, and, often, exclusive business model has been developed and is employed. Look no further than the relative performances of traditional fashion retailers and those who have embraced the ideals, principles and advantages of “fast fashion”: reported profit, success and failure rates are striking. Fast fashion is rewriting business models. It is not a case of making a fast buck. Sustainability will evolve.

The late Sir James McCusker, founder of Town & Country Building Society, now part of ANZ Bank, was quoted in the book “The Jindalee Factor – Insights on Australian Entrepreneurs”:

Rules are for guidance, not obedience.

Sage advice. Rule setting should be assigned equal importance to goal setting. On reflection, winners usually write the rules …- and history.

The alternative is ill-defined, and certainly not self-determined, as: one complies and conforms.


Professional trade and industry associations are under pressure.

Membership losses are common. Value is often difficult to articulate and to quantify.

Astute advocacy by association executives and office-bearers in the political corridors of power can be difficult to relate, or identify as a causal factor, towards increases in revenue, profits and market share.

The profiles of associations’ elected leaders, and the individual entities they represent can be insightful.

Leading, large and established businesses often find advantage and benefit in maintaining the status quo, rationalising such with the term in the common good.

Start-ups, interlopers and disruptors find the implicit glass ceilings unappealing and inappropriate.

Little wonder some choose to go it alone, retain their independence, seek (and often secure) a seat at the table with the political power elite and enjoy media acceptance and visibility, much to the annoyance of peers.

Association executives walk a narrow plank. Satisfying everyone is beyond the capacity of mortals. However, they need to make a statement – clear, concise, telling, and refreshingly honest.

Changes in personnel and culture, rather than by-laws, provide a window of opportunity. Being prepared to confront, challenge and, yes, offend, can be laudable. That approach is most likely to impact positively on the cash-flows and profitability of existing and prospective members – immediately and continuously. They are the key performance indicators (KPI) being implicitly applied by association members.

In a marketplace and economy constrained by the intrusion of politicians with questionable measures of honour, regulators who revel in efficiency, profit-sapping procedures and some association executives who see their primary role to be advocacy, with little regard for improving the lot of individual, or group members, now is the time for business leaders, owners and managers to get on with it and go it alone.

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777