It’s an all-too-familiar tale.

Mass retrenchments, closure of premises, product withdrawals, corporate restructures and, yes, mergers, acquisitions and liquidations.

The increasing trend and pace of shortening lifecycles for businesses, products and services reflect growing intrusion, impact and consequences of rapid change, disruption and innovation.

A recent public announcement by Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunication corporation, grabbed international media headlines. It was to retrench some 8,000 staff members (around 25% of its workforce) and would split its structure. That caught the attention of millions and carried explicit and implicit messages to business leaders and owners – no-one or thing is immune to the evolving forces of the future.


Telstra’s circumstances should not be reviewed in isolation.  They are symptoms of encroaching realities for many sectors, professions and entities.

Disturbingly, the manifestations, consequences and ubiquitous presence of dynamic change are not being recognised, respected and planned for.

Public references to “shock”, “unforeseen” and “unexpected” are sad indictments of inadequacies of the visions and analyses of both internal and external leaders and experts.

Ongoing, periodic objective assessments, audits and forensic strategic analyses should be mandatory and programmed.  They will not avoid the challenges of change, but will provide time for allocation of resources and priorities to address and redress their direct, indirect and cascading impacts.

Many supposed business and strategic plans have an orientation or sole focus on the future.  Some detail contemporary, comparative analyses. Often overlooked is the past, and the genesis of the entity, its product/service range and that of the sector in which it operates, and to those to whom it seeks to serve.  Therein lie many questions and countless answers.


Beyond the narrow focus of Telstra is a telling story.

Telstra in its own right is worthy of contemplation.  It has lost its dominating and monopolizing presence.

Selling off, and losing control of one’s supply chain is fraught with danger and has intermediate to long-term adverse consequences.  The “cash-rush” from the sale of its copper-based network to NBN (National Broadband Network) was not reflected in enhanced dividend payments to shareholders, or in the share price.

Indeed, the share value and, thus, the market capitalization of the corporation have more than halved during the two years to June 2018.

Telstra, which was consistently ranked (by capital-worth) in the top eight publicly listed companies on the ASX (Australian Stock Exchange) is no longer among the top 10.

Disposal of the former large revenue and profit generating Yellow Pages, appeared to have little impact on operations or value.

The roots of the Telstra family-tree appear to run deep.  A landline telephone network, copper wires, “Yellow Pages” and, yes, call-centres.  Each is reflective, and tied to the past.


The prospects for growth, resilience and reasserted competitive advantage for Telstra appear to centre on new and substantial pillars, being:

  • Foxtel

The corporation’s substantial shareholding in the on-line channels of Foxtel provides scope for penetration and access, making the categorization of being a telecommunications company somewhat redundant.

  • Content

    The leverage point of its Foxtel investment will inevitably be the rich rewards possible with the content that is produced and transmitted, rather than the transmission channels themselves: like Netflix

  • 5G

    It is conceivable, and reasonable, to forecast that the embracement and utilization of 5G technology will, to some considerable extent, make the NBN network obsolete, inadequate and relatively inefficient and expensive.

    So much for the projected investment of around $30 billion (currently $58 billion, and still counting) without the advantage and evaluations of a cost/benefit analysis by a Labor Party Senator and party powerbroker.  It seems the political party power was misplaced and poorly applied, and the numbers weren’t counted.


The lessons learnt from the Telstra scenario have widespread relevance, with significant structural and societal implications.  Look no further than the six largest corporations by market capitalization listed on the ASX.

Four are banks.  In 2017 Westpac celebrated its 200th year of continuous trade.

BHP, the recently rebranded “The Big Australian” is there.

So too is CSL, the former government-operated Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, which is the youngest, at 102 years old! It is also the best performing and has been the fastest growing of the six, since its public listing in 1996.

Collective ageless beauty? I think not.  It’s a cause for concern.

The contrast with the six largest public listed USA corporations is striking: Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google.

None were operating in 1985.  Four had not been established in the year 2000, and each has in recent times stated they do not need banks or banking to transact business.  They have their own payment systems.

And then there is Alibaba from China, which has similar attitudes and capabilities.


The restructuring, downsizing and thinning of Telstra is, it seems, a frontrunner for what will happen to the big four banks in Australia.

BHP is on the front-foot.  It is rapidly embracing technology, artificial intelligence and automation.

Shareholders will be gladdened with the prospects for increases in production, reductions in staff numbers, enhanced revenues, margins, profits, dividends and share prices.

Who’s looking back to the past? Hopefully, no one, other than to appreciate the path taken.


Casual or heightened interest in the Telstra, banking and mining industry case studies are insufficient for many public and private, big and small corporations, firms, partnerships and networks.

Detached observations need to be upgraded with disciplined, structured, committed and well-resourced engagement.

In recent times I have enjoyed the challenges, insights and positive outcomes from facilitating detailed strategic analyses and business development workshops for lawyers, accountants, dentists, pharmacists, engineers and veterinary surgeons.

A new dawn is awakening for each discipline.

The future has arrived and it’s spelled:


It’s time for all commerce to extract the digit.

Barry Urquhart

Business Strategist

Marketing Focus

Mobile:     041 983 5555


Landline: 08 9257 1777