Hiring a consultant shouldn't be difficult nor should it be expensive

Back in 2014 the National Farmers Federation (NFF) embarked on a program to take the Australian farm lobby into a new era of vibrancy. They hired a consulting firm who allocated a team of junior’s and one senior consultant to the project. I believe the program cost the NFF over $850K. It achieved absolutely nothing and was shelved. The NFF leadership canned the project and then sought additional consulting firms to ‘pitch’ for another round of work. In summary, the strategy from the outset was flawed and the execution was a mess. NFF members literally lost $850K.

Like any project there is a clear difference between ‘specification’ and ‘scope’. A bit like the difference between ‘tactics’ and ‘strategy’. The NFF process failed because the NFF ‘listened’ but they didn’t want to ‘hear’. The NFF was as arrogant as it was confused, so failed to scope the project correctly at the start. The consulting firm should have known better - in fact they should of walked away - but chose to move forward because lets be honest, it’s all about the fee and we can always blame the client.

We use this example to show that consulting shouldn’t be complicated and only becomes expensive when: a. The program of work is not scoped well, and; b. The program is executed poorly and so fails to adapt to external pressures and necessary change. No program should ever fail - the consultant should walk away before it does.

At SMEA we are a firm believer that in most instances the client has the answers. It’s our job to be honest from the start - sometimes brutal - but ultimately it’s this trust that delivers success. We unpack the confusion, throw in some new concepts and strategies and that there is ‘success’. It’s not expensive and the program should never fail.

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Doing IT For Money: A Business Leader's Guide to Improving Profit Per Person

Are you a business leader who (whisper it softly…) doesn’t really ‘get’ IT? Are you aware of the need for IT within your business, but don’t know enough to start leveraging all that modern technology has to offer?

You are not alone!

In Doing IT For Money, Stewart Marshall gives you five core principles you can use to support your future decision-making. This book will tell you all you need to know about the fundamentals of business IT, and show you how something you once thought of as a cost and a drain on resources is actually an asset and the core of your business. CLICK TO FIND OUT MORE

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SMEA partners with Cultivate Farms to make farm ownership dreams a reality

We are thrilled to have partnered with Cultivate Farms to make farm ownership a reality. If you are an investor looking for wonderful Ag based opportunities, then give us a call. Alternatively if you’d like to explore farming and Ag based opportunities as a potential farmer, we’d love to chat with you. SMEA - unashamed to be focussing totally on small and medium business. Unleash your potential!

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Strong Case for NGOs to Join Forces

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According to the DFAT website The Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) is DFAT’s largest single support mechanism for accredited Australian non-government organisations (NGOs). It is an annual grants program that provides funding to accredited Australian NGOs working with communities to deliver projects in developing countries across a range of sectors, including education, health, water and sanitation, governance and economic development. The ANCP was introduced in 1974 and is the Government’s longest running NGO program. In 2017-18, the program will provide $128.8 million to 57 NGOs to support approximately 455 projects in over 50 countries in a range of sectors including education, health, water and sanitation, food security, civil society and economic development.

In terms of charities in Australia the 2014 Australian Charities Report, published by the ACNC in December 2015, found that donations and bequests account for a massive $6.8 billion of annual charity income. While most of us could recall the names of a hand full of charities, there were actually 54,000 registered charities in Australia in 2015.

The Sydney Morning Herald some years ago looked into Environmental Non-Government Organisations (ENGOs) and found the likes of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) were spending a whopping 43 cents in every dollar they raised from the public on administration which included raising extra donations. 

The Federal Government were equally criticised back in 2016 by the Sydney Morning Herald for reducing funding to NGOs to the tune of $1.5Bn. The Federal Government were criticised for using 'funding levers' to prevent NGOs lobbying against poor policy.

Regardless of the arguments one-way or the other, in terms of policy risk there is a very real risk to the public purse with the sheer plethora or NGOs, charities and associations seeking Government money to deliver a myriad of services - often in the same policy and service delivery space. 

I'm not sure about you but I'm quite lethargic toward NGOs. I only need to go to the local Westfield shopping mall to be hit up again for a donation. I do also question why we have so many cancer institutes researching a cure for cancer. Why are we not joining forces to ensure both government and private money is used more effectively and efficiently when it comes to public health.

Policy risk isn't just about analysing potentially problematic decisions. It's about showing leadership and making current decisions better. Perhaps if we took a good hard look at ourselves and had an honest debate, we might just reach the end goal a lot quicker and deliver so much more, by using fewer funds, if we joined forces.


Managing Policy Risk for Businesses

We all appreciate that politics is apart of everyday life. Decisions made by policy makers affect business and there are always those who win and more who lose. With political parties racing to control the middle ground, we see a lack of innovative policy development and a somewhat stale environment. But that's not the main issue. The real issue for me as a CEO and policy analyst is that businesses believe they understand politics because they watch the news and read the daily. It's a strategic mistake. There is so much more going on that you need to get your head around. Those who take the time to analyse the policy cycle and address gatekeepers, institutions, external influences like NGOs and ENGOs, legislative programs, the 4th estate and budgetary cycles, win. Sure big firms hire trained lobbyists and PR experts to manage policy risk, but it doesn't need to be that complex or expensive. At SMEA we understand policy and the risk political decisions pose business. That's why we give our clients the analysis they need to better shape strategy. And in many instances it's the missing link that could give you a genuine first mover advantage, or convince executives to hold off on a key investment decision. Managing policy risk and analysing the market have a common thread - smart orgs do it!

SME renewal & Oxford St - Australia's very own 'ground-hog day'

SMEA was commissioned back in 2015 to assess the historical planning impact - ad hoc incremental approach to planning policy - on SMEs along one of Sydney's most iconic streets, Oxford St. At the time over 80 retail premises laid vacant from the CBD through to the SCG. The GFC had well gone and retail was back on it's feet, and yet, the main arterial route between Sydney's famous precincts and suburbs was uninspiring and dying a slow economic death.

We were asked to develop a methodology to analyse both micro and macro constraints and as part of the brief, devise a plan that would rejuvenate the entire stretch. We knew there were complex issues to address, but the plan we devised was an exceptional one. It made complete economic sense to many and the multiplier effect - potential to deliver serious economic benefit - was clearly evidenced. It was also 'sexy', easily understood and importantly, it focussed on and bolstered the community. As we know with planning policy, if we get public transport, retail and residential infill right, you can't lose.

The outcome - It was ironic to think that the changes needed and that we proposed to rejuvenate Oxford St would be curtailed by the very people they benefitted - finance institutions, developers, banks and wealthy land owners. Key Sydney Councillors loved our findings - one even said "... if we could get this right, you are looking at the next Sydney Lord Mayor". They agreed with the solutions, but failed to muster the political courage to start the conversation.

Summary - In our view pretty lights and transitory 'thrill seeker' type events that are linked to the electoral cycle are a poor substitute for well thought through policy that delivers long-term economic growth and community benefit. ( I could use the word 'sustainability' there but it's been done to death). Policy makers - when it comes to linking planning policy with SMEs - consistently fail to see the value of doing so for the local community. It's called policy substance and the lack therefore presents a very real 'ground hog day' moment for modern Australia (by Ground Hog I mean we keep revisiting the same mistakes day after day).

I say 'ground hog' because we've lost the art of long-term courageous policy thinking. The likes of Premier Eric Reece in Tasmania invested in Hydro not because he thought it was sexy and helped him in the polls, but because he knew it would benefit generations. John Bradfield was no different - a pioneer, instrumental in the design of Sydney's rail network and bridge. Bradfield built rail - billion dollar infrastructure in todays dollars - to vacant land, because he knew one day that would be Western Sydney. He's been proven right yet again with the State Government approving a billion tunnel under Middle Harbour to alleviate traffic congestion. Bradfield wanted a rail line to run from North Sydney right through the Northern Beaches, but they said no at the time.

Oxford St needs an integrated plan, but we doubt it will ever happen. Vivid is a spectacle, but it's not a solution to long term policy neglect. When the crowds leave, the problems remain. The answer rather resides with leaders who push aside the electoral cycle in favour of taking a long-term, selfless and courageous view. It's called substance and we are all crying out for it.

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