Finding the First 5000

| July 21, 2010

This blog was originally published at www.openforum.com.au in 2009. It is republished here as it describes some of the early inspiration for establishing the First 5000 online community.

Driving to work last week I was listening to ABC Radio coverage of the latest Dun & Bradstreet business report which indicated that 1 in 4 businesses expect to dismiss staff in the near future. This is the worst prognosis on employment since the survey started 21 years ago, and worse is yet to come.

I have headed up TCG for nearly 40 years. In that time we have seen 5 major recessions and survived them all without a single bankruptcy. The TCG Group employs thousands of people in dozens of companies across diverse industries. Today, we are still growing and retain a positive outlook for our future.

So amidst the barrage of noise flying around about surviving the crisis, we are perhaps in a unique position to help, and as such, the timing has never been more perfect for an initiative which Global Access Partners (GAP), the philanthropic arm of TCG, is currently developing  –  First 5000.

This project is very close to my heart.

The idea behind it initially came to me in 1994 during my time as Chairman of the Small Business Council of Australia. We conducted some research which found that of the close to one million small businesses in Australia, only a handful, 750 SMEs in total, were responsible for 85% of Australia’s exports of elaborately manufactured goods.

Scattered across the breadth of industries and amongst the depth of Australian small businesses eking out a living, there exists this elite group of genuine innovators and adaptors who will make the critical difference as to how Australia weathers this particular financial storm.

In practical terms, it is the SMEs that increase their revenue at a rate of 15% or more annually, which are the ones driving jobs, growth and prosperity. They are the engine room of our economy, and they have long captured my imagination as a group of kindred spirits whom I wished to engage with.

As a bunch, they are notoriously difficult to identify and connect with. For many reasons, not least because they are incredibly busy, but also because they are characteristically motivated by the eternal question: “What’s in it for me?”

Our First 5000 initiative has identified these businesses, we know what interests them and we’re finally bringing them together. Web 2.0 technologies now mean the online space is the perfect arena for such a gathering.

Through bringing together the leading five thousand SMEs in Australia, I am confident we will be successful in ameliorating some of our nation’s pain. In cooperation we can make a material difference to the livelihoods of hundreds of Australian businesses.

Small enough not to have been exposed to the worst of the crisis, but big enough to make the most of the opportunities presented by it, our top performing SMEs are our economy’s most precious resource.

This blog was originally published at www.openforum.com.au in 2009. It is republished here as it describes some of the early inspiration for establishing the First 5000 online community.

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Peter Fritz

Peter Fritz AM is Managing Director of Global Access Partners, and Group Managing Director of TCG – a diverse group of companies which over the last 38 years has produced many breakthrough discoveries in computer and communication technologies. He chairs a number of influential government and private enterprise boards and is active in the international arena, including having represented Australia on the OECD Small and Medium Size Enterprise Committee.