Creating a marketplace of ideas and opportunities

| November 19, 2010

At the launch of First 5000 on 20 October 2010 held at NSW Parliament House business journalist Jeanne-Vida Douglas interviewed First 5000 Editor Virginia Harrison.

JVD: There are literally thousands of Australians out there at the moment working in jobs that they are not enjoying all that much while sitting on excellent business ideas which could blossom into successful ventures, if only they had the know how to take those ideas and put them into operation.

That’s why I wrote the Profit Principle, with my co-author Peter Fritz, to get those businesses up and running and to get those ideas out there. In a similar vein, the First 5000 business network has been created to bring together Australia’s most successful and entrepreneurial businesses to look for new and innovative ways to grow their enterprises and thereby increase opportunities for, and productivity of, the economy as a whole.

Virginia can you tell us more about the network you are working to create through First 5000?

VH: First 5000 is a business alliance that connects Australia’s medium size companies. The idea for it came about around ten years ago when our founder, Peter Fritz, noticed that medium sized companies where small in number but large in terms of their contribution to the economy.

To give you more of an idea, medium sized companies account for about 4% of all businesses in Australia but they contribute nearly a quarter of GDP. So we are talking about a really economically significant group. Therefore the idea behind First 5000 was to recognise the unique attributes of this group, who don’t share the same issues and concerns of smaller operators, and move them away from this SME category.

JVD: Who are these First 5000 companies exactly?

VH: We used two criteria to define the group. The first was that they employed between 20 and 199 people. And the next was that they recorded annual turn over’s of 10 million dollars or more.

As a diverse group of companies they covered all industries to include companies such as Video Easy, Transfield Services, and sporting bet.

We also found when we started to look at this group that they tended to be resilient and have high growth rates and also their over representation when it comes to exports. Again medium companies account for about 4% of all businesses in Australia but they make up about 40% of our exporters. So that is one of the issue that we are going to be looking at really focusing on to support and develop exporters.

JVD: Tell me also what is the relationship between networking, communication and innovation? Why try to bring these groups together?

VH: When I talked to people in the medium sized market they often told me that not enough is being done to support and foster innovation.

First 5000 could play a role here by providing a platform for those within the medium sized market to talk to one another and to share ideas. Peter and I talk about First 5000 as a market place: a market place of ideas, a market place of commercial opportunities and its in that way that First 5000 can really support and foster innovation. Another reason why First 5000 will be successful is because of where it was born out of.

First 5000 is an initiative of Global Access Partners (GAP) and for those who do not know Global Access Partners it is a public policy network and a think tank that for ten years or so has had success in using technology to support businesses and drive businesses outcomes and I really think that we can do it again with First 5000.