Regional Australia: The Choice for Small Business

The following is an opinion piece Adam Mostogl wrote for the Future Focus magazine, distributed through Australian Community Media, talking about issues affecting regional Australia.

In the scheme of things, 2040 is not that far away – so instead of looking into a crystal ball and imaging what small business will look like in the future, I believe its more important we look at the emerging trends today and start preparing our regional communities to have the key requirements for small business into the future.

If you are interested in the changing world of work as I am, you will be familiar with terms such as ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and the three significant shifts in employment that is occurring with this – flexibility, automation and globalisation. Technology has a substantial part in this, but its not the only reason why this is happening. We are living very different lives where on-demand is what we expect, we want it quicker and cheaper than before, and getting on international flights is a lot more common. In my work across Australia, young people across every community are getting ready for this changing world of work – in fact, the way they are engaging with some sessions shows that many are ready to take their place in this new way of working now. They want the flexibility to work across different areas which could see them have multiple jobs, to be creative and exercise problem-solving abilities than follow basic processes and are excited about how interconnected our world is and where that could take them. It is with this perspective that I honestly believe that small business in regional Australia will thrive into the future – in fact, it can become the engine room.

When considering the growing connectivity of our world, there are opportunities for those in small to medium businesses, where decision-making processes include a lot more than just business basics. These leaders are making decisions on behalf of their staff and their family. No longer do these businesses need to leave behind the desired lifestyle offered in regional Australia to chase economic opportunities in chaotic cities – they can base their business and their family in a community that matches their lifestyle values. This leads to an exciting opportunity for regional Australia because meeting the requirements for these businesses that are connected to the rest of the world, understand that their customer could be further than line of sight and embrace the culture and surrounds of where they are based, we will see growth in business owners choosing regional Australia into the future.

When running a business, you always aim to reduce pain points, and one way to do this for regional communities is to prioritise connections with Australia and the rest of the world. These connections are three-fold; quality road connections for those who sell physical good and to serve the local region; trains and/or airports to connect with urban hubs to get anywhere in the world quickly; and high-quality, reliable internet access to engage with others and provide services online. With these three connections, you can then be anywhere in the world in rapid fashion, and that will help businesses that can work from anywhere be mobile and reach a broader customer base.

The local business community is part of the decision process too, to consider how the new business fits in, supports the region but also learns from those around them. There will always be small businesses in regional Australia that serve their local community, but more and more businesses will be based in these regional areas where their customers will be national or even international, and we need to be comfortable with this – even excited by it! To have businesses doing great things across a country to be then investing in the business and the wider community in that regional area is an opportunity that should always be maximised.

With the connections and mindset shift, then regional communities need to create and sustain a place that business leaders, employees and family members will choose. As people are choosing regional communities to escape the crazy city life and the endless commute, you have to be in tune with what will make them choose the region – rather than aiming to be the bustling city they have left. Regional communities need to take pride in what makes them unique and stand out, rather than looking at becoming what every other regional town has. In my travels, I’ve seen enough communities that despite being unique in their location, are slight tweaks on each other and they just seem to all blend together. Take pride in what makes the community unique, and infuse that into the lifestyle, the culture and the way of life. As already outlined, these are not just decisions that the business owner is making for the business, but their family comes into the decision too. So it is not just about the economic opportunity, but quality education, healthcare and social connections – even the way people use the natural environment around them – are almost even more important drivers, especially when the business could be run from anywhere. People will make their business accommodate the community, but they’ll choose a different community if it doesn’t suit them. So embrace the natural surrounds, embrace the stories, embrace the history and embrace the people that make the community unique – and never lose sight of it. Regional communities of choice for small business will stand out – they won’t be for everyone, but they will stand out to those who can and will choose a fantastic regional community.

And how do I know this – because this is how I and many others operate our business right now. As the Founder of illuminate Education, I along with a fantastic team, deliver relevant education programs in schools to help young people embrace the changing nature of work to be the confident, creative and capable people they have the potential to be – and in 2019, we are reaching over 5000 students across Australia from our base in Launceston, Tasmania as well as attending international events. We have a brilliant regional airport that I fly out of regularly on a Sunday afternoon after preparing program materials through digital communications to then deliver a great experience in person, and as a nationally focused business, Tasmania is a smaller market for us, but that doesn’t stop me choosing to be in Launceston. I want to be based here because of the lifestyle, the culture and the community – and with a 50-minute flight between Melbourne and Launceston, I can leave the chaos of a large city behind and embrace family time when I touch down.

But I’m not alone. I know of countless people who make the same choice, to be based in a place that works for their business and their family. People in software and game development, vocational education changemakers, presenters and keynote speakers, authors, artists, creatives, project managers, architects and specialists across a broad range of industries. We all choose to be based in regional Australia, are happy to be part of a regional community knowing we can easily connect with the rest of Australia, and its a choice we are proud of. And in the changing economy, more will make it into the future.

If you can live anywhere, why wouldn’t you live in regional Australia?