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Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow reveal trends

13 August 2018

What makes a business of the future worth the investment? A strong economic outlook is important, but how it survives, how it adapts, what makes it sustainable within the community, are all important considerations.

Westpac’s 200 Businesses of Tomorrow program, now in its second year, identified as a key trend this year that businesses are putting employees and people first.

The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, for example, has worked with the Koori Caucus and Koori Justice Unit in Victoria, driving community-driven innovation to work toward a justice system that is free from inequality.

Batyr, another Top 200 business, works with Indigenous youth to combat youth mental illnesses, and Homie Street Store, a retail clothing store and fashion label providing occupational training for young people experiencing homelessness, recently put out its Reconciliation line.

According to David Lindberg, Chief Executive, Westpac Business Bank and a 2018 Businesses of Tomorrow judge, “At least 71 percent of the 200 businesses saw increasing employee engagement or wellness as a significant priority, which is recognised as a key factor in creating a culture that drives productivity.”

David goes on to note: “As Australia continues to make the transition to a services and knowledge-based economy, it’s increasingly important for businesses to broaden their skills, tap into shared-knowledge and strengthen professional networks.”

This year, 21 percent of businesses on the 200 list were represented by women (founders and CEOs). Businesses in the 2018 Top 200 ranged from those with more than 250 staff to start-ups with fewer than 10 employees; there were turnovers of $100 million along with social enterprises creating pathways out of homelessness.

These three businesses in the Top 20 provide a snapshot of the diversity:

Araza, CEO Victoria Kluth. Araza featured in the Top 200 businesses in 2017, the awards’ first year. Araza so impressed the judges with its progress that it has now taken a spot in this year’s Top 20. An Australian IT consulting, technology and systems integration organisation, Araza specialises in cloud computing, security, robotics and digital solutions. Specialties include expanding mobile capabilities and collaborating to implement effective digital strategies. The company also claims gender equity in roles and remuneration at all levels.

Orange Sky, CEO Jo Westh: Orange Sky is a world-first service for homeless persons in Australia - offering free clothes washing, drying and showers from mobile vans. Orange Sky Laundry provides a platform for every day Australians to connect. Each week the service completes more than 800 loads of washing for Australians in need in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Orange Sky recently expanded to Darwin and regional areas, including Queensland. Jo came on as CEO after her son founded the business. Her background is management consulting, specialising in start-ups.

Whole Kids, CEO Monica Meldrum: Whole Kids has created affordable, organic, additive and allergen-free snack foods for children. The company is family-owned. Monica is expanding into China, and has a background working with the Department of Foreign Affairs doing aid and development work with children in South-East Asia. Whole Kids donates a percentage of its products to disadvantaged communities overseas.

Victoria Kluth

Ruby spoke with Araza’s CEO, Victoria Kluth (above), about the importance of employee engagement: “At Araza we concentrate on group goals so that the team is always tracking to the same outcomes. I think this keeps everyone on target and motivated. I believe team targets are one of the main reasons for our productivity and amazing growth.

“Support comes much quicker to a team player than to a lone individual. Your teammates can see when you are struggling and need assistance, and when you need time for wellness, a team can more easily cover for you.”

In relation to her own wellness, Victoria admits she has given up “me time” for the business, but recently took a month off to rejuvenate and get healthy. She says it was a great way to prioritise what is important and, as part of that general wellness, she has always taken an active interest in her personal finances, including superannuation.

“I have a financial inventory that I keep on file. I review and update it at least once a year. This allows me to check on how all my investments are doing and make any changes,” she says.

As part of the Business of Tomorrow awards, Victoria is slated to meet former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly. In preparation she has been reading Gail’s book: Live Lead Learn: My Stories of Life and Leadership, Penguin.

“I am finding her journey intriguing,” she finishes.

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