There are great opportunities for Indigenous owned and operated businesses in Western Australia but a major barrier is the challenge in growing capacity, according to industry representatives at yesterday's Indigenous Business, Corporations and Entrepreneurship Conference 2011 at The University of Western Australia.
Speaking at the inaugural annual conference hosted by The UWA Business School's Centre for Social Impact, Tony Connors, General Manager of PLWA Group, said Indigenous businesses needed to break out of the "hire and fire cycle" that resulted from short-sighted approaches by clients.
"We hire people to do projects and train them up, then have to let them go when the projects end," Mr Connors said. "Capacity growth is hard to secure."
He said some clients had capacity concerns about Indigenous businesses. "I'd suggest we have to work that little bit harder to prove to the client that we are capable of doing the job," he said, adding that joint ventures were one solution to developing capacity, with skills and expertise shared and retained by the joint venture partners.
Neville Stewart, Managing Director GLH Contracting, said some basic principles had to be adopted in order to ensure the sustainability of Indigenous businesses. These included developing clear pathways for achievement of goals, focusing on maintaining cash flow and a comprehensive understanding of clients' terms.
Representatives spoke of the heavy commitment required by Indigenous operators to the health, safety and environment requirements of clients, particularly mining companies.
Anthony Martin, General Manager ALM Contracting, provided an example of an Aboriginal contracting firm that has achieved success through its understanding of BHP Billiton mine site requirements.
Sonia Nolan, Community Engagement and (+61 8) 6488 8562 / (+61 4) 01 034 103
Corporate Affairs Manager, Centre for Social Impact
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783