With the launch today of Anthill’s inaugural 30under30 competition, it’s worth underscoring the growing role younger entrepreneurs are playing in the Australian business landscape… and beyond. And who better to place this exciting evolution in broader economic context than Austrade’s Chief Economist and regular Anthill contributor, Tim Harcourt?
Are you experienced?
by Tim Harcourt
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the float of the Australian dollar by the Hawke-Keating Government. This was clearly a momentous decision in Australia’s economic history. After all, the float was the ‘beach-head’ economic reform that kicked off a number of other measures such as tariff reductions, financial deregulation, education and training reforms and the social wage and enabled Australia to become one of the world’s best performing economies. The tariff reductions took the lead out of our saddle bags and many businesses found to their surprise that they could compete effectively on the global stage.
However, twenty-five years on, we are now at a point when generation who got Australia through the transition from a closed, isolated economy to an open, dynamic economy are beginning to retire. After all, this transition has taken time and nearly 40 percent of exporters have now over 20 years experience in the global game (see below).
The baby boomers, who have been carrying the load as far as exporting is concerned during this transition are ‘sea-changing’ and ‘tree-changing’ (and maybe with global warming – ‘cool-changing’ – so watch housing prices in Tasmania) and going onto superannuation boards.
Can we cope? I think we can for several reasons.
Firstly, succession planning is part of life. Look at the Australian cricket team. Adam ‘Gilly’ Gilchrist knew he couldn’t go on forever and has anointed his successor. The team is staggering their retirements for the sake of team stability. The same thing happens in political parties – or should do.
Secondly, in business, we are already seeing a number of aggressive ‘Generation X’ business leaders coming to the fore now. Take Eddy Groves of ABC Learning or Janice Allen of Boost Juice.
Thirdly, Generation Y is gearing up too. Look at Peter Sheahan or Emma Brown (the self-styled ‘Chief Chick’ or CEO of Business Chicks.). Newspoll regularly shows that Generation Y is positive about globalisation and naturally entrepreneurial.
You just have to see it in music. Watching the old Countdown specials on the ABC, you could tell that in the 1970s and 1980s there were ‘Sydney’ bands and ‘Melbourne’ bands and it was hard to crack the big time internationally. Nowadays, bands can go global sooner and there are less trade barriers in their way.
Going global is hard yakka and takes strength and experience. But the signs are good that Generation X is becoming generation eXport and generation Y can go one step further to become the global generation.
Tim Harcourt is Chief Economist with the Australian Trade Commission and the author of The Airport Economist (forthcoming). You can read more of his musings on export at www.austrade.gov.au/economistscorner