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Embracing ’that’ piece of advice with 2019 Telstra Business Awards Northern Territory finalists

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Every business receives advice at some point – tips on how to start out, improve or get ahead in their industry. It might be a simple suggestion, or it might be a radical recommendation. Successful businesses tend to know when to listen, when to ignore and when to pull the trigger.

Here, a collection of 2019 Telstra Business Awards finalists from the Northern Territory discuss the tips and wisdom that shaped their businesses. They also explore how getting the right advice can help Australian businesses thrive.

‘That’ advice for kicking things off: Serena Bara, Bush Medijina

“Bush Medijina is an all-women, Indigenous-owned social enterprise that makes bush remedies for sale around Australia. 

“This advice came from a startup accelerator mentorship program run by Investible and facilitated by Indigenous Business Australia: get help from business experts, ensure the business is viable, then start small.

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“We started with a very small product range (balms and soaps) and tested the market locally. We sought specialist advice on therapeutic goods, labelling, product range, marketing and legal. We focused on continuous quality improvement and set up e-commerce and social media platforms.

“We also got financial advice – what investment was needed to scale the business, efficiencies within our business model, partnerships that work to reduce the financial burden and risk across multiple funding bodies.

“In short: we developed a clear vision and mission.”

Serena Bara is the Chairperson of Bush Medijina, a finalist in the Social Change Maker category.

‘That’ advice for transforming your thinking: David Keane, Solve My Claim

“Solve My Claim works with consumers to navigate insurance claims.

“The most important piece of advice I have received is simple yet profound: ‘Always seek to understand the why, not the what or how.’

“If I can understand the root cause, my response will be very different."

“Too often, we spend considerable time focusing on ‘what happened’ or ‘how it happened’ instead of ‘why it happened’.

“To ask ‘what’ or ‘how’ is important – they give you a basic understanding of a situation – but it is only when you dig a bit deeper and start to understand the ‘why’ of a situation that you have full context – plus the wisdom to really know how to respond.

“We specialise in insurance claims. Understanding not only the circumstances of the claim and insurance company’s response but also graspingwhyeach party acted the way they did is invaluable.

“It helps to respond to the heart of the issue rather than merely react. To date, Solve My Claim has achieved settlements in well over 90% of claims.”

David Keane is the CEO of Solve My Claim, a Small & Succeeding finalist.


Essential tips for making the most of ‘that’ moment
  • “Leverage the best ideas and experience. Bunnings has amazing online stores. Apple’s product packaging is second to none. Each built a level of trust and credibility with the consumer by doing simple things better. Their ideas [are] proven advice.” – Max Nicholson, General Manager, Winnellie Hydraulicses
  • “The customer isn’t always right. Sometimes you have to say no and stick to your values, even when that can mean economic loss. Your company is a manifestation of your core values – be proud of what you stand for.” – Tom Falzon, Director, Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre
  • “If you want advice – be it good or bad – drop into a local watering hole and talk to as many people as you can. Nearly everyone in there may have succeeded or failed at some stage in their life. But they are all having a laugh and seem happy.” – Dean Gebert, Manager/Director, Advanced Air

'That’ advice for surviving for the long haul: Lyndee Severin, Curtin Springs

“Curtin Springs has grown from a simple homestead to offering 27 accommodation rooms, meals, a general store, campground and bar. 

“Family-run since 1956, the business has been able to survive and prosper over 65 years armed with this advice: diversify.

“Some things may not work – but if you don’t try they will never work.”

“You have to take the long-term approach. Curtin Springs is a diversified pastoral and tourism business. 

“Various ventures have been tried during the years. Supporting early intrepid visitors to Ayers Rock helped pay the bills during our first 9-year drought. 

“We have stayed relevant in changing dynamics across multiple industries at a business, regional, national and international level. 

“Using technology, being involved in things like Awards programs and trade shows, we continue to refresh ourselves.”

Lyndee Severin is the Business Manager of Curtin Springs, a remote central Australian inn that interweaves a range of tourism experiences and products, from guided walks to handmade paper. The business is a Medium & Making Waves finalist.

‘That’ advice for understanding your own business: Evelyn Clarke, ECB Training Services

“ECB Training Services is an Indigenous-owned company founded to meet emerging training and labour-hire needs and to develop a skilled, responsive workforce and employment opportunities for Indigenous workers. 

“A friend once decided to open up a business. Her venture failed and she reflected on these words of wisdom: ‘Do what you know best, and do it well’

“It is important that you do not spread yourself too thin by catering to everyone's needs. Focus on your core business and get it right.”

“ECB is in the business of training delivery and workforce solutions.

“Our commitment to our clients is to listen to their needs and be the best at what we do.

“We have achieved considerable success, delivering training for industry clients within a very competitive environment – opening up employment opportunities for local Indigenous workers by challenging long-standing industry stereotypes (lack of skills) and offering workable solutions.”

Evelyn Clarke is the Director of ECB Training Services, a Social Change Maker finalist.

‘That’ advice for making your business adaptable: Gerry Koukouvas, Northern Trade Solutions

“Northern Trade Solutions started with four tradies and a dream to reshape the local construction industry by providing a multi-trade company to all-size projects in the Northern Territory.

 “In the ever-changing environment of our local industry, we have evolved as required.

“In business it is good to be like water – never rigid, but embracing change.”    

“We are never afraid to try new things and learn from our mistakes. We have upskilled in different fields and become more service oriented. We have invested in new people, products and techniques.

“By adopting this mentality, we were able to find niche markets within our industry and offer a more holistic service.

“This increased ourscope – which involves more work from different areas.”

Gerry Koukouvas is the executive director of Northern Trade Solutions, a multi-disciplinary building and fit-out service. The group is a Medium & Making Waves finalist.

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