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Daniella Doughan
Business and Finance Journalist

Daniella Doughan is a business and finance journalist from Sydney, Australia.

Daniella Doughan
Business and Finance Journalist

Daniella Doughan is a business and finance journalist from Sydney, Australia.

This year marks 25 years of the iconic Telstra Business Awards. So to commemorate the occasion, Smarter caught up with two previous Award winners from 1993 and 2016 to compare their experiences both then and now.

It’s difficult to imagine doing business without the internet, but that was the reality for Dr Barry McCleary and his business, Megazyme, a Telstra Business Award winner back in 1993.

Dr Barry McCleary Telstra Business Award winner standing in front of distillers Dr Barry McCleary and his business

Smarter tracked him down to Ireland, where the enzyme testing business relocated in 1996 and is stronger than ever. “Up to the stage that we won the award in 1993, we had three people in the company. Now, we have 50 people”, says Barry. 

While Megazyme has continued to thrive over the last quarter century, one 2016 winner is hoping their business doesn’t need to exist in 25 years’ time. The Snowdome Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of Australians living with blood cancer by helping channel government and private investment into early phase clinical trials and were the inaugural national winners of the 2016 Telstra Australian Charity Award. “[Look at] the example of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The SIDS Red Nose. They simply don't have a business anymore because they've done such a great job in sudden infant death. Well, mission accomplished,” CEO Nicky Long told Smarter. 

“Ultimately, I think, if we do find compelling new treatments, a cure, the Holy Grail, then obviously our efforts have been worth it,” said Nicky Long, the CEO of Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision – a collaboration of the Snowdome Foundation in memory of Maddie Riewoldt, who passed away from Bone Marrow Failure Syndrome in 2015. 

While the two may have very different long-term goals, there is still plenty of common ground between the past and present Award winners. 

Staying ahead of technology 

In 1993, Megazyme was probably one of the first small businesses in Australia to have a website. By 1996, the site was interactive and people could purchase online; a revolutionary advancement for that time, particularly as more complex features had to be manually coded bespoke. No simple plugins or tick-box customisations then. “It was still cumbersome enough because people sent in an order and the whole range of products would be different weights and volumes. After moving to Ireland, we talked to one of these 15-year-old whiz kids and set up algorithms in the purchasing systems so that when anybody ordered this algorithm would work out the weights and the volumes and automatically calculate the shipping costs tied in with – at that stage – FedEx.”

However, being at the forefront of technology at a particular time is of little value if a business can’t keep up. Luckily, Barry is as focused as ever on his business’ website development. “You still do have to keep investing as your website grows because you obviously put more and more information on it. You need to have it in a way that people can find products and information easily; otherwise it's a waste of time. We've reinvented our website on a regular basis.”

For the Snowdome Foundation, technology was a huge asset in three areas: medical breakthroughs, business systems, and engaging donors. “We didn’t influence that (medical technology) but certainly we made sure we had the right grants committee to identify what those innovative opportunities were and how we could, if you like, back a winner to get behind some of these things,” said Nicky. 

“Internally, the systems available now – across databases, the integration, the plug-ins, the website and what is possible creatively [and] to engage and to interact with people – has come so far.”

Then, there’s the people power. The Snowdome Foundation has successfully streamed three live virtual events out of the Channel 7 studios to corporate offices, using celebrities to help showcase the Foundation’s work and encourage donations. “It was the first of it's kind and still no one's done it because it is bloody hard,” Nicky told Smarter. “You don't have to leave your office to attend this event, you can go through technology. Originally Channel 7 and Telstra brought in a pipe to do it, as a pro bono contribution, as there was no live streaming from the station when we first started. So we were in there, took over a whole studio, they threw everything at it, it was very successful, and we raised a million dollars. We actually managed to get Richard Branson to do a virtual invitation for us!”

It’s all about planning 

The people behind both Megazyme and Snowdome Foundation are methodical business planners; after all, a failure to plan is a plan for failure. “Think very carefully about your business plan,” says Barry. “Think how you're going to survive, at least for two years financially. People who want to start a company will probably start it anyway. That's just written into their genes, I guess, and also probably in mine, but the main thing is give yourself the best possible chance of success by getting all those things in place first and pay some money to get some advice.” 

Before launching the charity, the Snowdome Foundation spent about 18 months getting the planning, set up and foundations in place, says Miriam Dexter, CEO of Snowdome Foundation for four years. “We spent quite a long time also strategically looking at, where do we want to focus our efforts?

“We have three founders - Miles Prince, a leading global haematologist, Rob Tandy, the Executive General Manager of Captain's Choice and whose father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and Grant Rutherford is a leading brand and creative consultant. His daughter, Chloe, very sadly passed away from leukaemia at the age of eight. They wanted to do something in the blood cancer area. First and foremost is, they focused on understanding what's happening in the blood cancer area for not-for-profits, and wanting to make sure their efforts weren't duplicating all the really wonderful things that are already out there. We spent a lot of time on the strategy side of things identifying where the most effort should go, so medical research was certainly the area, because there's no known way to prevent blood cancers.” said Miriam.

The Snowdome Foundation’s set up was deliberately strategic. “We also thought long and hard about not only why do we exist and where do we want to put our funds but how will we fundraise, why would it be compelling and who wants to join our passion and mission?”

Entering (and winning) awards 

For the Snowdome Foundation, being named a Telstra Business Award winner helped volunteers and collaborators feel recognised, supported and proud of their achievements. “I think as we're trying to raise our profile more nationally, it just gives us that extra credibility for the Telstra Business Awards to come forward with us as we pursue new growth opportunities,” says Miriam. 

And while Megazyme has gone on to win many awards, Barry says the first win was still the sweetest. “We are a finalist right now in the European Business Awards. Nothing is as good the first one. That was just such a surprise. We had absolutely no idea that we were going to win that award. I got up and I hadn't expected to win anything, so I accidentally thanked the Chamber of Commerce. The chap from the Chamber of Manufacturing came up to me and said, "oh, we'll forgive you for that."”

“It gives you that extra bit of confidence that what you're doing is right; I think it's the mindset that changes more than anything else.”


Snowdome were the inaugural winners of the charity business category of the Telstra Business Awards.
Entries for the 2017 Telstra Business Awards are now closed.

Help us recognise outstanding Australian businesses and charities and nominate for the 2018 Awards program today.

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