From start-up to scale-up: How the AusIndustry Entrepreneurs' Programme is helping small businesses prosper

It’s the challenge every small business owner faces: how and when to enter the next growth phase.

The AusIndustry Entrepreneurs’ Programme is an Australian Government initiative designed to help small businesses do just that, by offering free business coaching and helping create a plan of action for sustainable growth.

We sat down with Fabian Seibold, one of the programme’s business advisers, to talk through what’s involved and how businesses can benefit.

Hi Fabian, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Who is the AusIndustry Entrepreneurs’ Programme for, and what types of businesses are eligible?

The programme is aimed at owners of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Australia who are looking to grow their business. We help by identifying opportunities for growth and improved competitiveness in their industry.

To qualify for a free business evaluation under the programme and its business grants, a business needs to meet certain criteria:

  1. You must have had the business for more than three years (including an Australian ABN),

  2. The business must have had a turnover of at least $1.5 million AUD in one of the last three financial years, and a max turnover of $100 million,

  3. The business must be operating in one or more of the growth sectors, which are as follows:

    a. Advanced Manufacturing
    b. Food and Agribusiness
    c. Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals
    d. Mining Equipment, Technology and Services
    e. Oil, Gas and Energy Resources
    f. Technologies and Services (Digital, IT, Professional Services), with at least one reference client in sectors a. to e.

How does this program help businesses? What benefits do they receive?

First and foremost, we provide key feedback about the business, specific recommendations for improvement and benchmarking guidance. Our “business health check” covers all aspects of business, including strategy, products, marketing and customers, operations, finance and HR.

Our guidance is designed to help build skills into your business, identify new opportunities, and ensure businesses have all the tools needed for continued growth long after the service ends.

We’re also here to offer information about valuable resources, such as other Government financing and support initiatives. For example, after the initial business evaluation action plan is made, businesses may also be eligible to apply for a business growth grant – which assists with putting those recommendations into place.

Does it cost anything?

The business evaluation is completely free; all it takes is a commitment to participate in meetings and business coaching sessions. The programme is paid for with your tax dollars, which are hard at work helping grow your business further!

The concept behind the programme is helping SMEs grow their businesses so they can hire more people – in turn driving economic growth.

Aside from the free business evaluation, every business taking part in the programme can apply for a $20,000 matched grant. That means if you need to invest money to implement a new strategy identified in the action plan, the Government will match up to $20,000 of the cost.

How much time does a business need to commit?

I usually start with a two-hour workshop with the owners followed by a two-hour leadership-team workshop and a one-hour session with a few representative employees of the business – so basically a full day at the business.

Following that, I do my own research, benchmark the business and financials, and structure my findings before giving the business detailed feedback.

What happens after the business receives the report?

Once the report is peer-reviewed and approved, I start working with the business to put the identified actions into place. We keep in contact for about a year (and often for much longer informally), during which time I help open doors and guide the business through implementation.

What experience do the business advisers have?

All of our advisers are senior leaders with extensive management and industry experience. For example, I worked in a management consultant role for the Board of Siemens AG in Germany for multiple years, before moving to Australia in 2003 to restructure Siemens here.

Following different leadership positions at Siemens, Nokia and HP in Australia, I went back into management consulting in 2014, and have since been working with Australian SMEs in the IT, digital, professional services and manufacturing sectors. I provide this work via Deloitte, which is one of the programme partners.

Can businesses engage their own business adviser?

Businesses can only apply directly to the programme and can’t bring their own adviser, but they can request to work with a specific business adviser if they know of one near them; otherwise, they’ll be assigned an adviser who fits their circumstances.

What outcomes can a business expect from the programme?

Businesses taking part in the program can expect to receive:

  • Concise feedback on where the business stands in the market
  • An overview of key opportunities and challenges
  • An action plan with detailed advice on how to tackle key challenges and opportunities
  • Quick wins and long-term focus areas to drive improvement

What other grants might a business be eligible for?

There are hundreds of support programmes available for businesses at federal and state level. During the business evaluation, we can offer advice based on what’s relevant to the business.

Thanks to Fabian for his insights into this great initiative. If you want to find out if your business is eligible for the programme, head to the Entrepreneurs’ Programme website. You can also contact Fabian directly at [email protected] or on 0407 527 969.

Chung Hui

Melbourne, VIC
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