Our resident Business Growth expert
WRITER: Carole Lydon
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jacie Davis
One of the world’s leading experts on business growth, Professor Jana Matthews, joins the UniSA Business School as Professor and Director of the new Centre for Business Growth. unisabusiness spoke with Professor Matthews about her newest role.
Do Australian entrepreneurs differ to those in other countries?
Entrepreneurs worldwide share many of the same characteristics: they are independent thinkers with the ability to ‘triangulate’ different types of trends and data and identify market opportunities; they are passionate and persistent. They are also heavily influenced by their culture, context and role models. Australian innovators have tended to license their innovations to larger companies rather than build companies themselves. They prefer relationship building to selling. Rather than face failure they move slowly and take fewer risks; and shouting about success often draws criticism. The result is fewer companies with the knowledge or the aspiration to grow, less shared knowledge about growth, and fewer role models willing to share what they’ve learned. The Centre for Business Growth has been created to identify innovative companies, teach them about business growth, create opportunities to learn from experts and their peers, and introduce them to customers around the world.
Professor Matthews has a BA from Earlham College, spent her junior year at the University of London, did graduate work at Yale University and received a doctorate in management and planning from Harvard University. She was an original member of the Kauffman Foundation’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership and is the founding CEO of the Jana Matthews Group. She was voted one of the 18 most influential women in business, the only one in entrepreneurial leadership and business growth, and has written 8 books including Leading at the Speed of Growth, Building the Awesome Organization, Winning Combinations: Entrepreneurial Partnerships Between Large and Small Companies and Lessons from the Edge, over 50 articles, and is frequently quoted in the press.
How will the UniSA Business School’s Centre for Business Growth make a difference to Australian businesses?
We have scheduled 1-day Business Clinics in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide for companies with $5M-$50M turnover that have ‘slowed’ or ‘stopped’ growing. Companies apply, we do a pre-screen, and then select those we think would benefit from the Clinic. We ask the CEOs to provide us with specific data and company information, just like a doctor would. When the CEO comes to the Clinic, we review their company’s data and help them understand what is happening, why, and what they need to change to achieve different results. CEOs leave with a customised Action Plan and a clear understanding of what they must do to unlock their company’s growth potential.
We have also designed 3-day Business Growth Programs for 10 companies at a time. We teach the CEO and two executive team members what they need to know to grow, the peers share knowledge and strategies, and we provide tools and resources which help them track the growth of their companies.
You have worked in countries all over the world. What attracted you to Australia?
I first came to Australia to do a feasibility and marketing study for the Australian Technology Park. A generous host gave me a bottle of Penfolds Grange to take home to my husband, and after that we visited regularly to sample wines, then fly fish in New Zealand. After my husband died, friends invited me to set up the ANZ Innovyz START accelerator. After two years, I decided to go back to my ‘sweet spot’, which is helping small and medium companies grow. The opportunity to set up the UniSA Business School’s Centre for Business Growth was easy to accept. I am excited to be working in a university that values scholarship and enterprise.
What do you find to be most rewarding about contributing to a company’s success?
My personal mission is to help entrepreneurs and CEOs build companies that enable employees to perform at their best, consistently provide value to their customers, grow, create jobs and contribute to the economic health of their communities. I believe our Centre will enable more local CEOs to grow their companies. If we do this right, we can have a positive and significant impact on the trajectory of South Australia, and perhaps the nation.
Professor Jana Matthews is the Director of the Centre for Business Growth at the UniSA Business School.
> For more information visit the Centre for Business Growth website