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With the 2008 export awards approaching, Ian Murray says it’s time to forget the global economic crisis and focus on Australia’s export achievements.

With the dollar rising, credit markets failing and the Government’s report on Export Policy & Programs hitting our desks, I though it best to look at the brighter side of export life and talk about one my favourite subjects, the export awards. This time every year in every state, the best of the best battle it out to be the Australian Exporter of the Year.

There are lots of awards for corporate performance across Australia all aimed at recognising excellence in a particular field of endeavour. The export awards are different though; the companies and people we honour have taken on the world and won. For those of us who have travelled and seen the competition, that’s no mean feat. Interestingly, it’s not just the big guys that take home the goodies—more often than not, it’s a small to medium sized business, with a good product or service, a clever strategy, determination and persistence that wins.

Recognising a company for excellence in export is a nice thing to be able to do. But it’s as much about rewarding the people as it is recognising the company. It takes a whole range of people to make any export transaction a success. The awards provide companies with the opportunity to reward the people in production, the ones packing the containers and the ones who manage the money. Marketers will say ‘I brought in the business’, and they too must be rewarded, but if it doesn’t get onto the ship and the money doesn’t roll in, then the export hasn’t happened.

Winning an award goes beyond the company and the people. It permeates into regions, industry groups and sectors. From my experience, there is nothing to match seeing a regional company or firm take home an export award. First, there is the excitement on the night, then when it hits the press in the town or city it sends very positive signals across a wide range of people. It’s equally important for industry groups to be recognised, if for no other reason than it highlights the range and types of business activities that contribute to our export earnings. Who would have thought thirty years ago that education and training, architecture and engineering would be such dominant contributors to our balance of trade? And beyond that, it gives companies an opportunity to benchmark themselves against others in their sector.

It goes without saying that every company should look closely at their export business plan at least once a year. The awards program provides participants with the opportunity to evaluate their business strategy while completing an entry and, as the awards program has a deadline, the discipline follows.

Finally, overseas companies like to work with the best Australia has to offer. Being an export award winner sends very positive signals to current overseas customers and potential customers. To demonstrate recognition is value adding; award winners should push it, as it may well be the one thing that pushes a deal over the line.
The export awards program goes well beyond what the companies and the people themselves get from it. The state programs interface with the national awards allowing participation at varying levels, including regions, which creates publicity. The national awards showcase our best performers to the world and it shows Australians that not only is our export base diverse, but our winners are world’s best practice. Take the national winners from 2007 and 2006, Cochlear and Resmed: both manufacturers, both high tech and both world leaders. Who said manufacturing is dead?

So at this time of the year we say ‘well done’ to the best export performers in Australia and congratulate them for winning on the most competitive stage of all, the international stage.

Ian Murray

Ian Murray

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