Lessons in Leadership – Thoughts from the Coalition’s orchestration of the Marriage Equality debate.

Yesterday’s Coalition Part meeting provides a really interesting insight into highlighting the difference between a leader and a manager.

Unfortunately what the Prime Minister displayed was a classic example of management. He has again demonstrated very little leadership. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister is an experienced and at times skilled manager. Afterall, you do not be in and around politics as long he has without being able to ‘manage’ the environment you are in.

The problem exists because as a manager he uses processes and rules to get his view through. Whereas a leader uses people’s value and beliefs, aligning the outcomes they are trying to achieve with the values of those around them. Yesterday (to me at least) proved our Prime Minister has a great understanding of the rules and processes and how to use them to achieve HIS desired outcome. He demonstrated very little leadership, as yet I am yet to see our current Prime Minister demonstrate any leadership on any issue. I believe those who followed (and are following) did so out of loyalty to the process or the fear of punishment, demotion or lack of promotion.

What occurred yesterday IS NOT leadership, it is, at best management, some I have spoken to have categorised the Prime Ministers actions as, out of touch, bullying and manipulation. In my opinion I think it is a bit of all those things, it is certainly not leadership.

What we as a nation are seeking is true leadership. We want our elected ‘leaders’ to govern without fear or favour. That doesn’t necessarily mean we need to agree with everything our elected officials do or say, but at least we can respect their decisions. The current government governs for favour or in fear.

In my opinion, the last time this country saw true leadership from our federal government dates back almost two decades, to John Howard, following the Port Arthur massacre. Mr Howard saw something wasn’t right, so he changed the gun laws. This was despite the policy change being unpopular in his parties electoral heartland, and certainly unpopular with his coalition partners. BUT it was the right thing to do.

Mr Howard demonstrated leadership, courage and conviction, I am sure he managed the politics of it as well, but it was leadership that effected change.

It is time our Prime Minister stepped up, demonstrated leadership and stopped using process, fear and favour as his management tools. Instead he needs to bring people on a journey based on what is the right thing to do, not his own personal biases.


Local Government Reform in Tasmania – Opinion

In Tasmania there is much chatter about Local Government and the fact that we have 29 councils, and nine out of ten people I talk to, reckon that 29 is too many.

I often ask the people I am talking to how many councils should Tasmania have? I get all sorts of responses, including:

  • One council throughout Tasmania; and
  • Three councils, Southern Tasmania, Northern Tasmania and North Western Tasmania.

I have to say that I don’t like either of these.

The one council option is not likely to be supported by the general population, and difficult to manage 64,000 square kilometers of roads, rates and rubbish.

The three council option is somewhat better, BUT the general feedback I receive is that the Southern councils would be very Greater Hobart centric and thus population outside of Hobart would feel as though they ‘miss out’ and thus the regional/rural areas are unlikely to support this option. Historically there has been a large amount of council parochialism is prevalent in Greater Hobart and it is unlikely the three major city councils (Hobart, Glenorchy and Clarence) would support this move with any great enthusiasm.

Feedback indicates North of the state may have fewer objections to the three council proposal.

I think a more workable and dare I suggest a more likely and probably population palatable scenario would be to have six councils across mainland Tasmania, and manage King and Flinders Island separately, possibly as one, but with operational decisions kept on island.

In order to survive councils need to have a reasonable rate base, i.e. enough people paying rates. In my opinion, this proposal would provide a reasonable rate base for all councils (other than islands) and have the support (or at least less resistance) from the general population.

The six council areas I propose are:

  1. Southern Tasmania
  2. South Eastern Tasmania
  3. Derwent
  4. North Eastern Tasmania
  5. Central North
  6. North West Tasmania

Southern Tasmania

Encompassing the current councils of:

  • Hobart
  • Kingborough and
  • Huon Valley

Providing a population of around 98,500, the council would take in Hobart City and all of the area south of the city, creating a responsible land mass of around 6,295 square kilometres. Based on 2010 data the council would have operating expenses in excess of $145 million.

South Eastern

Encompassing the current councils of:

  • Clarence
  • Glamorgan/ Spring Bay
  • Sorell
  • Tasman
  • Part of Southern Midlands ( around 25% of current Land Mass)

With a population of around 74,195, the council would take in the Eastern Shore of Hobart, the township of Richmond, the Tasman Peninsula and around half of the East Coast of Tasmania, creating a responsible land mass of 4,794 square kilometres based on 2010 data the council would have operating expenses in excess of $78 million.


Encompassing the current councils of:

  • Glenorchy
  • Derwent Valley
  • Brighton
  • Part of Central Highlands (70% Land Mass)
  • Part of Southern Midlands (75% Land Mass)

With a population of around 76,295, the council would take in the Northern Suburbs of Hobart, the Southern Midlands, the Derwent Valley and the Southern part of the Central Highlands, creating a responsible land mass of around 11,936 square kilometres based on 2010 data the council would have operating expenses in excess of $86 million.

North Eastern Tasmania

Encompassing the current councils of:

  • Launceston
  • Dorset
  • George Town
  • Northern Midlands
  • Break O’Day
  • West Tamar
  • Part of Meander Valley (40% Land Mass)

With a population of around 133,213 this would be by most measurements the largest council. The City of Launceston, with a population of 100,000, makes it very difficult to split this council to a smaller size, and maintain a large enough rate payer base to be viable. The remaining North Eastern corner of the state would make up the rest of the council, creating a responsible land mass of around 15,952 square kilometres based on 2010 data the council would have operating expenses in excess of $145 million.

Central North

Encompassing the current councils of:

  • Devonport
  • Kentish
  • Latrobe
  • Central Coast
  • Part of Central Highlands (30% Land Mass)
  • Part of Meander Valley (60% Land Mass)

With a population of around 73,647, the council would take in the town of Deloraine to the east and stretch west to the seaside town of Penguin, with the city of Devonport being the centre of the council, creating a responsible land mass of around 3,251 square kilometres based on 2010 data the council would have operating expenses in excess of $83 million.

North West

Encompassing the current councils of:

  • Burnie
  • Waratah/Wynyard
  • Circular Head
  • West Coast

With a population of around 47,536, the council would see Burnie as it’s base and take in the entire North West and West Coast, creating a responsible land mass of around 18,602 square kilometres, making it the largest council in term of land mass, but with large parcels of National Parks and World Heritage area, the smallest rate base should not impact too severely on the council. Based on 2010 data the council would have operating expenses in excess of $65 million.

Table Local Govt Reform


This post is a comment by Chris Davis, General Manager – Business Advice Tasmania. Chris has been asked a lot lately for his opinion on Local Government Reform in Tasmania. We believe that part of Tasmania’s future success depends on a vibrant and efficient government sector and to achieve this debate and discussion is essential.  

5 Great Reasons to have a Christmas Party!

christmas partyGet into the Christmas spirit! There are many reasons to hold a Christmas party, whether you’re in a shared cowork space like us at CoWork Launceston, or a lovely traditional office.

Either way, do what all communities do – celebrate stuff together! Here’s why you should.

  1. Bonding. When we’re all heads down at the desk, we often don’t have the chance to get to know each other. Having the chance to make new bonds can be a morale boost and enhance relationships within the work space. Kind of like chatting around the water cooler, but with tinsel.
  2. Thanks. For employees, the end-of-year party is a tried and tested means of showing your appreciation. For coworkers in a shared space, it’s a chance to pat each other festively on the back and say hey, thanks for making this a great working community. Good to know you, and thanks for always unloading the dishwasher.
  3. Ritual. Just as the family that eats together stays together, so the entrepreneurs who mingle together over a mince pie generate wellbeing and ideas together. Think of it as networking with a funny hat on.
  4. Good Business. If the numbers are high enough, get the party catered. You’re creating trade for a local company and generating goodwill.
  5. Closure. All societies, big ones and little ones, need rites of passage. The Christmas party is an enjoyable way to round off the year and send a signal out that it’s okay to put the feet up / whip up an eggnog / drive to the shack / crank up the barbecue – or whatever else you’ve been hanging out to do – and generally forget about everything for a while.

May you and your co-workers have a happy holiday and a peaceful and productive new year, from all those at CoWork Launceston – we look forward to seeing you refreshed from all that eggnog in the new year. Merry Christmas!

christmas treePost by Fiona Stocker  – writing, web and social media marketing for your successful small business with Fiona Stocker Boutique Communications

My Digital Ready Group

I am amazed by the diversity and skill of Tasmanian businesses.

Currently I am a coach for the Tasmanian Government funded Digital Ready program. I am coaching fourteen businesses across Northern Tasmania. And their skill, attitude and products/services are truly inspiring.

I think they are that inspiring that they all deserve a free plug here.

What makes them amazing and inspiring? Each one of them has something unique, that makes them special and giving them each a unique selling proposition. 

I am going to give you a couple of line on each of them, but you can click on their business names and you will go to their webpage or Facebook page. Please check out their pages and like their businesses

Who are they?

Lawson Homes

Building high quality homes for owners, completing that special dream of a new home for families for more than two decades. Being in the domestic home building business in Tasmania is not all that common. 

– Tamar Valley Art Shack (Facebook) or on the web

Multi award winning artist in residence Dan Villiers and his wide Anne have created an idyllic gallery on the banks of the Tamar River at Clarence Point.

– Birrelli art + design + architecture (Facebook) or on the web

Rebecca and Jack Birrell offer clients unique solutions to their design, architecture and art projects.

Rebecca’s impressive, award winning portfolio of design and art includes multiple awards for some of Tasmania’s most recognised brands, including, J Boag & Son, Tamar Ridge Wines, Pierre’s Restaurant, Metro Tasmania, to name but a few.

Not to be outdone by his talented wife, Jack has provided end to end architect and project management for projects across Australia. Renowned for having projects completed within budget and in front of time schedules has seen Jack being awarded many awards. He is the only architect in Australia to ever be awarded the Disability Access and Inclusion National Disability Service Awarding.   

– Langdale Farm (Facebook) or one the web

From the family owned farm, Ollie and Fiona are one of the few suppliers in Tasmania to supply nitrate free, free range pork products.

Graphic Education

What a surprise this business is. Researching, designing and manufacturing Education Posters covering Maths, English, Science, Social Science and Legal Studies.

With customers from across the globe, Graphic education provides teachers and other educators with unique, time-saving resources by facilitating students’ conceptual development in an exciting way.

Products include:

  • Poster sets developed around a concept or set of related concepts.
  • Periodic tables
  • Maps – World and country maps available in different sizes and on a variety of media.

The range is expanding and now totals well over a thousand posters.

– Killiecrankie Farm Nursery & Christmas Tree Farm (Facebook) or one the web

Environmental Scientist Lee and her husband Chris established Tasmania’s first Christmas tree farm. They selected a species of tree that not only gives the perfect Christmas Tree, but it is also fast growing, allowing for crop rotations, ensuring that the process is sustainable on multiple levels. Look out for Christmas in July on the farm, where you can choose your tree for Christmas and literally put your name on it, so you can come and cut it yourself in December, for that unique Griswald experience.

The perennial nursery, more like a plant farm than a nursery, only grows tough plants. Lee guarantees that providing you plant you plants quickly (not leaving them in the car for days) and make sure they get a drink, that your plant will not die. Check out the website for the range of plants Lee grows.             

– Cocoon Living (Facebook)

Offering handmade gifts and jewellery from her Launceston CBD store, Amanda beautifully wraps that special present. When I am in there, I get t impression that Amanda loves her stock so much she would like to take the stock home as much as she would sell it. Lovely to see someone with so much love and care for the things they sell.

Shearwater Gourmet Butchery (Facebook)

Award winning butcher Scott, knows his meat. Selling Tasmanian produce, purchased direct from the farmer where he can. Scott has nearly fifty different flavours of sausages that rotates through the shop.

Scott demands quality, he simply will not sell product that is not 100% right. Accredited to standards smaller butchers normally consider too hard, further enhances the reputation that the store has for quality.

– Fiona Stocker Boutique Communications (Facebook) or on the web

Specialising in the written word, Fiona helps your businesses to look and feel polished and professional through words.

Fiona writes original material in a style to suite any business, or she can fine-tune or edit material you already have.

Hatherley Birrell Collection (Facebook) or on the web

A collection of boutique art accommodation situated within the vibrant heart of Launceston City. Accommodation, art and design fusion developed by Rebecca and Jack Birrell, artist, graphic designer and architect team from Birrelli art + design + architecture. Hatherley Birrell Collection is an outstanding boutique art hotel, featuring contemporary and original artwork, architectural and design elements, this luxury art accommodation offers a highly individual and exceptionally stylish experience.

Tasmanian Gourmet Hampers (Facebook) or on the web

Run by the pommie foodie, Susanne, packaging a variety of high quality Tasmanian goods and then selling them in a hamper. Targeting the corporate market her ability to supply regionally relevant hampers is a welcome boost to many Tasmanian business owners.

Not satisfied with putting together great hampers Susanne has recently started Modo Mio Naked. Where she makes the best brownies in Tasmania (I know from personal sampling), using high quality ingredients, premium Tasmanian couverture chocolate blended with organic spelt flour, local free range eggs and Tasmanian butter, they are more than a little addictive!

Beautiful Isle Wines

A newly established Tamar Valley wine brand from a multi-generational Tasmanian wine family. Blending varieties to create a lovely vibrant and fun wine that offers very good value. This is a drop to look out for soon. One of the benefits of coaching is that we sometimes get to sample the product, this is one I am glad I could taste.

Robert Tucker Piano Service

Robert offers statewide and often interstate service. He tunes, repairs, rebuilds, moves and sells pianos and pianolas. Looking after some of the most interesting instruments in the state, Robert offers onsite tuning and repair. Or can return to his workshop where required.

Rent a cycle (Backpacker Equipment Hire)

Hiring bikes and camping gear to people wanting experience the real Tasmanian outdoors. The owner Doug has over forty years in the Tasmanian tourism industry. I don’t know anyone who has been in tourism longer, do you?

The Silent Group Member

The last member of the coaching group is an interesting project that involves, an idea that could see a unique product in the I.T. area, due to intellectual property protection I won’t say too much about this person, other than to say I am truly excited about the prospects for the project.

If you are a small business in Tasmania would like to participate in the Digital Ready Program, make sure you register for the next round.  

Our latest project

Business Advice Tasmania in collaboration with Daryl Connelly have just been selected to deliver the national Apprentice to Business Program in Tasmania. 

Details for the program are:

Are you a Tradesperson who is thinking about, or has recently started a new business?

The AtoB program supports eligible tradespeople who are seeking to, or have recently, established a business.

Many tradespeople operate as subcontractors, sole operators or small businesses. To establish a successful business, in addition to their trade specific competencies they also need to develop small business management skills, to ensure they meet business and employment regulations.

How can the AtoB Program help?

The AtoB Program provides training in a nationally recognised qualification in small business management and includes business mentoring support for up to 12 months.

The AtoB Program provides the opportunity for eligible tradespeople to develop their business management skills.

Am I eligible for the AtoB Program?

The AtoB Program services are designed for qualified tradespeople who are ready to start-up a new business, or to operate as independent subcontractors. 

To be eligible, individual tradespeople must:

  • have permanent residency, that is, as an Australian citizen or as a permanent resident of Australia;
  • have successfully completed a trade-related apprenticeship in a trade listed on the National Skills Needs List (NSNL). The Australian Apprenticeships website provides further information about the NSNL;
  • be preparing to or have recently (within 24 months) established a business;
  • not be an undischarged bankrupt;
  • not have previously completed the small business qualifications offered under the AtoB Program; and
  • not be subsidised from other government funding, including Commonwealth, States and Territories, for the same eligible qualifications offered under the AtoB Program.

How can I apply?

If you are in Tasmania you can apply by sending us an email to info@businessadvicetas.com or on the contact form here.


Coworking in Launceston

One of our latest ‘in house’ projects has been to research the viability of a Coworking Space in our home town of Launceston. Our research indicates that there is market for a space in our home town. So we have decided to see if we can find a suitable venue and set up a Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cowork-Launceston/545097628847592.

While doing our research we came across a lot of people who didn’t know what coworking was and didn’t fully grasp the concept. Many people were comparing to a serviced office.

Coworking is certainly not the same as a services office, this article hopes to explain what coworking is and some of the benefits that it presents.

Coworking is a way of working that brings together professional people, entrepreneurs and travelling workers together into one shared workspace.

A coworking space has some similarities a shared office. However, it is also different in that the space people work in when Coworking is more often than not open and communal.

If you don’t want to read to article, then this YouTube video will help explain what Coworking is all about Sorry it is U.S. focused, it will give you an idea of what coworking is about.


Coworking offers users a community and a collaborative work environment, whereas the traditional shared office is closed in often small box like environments.

For me one of the attractions of coworking is that it brings together people from different industries and with different business models, customers and ideas.

Coworking spaces are made up of a community of professionals who work alongside each other on their own projects or businesses. Coworkers become members of a Coworking space, means being connected to a community of other professionals with whom you can interact and exchange ideas, often people working in Coworking spaces ‘team’ up to target specific projects that individually they could not normally bid for on their own.

There are several advantages to workers working in a coworking space, and why people are better off working in a coworking space, over other workspaces.

First, many coworkers are independent workers, they work alone. Working alone is isolated can be lonely and often places conflicting pressures on the worker. Coworking provides a way to achieve a work-life balance.

Second, working in a community of other professional workers creates opportunities to make and exchange business contacts, receive feedback on work, collaborate on projects, and update knowledge or skill-sets.  This makes coworking spaces great for startups and sole traders.

Coworking users can exchange concepts, be exposed to new ideas or ways of approaching problems, meet potential clients, collaborate with others on projects, and are stimulated to work more productively and creatively.

What does a coworking space look like?

Most coworking spaces are open, collaborative work environments, coworkers sit near one another in a shared workspace.

This doesn’t mean that users have to always interact with the people around them, or that others are a constant source of distraction. People in coworking spaces are there to work. They have deadlines, projects and emails, it is the in between times that open up the collaborative opportunities. Coworkers communicate at the coffee machine, sit next to someone new, or at one of the events that coworking spaces host for their users.

Coworking offers flexible and affordable membership plans. You don’t have to work from the space every day. Some people use the space a couple of times per week or several times a month. For the travelling worker, they may only use the space once a quarter when in a regional town or non-home city.

Often coworking spaces also provide semi-private and private offices, if more privacy is required. The advantages of being a part of a community remain intact, though – and so coworking remains the best – and one of the cheapest – options for all types of workers.

Coworking stats

According to deskmag.com who conducted a global study of over 1,500 coworking space participants, in more than 60 countries across world:

  • 54% of coworkers are freelancers (we know them as sole traders), the rest are      entrepreneurs or employees of mainly small companies
  • Since joining a space, 80% of coworkers have expanded their business networks
  • 92% have increased their social circles
  • 74% feel more productive
  • 80% feel less isolated
  • 2/3 of coworkers felt their skill sets were improved
  • And more than 1/3 reported an increase in income

The full survey can be found at http://www.deskmag.com/en/the-members-of-coworking-spaces-survey-203

Definitions of Governance – most are no more than consultant speak or gobbledygook

This will be the first in a series of posts that I discuss governance.

I work with organisations on many levels. Very often I am working with a Board or a CEO, or working on helping the two work together, or I am facilitating leadership programs with people in these roles.

I do this in both the Not for Profit sector and the for profit sector.

The most common questions and comments (and probably confusion) I receive revolve around Governance.  Most of the so called definitions are more than consultant speak or gobbledygook. In my opinion there is no simple universal definition or formula for good governance.

The concept of corporate governance is difficult to define precisely, it covers a large number of concepts and interactions that affect many people at an array of levels.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has the following working definition of corporate governance:

“Corporate governance is the system by which business corporations are directed and controlled. The corporate governance structure specifies the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different participants in the corporation, such as the Board, managers, shareholders and other stakeholders, and spells out the rules and procedures for making decisions on corporate affairs. By doing this, it also provides the structure through which the company objectives are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance.”

Gobbledygook if I ever read it.

In 1991 Lord Cadbury Report in the United Kingdom did a little better by defining governance as:

“The system by which organisations are controlled, governance, is concerned with structure and processes for decision making, accountability, control and behaviour at the top of an entity.  It influences how the objectives of an organisation are set and achieved, how risk is monitored and addressed and how performance is optimised.

  • Boards of Directors are responsible for the governance of their companies
  • Members’ role in governance is to appoint the Directors and the Auditors and to satisfy themselves that an appropriate governance structure is in place.”

This definition still doesn’t give me too much to inspire and relate to people what Governance really is. So let’s look at the characteristics of good governance. These are agreed to by most of the experts on governance.

Good governance consists of:

  • Discipline – commitment by the organisation’s leadership to widely accepted standards of correct and proper behaviour.
  • Transparency – the ease with which an outsider can meaningfully analyse the organisation’s actions and performance.
  • Stewardship – being the current custodians.
  • Integrity – others can rely upon what you say.
  • Independence – the extent to which conflicts of interest are avoided so that the organisation’s best interests prevail.
  • Accountability addressing stakeholder/shareholder’s rights to receive and query information relating to the stewardship of the organisation.
  • Responsibility – acceptance of all consequences of the organisation’s behaviour and actions and a commitment to improve.
  • Fairness – acknowledgement of, respect for and balance between the rights and interests of all stakeholders.
  • Social responsibility – the organisation’s commitment to ethical standards and its appreciation of the social, environmental and economic impact of its activities on the community.

For me the characteristics above are relevant to Not for Profits, SME’s and large listed public companies. As an organisation grows in size and influence, these issues become increasingly important. I also believe that politicians (at all levels) should use them as a guide fir decision making.

It is important to recognise that good governance is based on principles underpinned by continually developing notions of good practice. There are no absolute rules which must be adopted by all organisations.

Unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula for good governance.

Advisors like me need to encourage organisations to give appropriate attention to the characteristics above and adopt approaches which are tailored to the specific needs of their organisation at that point in time. Remembering that what is relevant and appropriate today, maybe irrelevant and inappropriate in five years’ time.

So what do I say when asked what is the definition of good governance?

I say “Governance is a concept too difficult to define, because it covers:

  • A large number of concepts
  • Relationships that affect many people
  • At an array of levels

A strong governance culture is about how the organisation is:

  • Directed;
  • Controlled;
  • Held to account; and
  • How those with responsibility to direct and control its affairs by embracing:
    • Authority;
    • Accountability;
    • Stewardship; and
    • Leadership.