Jan and Mike Becker small business owners – taking it to the next level.
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ASK ANY SMALL BUSINESS owner why they chose to give it a go and you’ll likely end up at the starting point. They believed enough in their ideas – and themselves – to take a risk. And it is a risk: slightly more than half of all new businesses reach their third birthday, and only a third grow their profitability year on year. But still, more than two million Australians are prepared to give it a go; with almost half of our workforce along for the ride.* Seven entrepreneurs reveal how they’re beating the odds to take their businesses to the next level: whether that means more profit, influence, freedom – or all three. Some of them have already made multimillion dollar deals with bigger players or are busy outmanoeuvring them.Others are determined to keep it all in the family. None of them is standing still. Because at the heart of their success is a determination to give it a go – to keep on innovating.
If you’re fond of stability then you might want to reconsider taking the helm of your own private enterprise, warns Becker Helicopters chief executive Jan Becker. Becker compares it to being on a train that has an unknown destination. “Some people don’t like that. Some people want nine-to-five hours and they’re better off in a government job. We need people like that, but if you’re in private enterprise, the only thing that is constant is change: you have to innovate,” she says. She and her husband, Mike, a pilot, started their helicopter training school 19 years ago, operating a single Bell 47 – as seen on the TV series MASH – out of a shed in Noosa, Queensland. Five years after the business started, Jan Becker also became a pilot: “I actually passed my helicopter licence on the day our daughter, Micheala, turned five. She’s now 19.” Today, the business operates 20 helicopters from a facility at Sunshine Coast Airport, has 70 staff pumping out 15,000 training hours per year and a turnover north of $20m. Becker, who was raised in Singapore, says success requires a certain resilience against negative attitudes towards entrepreneurship that are embedded in Australian culture. “Champion your people, champion your staff, champion other businesses – if a business supports us, we support them,” she says. She adds that it’s useful to have a mentor who can be trusted to give advice. Becker couldn’t have asked for one better than her father, Eric Andrews, who, riding the oil boom of the 1960s and ’70s, owned the world’s third-largest helicopter aviation business. “It’s just having the ear of somebody who has your back that makes the difference, someone who has no hidden agenda. They’re not trying to sell you anything, buy your business or get intel, [they’re] just a great sounding board with knowledge of the industry you’re in.”
THE GAME-CHANGER To grow, you have to be prepared to bend the red tape, Becker suggests. She recalls occasions when bureaucratic procedures threatened to drastically slow the school’s capacity to grow. While not ignoring those rules, she says you might need to be creative in adhering to them. “Anything regulatory, such as government paperwork or safety, you have to stay in your lane. But sometimes you’ve just got to drive forward and get things done. Then you can seek forgiveness.”
Courtesy of Qantas Inflight MagazineShare