SIMONE SMITH, The Weekly Times
February 23, 2018 12:00am
DAIRY farmers were encouraged to challenge the status quo and reminded that future business disruption could come from areas not even considered yet, at last week’s Australian Dairy Conference.
Minds at Work founder Jason Clarke dared the delegates at the Melbourne conference to be excited about change and open to new ideas as a way to prepare a business for the future.
He used the example of the business model of Encyclopaedia Britannica and how, after 230 years, it was made redundant by digital multimedia encyclopaedia Encarta and now online tool Wikipedia. Mr Clarke told the audience the executives behind the Britannica business said “we didn’t have time to innovate our business model”.
Mr Clarke encouraged farmers to consider innovations in many forms.
From a new employee’s ideas, to creating a better way to deal with something on farm — it could be an irritation or something desperately needed, he said.
Mr Clarke said those inside the business often had no time to think, no freedom to experiment, no motivation to disrupt and no appetite for failure.
All these were the ingredients for innovation and change.
He encouraged a change in thinking from “this is the way it has always been done … this is the way it has always been”.
“If it is good enough for my old day, it is good enough for me,” he said of some thoughts within business.
“But the world is moving.”
AuctionsPlus chief executive Anna Speer spoke about the challenge of developing a business that disrupted the status quo of selling livestock at saleyards.
AuctionsPlus, an online market for livestock, also called an “eBay for cows and sheep”, started 32 years ago, but did not turn a profit for 19 years.
“It was a long time to stick at something,” Ms Speer told the audience, before highlighting that AuctionsPlus had 46,853 monthly users, a rise of 117 per cent from 2014 to 2017. Livestock numbers sold on the platform increased 80 per cent during this time to 415,000.
AuctionsPlus derives a flat-rate service fee for auctions with 75 per cent of its revenue from cattle and sheep.
Other revenue comes from special sales such as the Global Impact dairy sale last year, when more than 11,000 people watched the livestream video from across the globe.
Ms Speer said AuctionsPlus was “the easiest thing for me to sell” because it improved the way the livestock industry worked.
She said AuctionsPlus was addressing problems associated with the current way of selling livestock, such as bringing cattle to a saleyards — and the resulting kilogram losses — facility overheads and occupational health and safety problems.
Ms Speer said future business challenges could be those not even known or understood now.
“Ask yourself what disruption is, what can’t I see coming,” she said. “I’m concerned about the ones I don’t know about, for example manufactured meat companies.”
Admitting she “couldn’t begin to imagine what AuctionsPlus would look like in 10 years” due to advances in technology and unforeseeable challenges, Ms Speer said the business would concentrate on trust.
She said AuctionsPlus, like Uber and Airbnb, derived trust and accountability through a rating system and by providing an avenue for feedback.
Asked if robots would replace people, she said AuctionsPlus was focused on building better relationships and a team of 10 staff would make 16,000 phone calls a month. Ms Speer said it was important people made these calls about livestock sales, rather than have it automated, as it built better relationships.