How Google phasing out third party cookies will help build a more private web

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Earlier this year, Google announced they would begin works to block third party cookies – which are used to track user activity and enable targeted advertising based on browsing habits – from their web browser within the next two years.

While marketers the world over had initially been perturbed about the news of the tech giant’s plan to phase out third-party cookies from their Chrome browser, web users will likely be collectively sighing in relief. Although the move is intended to enhance user privacy, marketers will still be able to implement and measure advertising campaigns, but only following the standards of Google’s recently proposed Privacy Sandbox.

What is Google’s Privacy Sandbox?

Google’s plans for its cookie-free future are aimed at increasing privacy and fraud prevention measures while still supporting targeted and measurable advertising. Rather than completely upending the online marketing world by blocking third-party cookies in one fell swoop, Google will be rolling out their proposed standards over the next two years, whereby companies who rely on these cookies to track web users will have to adhere to the standards and newly-implemented measures set by Google’s Privacy Sandbox.

In place of third party cookies, Google will be rolling out five application programming interfaces, effectively creating and providing an alternate pathway for the advertising industry to follow. The Privacy Sandbox will not block third-party cookies, but instead, provide anonymised signals within the Chrome browser to enable profiteering from Chrome user’s web browsing habits.

Boiled down to its essence, the standards set by the Privacy Sandbox means that the tracking of user activity remains the same in principle, but is instead implemented according to Google’s standards, while also allowing for a much more private and secure online environment for web users.

However, marketers running targeted ads using the Google Marketing Platform would be affected by any Privacy Sandbox changes, although these changes would mainly affect ad campaigns using Google Analytics running on non-Google-owned websites.

Developers will also be discouraged from using other tracking techniques such as fingerprinting. This involves using various snippets of information that varies between web users, such as which device they use to browse or the type of fonts they’ve installed, to create an identifiable, and therefore trackable profile that – unlike cookies – cannot be cleared by the user.

In response to user requests for increased privacy online, Google’s Privacy Sandbox is aimed at providing users of its Chrome browser more control of how their information is collected and stored.

The problem with third party cookies

Third-party cookies are useful for digital marketers as they record various amounts of web user activity, enabling ads to be targeted to users based on their browsing habits. For example, if you were to check out an online music gear store and browse through their guitar section, you’ll be likely to see related guitar ads when you visit other, non-related websites.

While some users may consider this useful at times, the issue with third-party cookies is that over time, disturbingly large amounts of information is aggregated into a database of online profiles for each user. This invasion of privacy is not only considered creepy by many, but – more significantly – these databases also pose as a security risk should they be hacked by criminals or leaked into the public domain, allowing for potential identity theft or use for impersonation schemes. Another possible use for such information is the tracking of user movement and connections by government agencies.

In recent years, public awareness of these issues has risen dramatically, with web users increasingly desiring to opt-out of or block third-party cookies, which has led to a more private and secure alternative being developed.

What’s in the Google Privacy Sandbox?

In response to the web user’s desire for increased privacy and security, Google’s initial intentions were to make cookies more configurable and transparent for users of their Chrome browser, while also completely blocking fingerprinting techniques.

However, Google has now shifted its focus to completely block third party cookies, with the transition to a cookieless Chrome browser over the next two years. Advertisers wishing to receive information for targeting users will now have to perform an API call to Google’s Privacy Sandbox, which will provide anonymised data rather than information about individual identities.

The tech giant will begin testing click-based conversion measurements that will be tracked within the Chrome browser, rather than through the use of cookies. All required information will be delivered to the advertiser, but now without any information that could be personally identifiable.

Challenges from the advertiser’s end

Although advertisers and publishers are concerned that Google’s intention to block third party cookies eventually will decrease their ad revenue, the Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to balance the scales with the increasingly desirable user privacy.

Changes brought on by the Privacy Sandbox will inevitably affect marketers using the Google Marketing Platform and Google Analytics to implement and measure their marketing campaigns. However, this will only affect ads delivered on sites not owned by Google. However, as the company aims to use their first-party cookies, this is unlikely to affect advertising campaigns being run through Google-owned sites such as their search results or YouTube.

Furthermore, although the Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to block third party cookies, new opportunities could be created for publishers and marketing companies that have already aggregated their databases of user data.

Google’s motivations

While Google’s intentions may appear admirable, it is entirely possible that these changes are being brought upon simply due to a global outcry for more robust personal data privacy and online security. The FTC recently fined the tech giant $170 million for a violation of the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act) standards because of their use of cookies to track users.

Furthermore, Google’s tracking protocols are also currently being reviewed by European data protection authorities who are concerned the company are not complying with the GDPR.

Another motivational factor for Google to phase out their support for tracking cookies as that competing web browsers such as Firefox and Safari have already implemented measures to block third party cookies – a move which has proved to be highly popular with internet users.
The Privacy Sandbox is still being developed in real-time.

Senka Pupacic is the founder of Top 10 SEO, www.top10insydney.com.au.

What happened to good manners in business?

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Ignoring people, being tardy, not giving thanks, cancelling or changing meetings at the last minute, missing deadlines and simply being discourteous. These simple infractions of common courtesy happen more and more, every day in business. People are busy being busy and so something has to give, is the often-quoted justification. But there is an argument that at a time when personal and professional reputation is as fickle as the latest social media update, it could be worth investing some of that precious time in good manners, especially in business.

Let’s look at some of the more common ones. Now, while these bad behaviors are often found universally, there are definitely some markets and some organizations where they are much worse than others. It was once said to me that “cultures are defined by the poor behavior tolerated”, which means that they must also have particularly poor cultures.

Starting with a very common and annoying behavior. When you request something from another person, and they acquiesce to your request, and you do not acknowledge this with a thank you. If we were dining together and you ask me to pass the salt and I did, would you not thank me? Yet every business day people make requests of others by email and when you respond with what they need, very few people say thank you. This is particularly true in the procurement process. Procurement requests a proposal and yet I find myself having to follow up for any type of acknowledgement that they received it. How easy would it be to reply with a simple thank you to acknowledge the completion of the request?

That leads me to the new most annoying, and that is ignoring people. In fact there is even a colloquial term for this – ghosting – the practice of ceasing all communication and contact without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communicate made by said individual. This is particularly hard on salespeople, who work hard to get the proposal to their client, only to never have that client respond again? If you decided to go with another vendor than have the decency to tell them so and why? If you decided not to proceed, thank them and explain why? If you just changed your mind, again, just say than you and explain. Is it so hard?

Next is tardiness. Running late. It is simply a passive / aggressive powerplay so saying to everyone else, I am so busy and so important that you can all sit there and wait for me to get better organized. In meeting driven organizations, tardiness is possibly the main driver of loss of productivity, as people are forced to sit and wait for you to turn up. Do you really believe that you are the only one who is busy? Are you really more important than everyone else in the meeting? In organizations that tolerate this behavior, it become the norm, as people begin to run deliberately late because there is no point being on time. I can recall a Chief Marketing Officer who was always running late. The CMO thought this was a reflection of them being busy and important. The CEO just thought they were hopeless time managers.

Similar to the last, but different is the person who is constantly changing or cancelling meetings at the last minute. Clearly their diary is out of control, and it can take up to four or five reschedules to actually have the meeting, if at all. Sure, occasionally the unexpected happens. But this constant schedule shuffling simply sends a message that either our meeting is not important to you, which is fine – let’s just cancel it. Or you have absolutely no control over your time and activities, which smacks of being a pawn rather than a player. It is due to these people there is a roaring trade in personal assistants and virtual assistants whose fulltime job is simply managing an out-of-control diary.

There is a lot of talk these days about the importance of personal integrity. There are also as many definitions of integrity as there are people talking about it. My favorite and working version is “to make complete or whole”. What does that mean? It means to be my word. For my words and actions to be complete and whole, to be integrity. So, when I make a commitment to do something and I do not do it, I have no integrity in regard to that commitment. When you agree or commit to a deadline, a meeting, an action, by a specific time and date, others will be relying on you to have integrity to deliver. If you do not, it does not work, and the consequence is they are let down and disappointed. The cure to loss of integrity is to re-establish integrity and hold yourself accountable to deliver. That is integrity.

Perhaps a I have a high personal standard. One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “It is nice to be important, but it is important to be nice”. She held a senior leadership role in Guiding and was a better and more effective leader because people appreciated her integrity and acknowledgement. But if being a better and more effective leader is not motivation enough, then perhaps take this advice from an Executive Creative Director I once worked with who often told me “Be kind to everyone on your way up, because you will be seeing them on your way back down”.

Darren Woolley is the Global CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultants, a micro multinational with offices in Sydney, Singapore, New York, and London, www.trinityp3.com.

Australia has the highest minimum wage in the world and its impoverishing the nation

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India has long been expected to grow into something of a global economic powerhouse. It has a population of over 1.3 billion people, which makes it nearly as populous as China. Yet despite this advantage, it doesn’t wield anywhere near as much economic might.

Many would agree that the main reason for India’s relative malaise stems from the socialism that was inherent to its foundation. For the first 17 years of its life as an independent nation, India was led by Jawaharlal Nehru, a Marxist committed to the concept of centralised state planning. He instituted what has come to be derisively known as the “Licence Raj” whereby India had an eye-watering system of bureaucracy that deliberately stymied private business.

Everything required a licence. You couldn’t sell a kettle without it, and up to 80 different agencies had to be satisfied in order to obtain such a licence. The licence was necessary as the government would make it a condition of what price the goods or services could be sold for. The reason being that India wanted its people to believe that only the state knows what’s best for them. The hoi polloi couldn’t be trusted to act for themselves.

Whilst China began to throw off many of its communist economic strictures in the 1980s, India didn’t abolish its Planning Committee until 2014. India continues to suffer for the sins of its past.

It’s in this context then that it saddens me when I meet travellers to Australia from India who always say to me: “You guys have so many rules here! Everywhere I go, there’s signs warning me I’ll get a fine if I stand over here, or smoke over there.”

When you’re first alerted to it, it’s like a lightbulb goes on. Now I see it everywhere. Rules have built up on us like the proverbial frog in the boiling water that has no idea its being boiled alive. We’re regulated so heavily that even Indians who are used to ludicrous levels of bureaucracy find it remarkable.

Every regulation is an inherent denial of someone’s freedom. Now of course we willingly accept denials of our freedom, and many of these are for sound reasons. One cannot simply take someone else’s car without permission. This is because one’s right to property cannot be trumped by another’s freedom of movement. But the vast majority of Australian regulation exists, not to balance competing freedoms, but because the state thinks it knows better than you, how you should conduct yourself.

Consider our industrial relations laws. The Fair Work Act constitutes over 600 pages of legislation (and nearly the same volume of associated regulations) telling you how to employ someone. Central to these regulations are the concept of minimum wages, set by a government tribunal. Australia has the highest minimum wage in the world at the moment, despite having over 10% unemployment in a COVID-19 environment.

The existence of the minimum wage baffles logic. We don’t have chattel-slavery in Australia. No one is forced to go to work. Far from it actually. If an employer wishes to offer a particular wage rate and the employee is happy to work for it, why exactly does the government need to regulate this transaction?

When I was a very raw 19-year old law student, I managed to find a lawyer who was prepared to employ me as a paralegal. But, as he explained to me, I was effectively useless to him until I was trained to a level where I could handle files by myself. He offered me $5 an hour at a time when the minimum wage was about $15. I knew it was considerably below the minimum wage, and I knew I could have earned $20 pouring beers in a bar, but I made a bet that it would be better for me in the long-term to get some legal experience under my belt and so I agreed.

I worked there for a year before moving on; and in truth, he did me a massive career favour by taking me on at all. I remain very grateful for the opportunity and never complained about the wage, even though I was well-aware I had a slam dunk case for backpay if I ever wanted to pursue it.

Morally, what did my boss do wrong? Sure, he got some cheap labour out of me, but I learned from him too. It was a fair exchange. And he took a big risk in betting that I was a man of honour who wouldn’t put a knife in his back later. I’m not sure I’d take the same risk if I were in his shoes today.

We have huge underemployment in Australia, precisely because low-skilled employment is too expensive to take a risk on. Why do we do this to ourselves? It makes no sense.

Ever noticed how only very wealthy Australians can afford nannies or housekeepers? Nearly everyone in Hong Kong and Singapore has a Filipina housekeeper. They get paid $8 an hour, which is twice as much as they make in Manila, and because there’s no welfare available to them, they all go home once their employment is terminated. Sounds like a fair deal to all involved, if you ask me.

In a previous job, I managed an electrical contracting business. We had a guy in the workshop who was a bit older but had a brilliant work ethic. He had been in the Albanian Army when he was younger, and his English wasn’t good, so he just got the job done and didn’t interact very much with everyone else. He was so reliable that he never took leave and had built up such a large accrual that we had to start forcing him to take it. It peeved him to no end. He couldn’t understand why someone ready, willing and able to work was being forced to stay at home. But alas, that is what our “Fair Work” legislation requires because, apparently, people can’t make decisions about their lives for themselves.

The usual retort is that looser employment regulation will lead to exploitation. But this claim is a complete furphy. No one can force you to go work. If your employer tries to rip you off, you go elsewhere, or stay at home. This is how all markets work. Labour markets are no different.

The evidence for this is in our own labour market. Wages in the mining and construction industries, far outstrip their industry minimums. If minimum wage laws stop employees from being exploited, then why don’t we also implement maximum wage laws to stop employers being exploited? The very idea is as absurd as it sounds.

The lesson of India is that economic regulation impoverishes in the long-run. It may achieve short-term political benefits, but it only benefits a small number of insiders.

Kyle Kutasi is a solicitor with Solve Legal, www.solveonline.com.au.

Higgins Coatings: Seventy years young

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Australia’s premier painting solution provider, family-run company Higgins Coatings has been servicing a broad range of industries for 70 years, working on the founding principle that the quality of the service is as important as the quality of the finish.

Chairman John Higgins and Managing Director Gerard Higgins are veterans of the painting industry, having grown up in and eventually taken charge of the family business. With 70 years’ experience in the industry between them, they’ve seen Higgins Coatings grow from humble beginnings to become one of Australia’s largest commercial painting contractors. Whilst both have enjoyed success in other business and philanthropic ventures, they’ve each held various roles in the company throughout the years, and Higgins remains their first passion. The Australian Business Executive spoke to the brothers Higgins about the humble beginnings of the company, its varied business model, and the people-first approach that has helped Higgins Coatings serve its customers for 70 years.

Family-run business

“We [are] Australia’s largest commercial painting contractor,” says Gerard Higgins. “We have 20 branches across the country, in all states of Australia. We work on about 4,000 projects a year, that’s about 350 projects a month, ranging from painting a door to painting a hundred-storey building. We put on about a million litres of paint a year.”

Higgins Coatings is celebrating its 70th year in business, formed in 1949 by John and Gerard’s parents, Gerry and Peggy Higgins. It was Gerry’s humble beginnings in life that led to the foundation of the company. After migrating to Australia, he found work in Mount Beauty, Victoria as a painter, and his lifelong career began.

“He was quite driven,” John Higgins says of his father, “knew what he wanted, and he always said that he knew how to treat people to get the best out of them. He came back to Melbourne after a period of a time [in Mount Beauty] and really started painting on his own.”

Gerry met Peggy and the two were married a few years later. Soon after, the couple began both a business and family. As a team, they divided the work within the company, with Gerry running the projects and the sales side, and Peggy running the office.

“They were a great team,” John says. “I don’t think either Gerard or myself actually have all the skills of my parents, because they were seriously good at what they did. So the business really grew from that foundation.”

The family element of the business remains even to this day, not just in the succession of the Higgins children, but with generations of different families working together within the business for a number of years.

“Currently we have one supervisor in particular who may have been with us 30 years,” John says. “He has one son who’s been with us 15 years, another son about 7 years, and that’s common. We’ve got a lot of people who’ve been with us 30, 40, 45 years. So there’s a great foundation of longevity, and I think family’s been an important part of it.”

The other major part of the business’ foundation was Gerry Higgins’ promise to deliver quality service along with a quality product. The company has continued to honour that promise throughout the years, and it has helped the business grow even further.

“With a lot more branches, a lot more people,” John says, “we’ve had to put a lot more time into developing and training people, which is a critical part of what we do today. Many of our senior people and foremen started as apprentices, so a lot of them have been with us 40 years. Their whole life in business has been with us.”

This longevity is one of the defining characteristics of the company, setting it apart from its competitors. The decline of apprenticeships has contributed to fewer skilled hands in the painting business. Higgins employs a large amount of younger staff, all of whom are skilled and dedicated at all levels, from painters all the way through to management.

“The foundation for our business in the future is enormous,” John says. “We want to grow to give these young people an opportunity to grow with us, and really expand and develop the business. It’s a great place to be in.”

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Australia’s premier painting solution provider, family-run company Higgins Coatings has been servicing a broad range of industries for 70 years

Varied business model

There are a few different parts to Higgins Coatings’ business, with the company divided into four distinct divisions: repaint and maintenance, new construction, building services, and national accounts.

“[In] repaint and maintenance,” Gerard says, “generally our customers would be anyone from a body corporate, education – we do a lot of schools and universities – hospitals, retail, aged care, and retirement living.”

The new construction division offers painting to new high-rise buildings that are going up, and the building services division takes care of clients who want a major painting job undertaken, but also require smaller works such as carpeting or plumbing.

“The last area of our business is what we call national accounts,” says Gerard “where we work for clients that have multiple sites. It could be anywhere from a petrol station through to a large retailer, with hundreds of sites around the country.

Many of the company’s customers undertake this kind of work sporadically, only having buildings painted when they feel it is required. This should really be an annual job to keep buildings in the best possible condition.

“Generally people are quite ad-hoc about how they go about their painting needs,” says Gerard, “and don’t really think about it until it’s too late. So we’ve got a real education process in place there, trying to educate our customers about how often we should be there doing work for them.”

The work involved in commercial painting is vast and varied, with some of the methods of completing jobs being quite different from what people might expect, or what might be considered routine in other industries.

“A lot of the external work we do,” Gerard says, “we would have 300-400 people working off access equipment, cherry pickers, ropes, swing stages – you’ve got to really love doing that sort of work. You’re hanging off buildings in all sorts of weather conditions, and there’s a lot around safety with how we go about doing things.”

With such a wide range of buildings serviced by the company – from prisons to hospitals and schools – the level of flexibility needed is high, with every job presenting unique challenges that must be overcome and safety standards that need to be met.

“One of the critical things today is obviously safety,” John Higgins adds. “We’ve always been totally focused on safety. I think in the past our attitude was that we wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything that they wouldn’t ask somebody else to do. Now it’s so documented and structured – we have safety officers all over the country.”

This has added an extra level of importance for the company to add safety costs into customer quotes, and to make sure that customers are well educated on the need to cover these costs adequately.

“It’s important for us to nominate in our quotations what we believe the safety value is in a project that we might be tendering, “ Gerard says. “That starts to get the customer to think a bit differently about who we’re quoting against, and have they allowed for what we’ve allowed for. That’s very important these days.” 

The Higgins Coatings’ brand is advertised as ‘Higgins Better Painting Management’, signalling to customers that the company takes care of every aspect of the job, beyond just painting, managing a project to the highest standard.

“As part of that we say that we’ll do whatever it takes,” John says. “Within the safe environment, that’s really to look after the customer. In the end, that’s what we want as a relationship. If we can complete a quality project at minimum fuss, we know that you’ll stay with us. We want long-term relationships.”

With the ever-changing landscape of modern business, all companies need to consider their future differently from how they might have done in the past. It is more important than ever to anticipate and react to any potential industry changes.

“We’ve got to be ready to change quickly,” John says. “Obviously a lot of industries are really changing, and we won’t be in business another 70 years unless we really start to think about how industries can change, and in today’s environment how they could change quickly.”

“The foundation for our business in the future is enormous,” - John Higgins

Treating people the right way

Over the years, John and Gerard Higgins have learned many valuable lessons about how to go about successfully running a business. The first and foremost in John Higgins’ mind is the importance of treating people the right way, as Gerry before them had done.

“People are everything,” John says. “Dad was tough but fair. As a tradesman, he was good at what he did, but he really did respect people. I think that’s a critical component we’ve tried to bring right through our history of the business.”

Key to this philosophy is understanding how other people are feeling, both in and out of work, and allowing for those factors. John recognises that the younger people in the business may not be as patient for success as previous generations have been.

“The development of people [is just as important],” John adds. “We’ve really been big believers in developing the skillsets of all people within the organisation, so we can add something that helps them in their life as well as in our business. That’s really worthwhile.”

The longevity of the business can be directly linked to this prioritisation of developing staff and treating people the right way. It’s a philosophy that promises to ensure this longevity continues well into the future.

“Our business will just continue to grow,” Gerard says. “We have plans in place for the next three years. Watching these younger people come through the business, we have to make sure that we’ve created the environment for them to continue to grow in the business.” 

Running a company for seventy years is a huge achievement, and one that very few businesses in the world are able to achieve. Running the business with family has certainly helped make this happen.

“We’ve been lucky to work in a family environment,” Gerard concludes. “Whilst we always have our moments, at the end of the day you continue to work together for the better outcome of everybody. The old man said to us many years ago – one of the great things about working for him is you can stuff something up and still have a job.”

With its long-term focus on treating people the right way, Higgins Coatings looks all set to continue serving its customers for many more years. Find out more about Higgins Coatings by visiting www.higgins.com.au.

Admedus (ASX:AHZ): The small-cap medical company disrupting aortic heart valve technology

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Since taking the helm of Admedus Ltd. in 2017, CEO, Wayne Paterson has steered the ASX small-cap company into a real contender for disrupting the global transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) market. Its innovative ADAPT® technology not only slashes surgical and recovery time but also enhances valve longevity and durability, which are critical issues currently plaguing the cardiac surgery industry.

The Australian Business Executive speaks with Paterson about how refining the mission of Admedus has been the driving force in its bright future. He also reveals how he intends to leverage his executive experience in healthcare to help Admedus make its mark on the multibillion-dollar heart health industry. 

Shaking up the TAVR industry

Focusing all its recent energy on producing a single-piece 3D aortic valve using improved tissue science and unique valve design, the structural heart company is now poised to transform cardiovascular medicine with its ADAPT® technology platform. As the only technology of its kind in the industry, ADAPT® helps physicians offer life-changing procedures for a broader spectrum of patients, ranging from infants to the elderly.

Paterson explains that the mainstream procedure for aortic valve replacement can stretch across 2-4 hours as surgeons crack open the chest, stop the heart and change the stenotic valve. The ADAPT® technology when used as a TAVR device reduces surgery time to just 45 minutes and uses a non-invasive procedure to implant the valve through the femoral artery. Hospital stays are reduced from three weeks to as little as two days.

Calcium building up around the replacement aortic valve presents another major challenge. According to Paterson, “Over time, an ordinary valve will calcify because it is foreign material going into the body. It degrades, and you are then back in a position where another valve replacement must be done. Therein lies the challenge but also the opportunity for Admedus.” While he notes that the problem has largely gone unaddressed, he believes Admedus offers a viable solution. Based on 10 years of clinical data, the ADAPT® material does not calcify nor degrade. There is also significantly less risk of graft failure or infections with the non-invasive procedure.

Valve durability and longevity have become critically important as an aging global population faces longer life expectancies. The ADAPT® tissue science delivers a stronger, more durable alternative to the current three-tissue valves sewn together on a frame. “Our valve design is single piece, 3D moulded, which much more closely mirrors the anatomy of the native aortic valve,” Paterson explains. The ADAPT® treated tissue is made from DNA-stripped bovine collagen. Since it is acellular, there is improved tissue growth and immune tolerance, making it more durable, versatile and safer.

“When you combine the tissue science of ADAPT® with its anti-calcification properties and the single-piece design of our valve, you create a more durable valve. Our data shows 40 percent less wear and tear than the conventional valves,” Paterson adds. “Based on the current requirements of the market that these valves need to last longer, we are right in the middle of what is a perfect storm with the right technology.”

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Admedus is focusing on investing in world-class partnerships and acquiring strategic assets to develop its next-gen technologies

A refined focus drives momentum

A publicly listed medical company on the ASX since 2004, Admedus has undergone an extensive business renovation in recent years. After taking on the board chairman position in 2016, Paterson saw the company’s potential being diluted by its diverse focus on infusion treatments, immunotherapies (drug development) and cardiac technologies. “The company has had a bumpy past which is reflected in the share price. It certainly had a choppy history as you often see with these small-cap companies on the ASX,” explains Paterson, who believes the different focuses caused the company to swing around in circles trying to accomplish a multitude of things whilst diluting capital across too many “blue sky” projects such as Immunotherapies. “Frankly, Admedus didn’t have a great sense of self or what business it wanted to pursue”

When he transitioned into the CEO position the following year, his first objective was to “divest the peripheral businesses to make sure the company could focus the capital that was being raised through cap raises and shareholders. It was not necessarily being used efficiently across the three different divisions,” he says.

Betting its future on its proprietary ADAPT® technology, Admedus has spent the past year divesting all other business interests. By further refining its mission to bring ADAPT® exclusively into the TAVR space, Admedus has recently completed a $35 million transaction to focus on engineering its superior single-piece 3D aortic valve. “Our company has technology that is, in fact, very well positioned to disrupt that particular market,” says Paterson, who estimates the global worth of the TAVR market at “around $5 billion to $8 billion with just a couple of big players. So, we’ve had the focus on really bringing that technology forward. The ADAPT® technology is quite unique and creates an unassailable moat around the company.”

Paterson is especially excited about the company’s decade-long data proving that its material does not calcify. “It’s very well published, and has more data than any other company out there,” he notes. “Clinical data is the most relevant thing to success when you are in a competitive space. I thought, ‘If we’ve got data right now that nobody else has, then what else have we got, what else can we do?’ That’s what led us to the TAVR space and now puts us beautifully in the middle of what is a very big opportunity.”

Industry experience advances global commercialisation

Much of his ability to spot this opportunity is due to Paterson’s 25-year career in healthcare, which spans leadership positions at Roche Pharmaceuticals, Merck and Cepheid. His ever-increasing responsibilities in building and managing multibillion-dollar businesses moved him around the world, giving him valuable exposure to global operations, international commercialisation and government regulatory policies.

“Our valve design is single piece, 3D moulded, which much more closely mirrors the anatomy of the native aortic valve,” - Wayne Paterson, CEO

Paterson credits this unique experience, along with many lessons learned, as an asset in driving Admedus forward in its mission to commercialise globally. A native Australian, Paterson has earned a world-class business education at prestigious universities in Queensland, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong and the U.S. His work in China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia and Europe introduced him to many therapeutic areas, including oncology, infectious diseases and cardiovascular medicine, while launching 36 drugs internationally. 

Paterson also recognises that his experience in C-suite environments taught him how to operate within a large corporate setting. “At Admedus, we look to do deals with the large corporates in the medtech space. It’s important that you know how to walk the walk and talk the talk with those big corporates if you are trying to get a deal done as a small company,” he says.

When it comes to the most important business lessons learned, Paterson cites cultural agility as being critical to the leadership perspective. Successful deals, he believes, are dependent on being able to rally people to a common objective in a way that makes sense to them. Failure happens when expat managers judge the local cultures for doing something differently.

“That history of how to drive an organisation forward and rally people around a common cause has helped a lot with getting Admedus to where it is today,” Paterson explains. “This background puts us in a good position for getting deals made, for being able to articulate our opportunities to those big companies in helping them understand how we will help their business grow globally as well.”

Maximising opportunities in the global space

Moving forward, Admedus is focusing on investing in world-class partnerships and acquiring strategic assets to develop its next-gen technologies. Along with attending top international cardiac conferences, the company has formed a medical advisory board of TAVR doctors who inform decisions and advocate for the ADAPT® technology.

Paterson says having its headquarters situated in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, the global hub for medical devices, gives Admedus access to the biggest companies and brightest medical engineers in the industry. “The Minneapolis area is the global headquarters level where decisions are made on deals, so it’s most important we are here. Admedus is in the development phase, and we have so much talent sitting right here on our doorstep. That helps us drive our projects forward quickly and efficiently”

When discussing opportunities for investors, Paterson stresses that “what we have is actually novel and unique. There is only one ADAPT® process. It’s clinically relevant, and it’s very highly published. It also has the support of a lot of clinically relevant people, academics, scientists and doctors. It is primed to get in the middle of this multibillion-dollar space due to the novelty and the clinical benefits that this technology brings. There’s a ways to go, but it really does have the ability to disrupt this very large market space.”

Find out more about Admedus (ASX:AHZ) by visiting www.admedus.com.

Vaughan Constructions: Building customers for life

Vaughan-Constructions-MD-Andrew-Noble-The-Australian-Business-Executive

For over 60 years, Vaughan Constructions have been pioneers of Australia’s ever-developing architectural landscape, and have grown to become one of the country’s most reputable and trusted companies in commercial, and industrial construction, leading the way in innovative and sustainable building methods.

Vaughan Constructions’ Managing Director, Andrew Noble, who first joined the organisation over 30 years ago, spoke to The Australian Business Executive about his development with the company, and how it has grown to become one of Australia’s most respected industrial and commercial builders.

Pioneers of industrial construction

Vaughan Constructions is a “private company, founded in 1955 by Kenelm Vaughan in Melbourne,” Mr Noble says, adding that “Kenelm Vaughan was a pioneer of the design and construction industry methodology, particularly in industrial construction in those days.”

According to Mr Noble, the success of the business lead to Mr Vaughan recruiting two of his sons into the organisation: “Two of his [Mr Vaughan’s] sons, Ken and Matthew Vaughan, joined the business in the early 80’s and rose through the ranks to take senior managerial positions, culminating in joint Managing Director roles.” Once the Vaughan brothers had taken the baton from their father, they “continued to grow and diversify the business,” which has had a significant impact on what Vaughan Constructions is now capable of within the industry today.

Developing talent

Another contributing factor is the company’s focus on customer satisfaction – a concept Mr Noble strives to continue as Managing Director of Vaughan Constructions. Through his directorship, Mr Noble targets compliance and governance, permeating the ‘Vaughan Way’ amongst the organisations’ staff to ensure their clients benefit from their unique processes, systems, and culture.

Since joining Vaughan Constructions in 1988, Mr Noble has managed all aspects of the design and project construction management delivery chain, and his passion for developing talent has contributed to the company’s deep pool of construction resources.

Mr Noble began his career at Vaughan Constructions’ apprenticeship programme, and continues to apply the company ethos of seeking and developing talent through this method. He explains that “many of our most senior construction staff are graduates of our apprenticeship programme,” which invariably leads to long tenure and staff retention within the organisation, and has allowed the company to grow and expand nationwide.

“We have over 125 staff [and] we have offices in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland,” Mr Noble says. The diversity and geographical footprint of the business means that at any one time, Vaughan Constructions will be working on projects ranging from $5 million to $150 million.

Unique in longevity and diversity

Celebrating their 65th anniversary in 2020, the longevity of Vaughan Constructions’ establishment can be considered a rarity within the design and construction industry, which is something Mr Noble is proud of. And naturally, with longevity comes experience. He says, “Having a building contractor with that depth of experience is unique. Despite the fact that we’ve [Vaughan Constructions] been around a long time, we haven’t fallen into the trap of being complacent.”

This refusal of complacency has allowed the company to not only become, but continue to be innovators within the industry. As Mr Noble says, Vaughan Constructions have “Managed to retain a very innovative culture within the business,” adding that “it’s very important that we focus on remaining nimble and agile because the world changes quickly,”

As with any industry, the design and construction industry is ever-changing and developing – a fact that Mr Noble addresses head-on: “We need to either, one: respond to that change, or, two: we actually need to be the people that are innovating, that are causing that change.” According to Mr Noble, it is this continual strive for innovation that sets Vaughan Constructions apart from other building contractors. 

In fact, the organisation is known for pioneering various methods that are now well established within the design and construction industry: “There’s lots of things throughout our history where we’ve made significant contributions to the industry where either methodologies or systems techniques that we’ve come up with have actually been adopted by the industry,” Says Mr Noble, adding that “That’s something we’re pretty proud of, but more importantly, we’re looking to continue that innovation.”

When faced with the reality that the building industry has a very low barrier to entry creating a fluid or transient competitor pool, Vaughan’s concentrate on themselves and continue to push forward with their progressive culture. “It’s a compliment when others, particularly the so called ‘disruptors’, imitate your business. A good haircut & slick website can only mask the shallows of a construction business for so long. And only certain aspects of a business can be copied. The intangibles, which could be our greatest asset, remain unique to us and our clients are the beneficiary.” 

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“The best news about it all is that it’s performing beyond expectations for Dulux, and they’re particularly pleased with the result.” - Andrew Noble, MD

Adapting to constant change

Throughout his tenure at Vaughan Constructions, Mr Noble has found some of the most important aspects of success within the industry are adaptability and forging long-term relationships on all levels of the supply chain. He says “There’s various lead indicators that are the catalyst for innovation and change in our industry” adding that “Probably the greatest [lead indicator] is consumer behavior.”

While adapting to consumer behavior is undoubtedly key to the organisation’s success, Mr Noble says other aspects include designing a supply chain to maximise efficiency plays a significant role, and that “Long-term, solid relationships are important – not only for our business, but for our customers”.

It’s these long-term relationships that are pivotal to ensuring Vaughan Constructions continue their success, as Mr Noble states that “I think that long-term partnership approach has actually served us well over the years. We’ve got relationships that go through multiple generations, both on our client side and also on our subcontractor and supplier side.”

Not only is ‘Building Customers For Life’ the Vaughan Constructions slogan, it’s also the mantra which is deeply ingrained within the business, or as Mr Noble says himself, Building Customers For Life is “Something that we live and breathe,” and that more often than not, his company is getting it right.

Embracing diversity

The building and construction industry is a highly diverse market, and Vaughan Constructions endeavours to apply their standard-setting innovativity when facing such issues. Speaking of the industrial sector as one of many potential examples, Mr Noble says “On the supply chain side there’s dramatic developments in automation and philosophy that has been largely lead by consumers,” which has lead to an industry-wide rethink regarding how products are distributed, including, but not limited to the location of warehouses, how products are delivered to them, and the type and level of automation within warehouses.

Award winning design and construction

Over the years, Vaughan Constructions have picked up multiple awards for their innovative construction projects – many of which the company are involved with from concept to completion. One of the more recent significant projects was the Dulux Paint manufacturing project at Merrifield, Victoria. Although the project was a sizable 20,000㎡, Mr Noble says, “its scale was really in[side] the building and what it was doing”, and that due to its complexity, “You really have to take the approach that you’re reinventing the wheel”.

As these types of projects are significant investments for the companies Vaughan Constructions work with. The equipment housed within the facilities needs to be able to service those companies efficiently for long periods of time.

The Dulux Paint manufacturing project, which Mr Noble notes comprised over a thousand tonnes of steel, 12,500km of stainless steel tubing, and 17,500 stainless steel fittings saw Vaughan Constructions awarded with the Victorian Master Builders Award for its category in 2018, along with the overall Master Builders Award – a first for the industrial construction category. Remaining humble regarding the company’s recognition for the project, Mr Noble says, “The best news about it all is that it’s performing beyond expectations for Dulux, and they’re particularly pleased with the result.”

Other projects included in Vaughan Constructions’ impressive portfolio include the Woolworths Melbourne South Regional Distribution Centre, a project of “monstrous scale and complexity” which has a footprint of 70,000㎡. The project, which was an investment of $560 million for Woolworths and incorporates some of the latest automation technology from Europe, won an award at the Property Council of Australia for innovation.

Vaughan Constructions have been pioneers of Australia’s ever-developing architectural landscape

Although the brand recall for Vaughan Constructions lies mainly in complex, large-scale buildings, Mr Noble says, “The businesses competencies and capabilities extend well beyond these bounds. World leading food facilities for example,” which covers the production, storage, and distribution of all food groups. Along with food facilities, the company is also gaining recognition in other sectors, namely educational and commercial facilities.

The future of Vaughan Constructions

Due to their longevity, Vaughan Constructions are always planning ahead: “We tend to do 10 year business plans,” says Mr Noble, adding, “We’re at the end of our latest one, and thankfully we hit all of our targets, and we’ve also achieved all of our aspirations.”

With the company now planning out their next decade, Mr Noble says, “Most importantly, for the business to keep driving over the next 10 years, we have to maintain the focus on our customer[s], and we have to provide innovative and outstanding customer service. That will stand us in good stead for the future.”

As expected from a company that has experienced such longevity in a customer-centric industry, Vaughan Constructions long-term goals focus on continued growth: “The growth that we look for is sustainable growth – we don’t look for sugar hits”, Mr Noble explains, adding, “The growth will come from diversity. We’ll continue to look for markets where our talents and capabilities can lend themselves very easily,”

Having recently received their FSC accreditation, Vaughan Constructions will now be provided with a revenue stream where projects are either fully or partially government funded, which Mr Noble says is an incredible opportunity for the business.

Although other areas of growth include expanding their geographical footprint, Mr Noble is confident Vaughan Constructions’ growth will keep in line with their slogan – Building Customers For Life, stating, “Primarily, growth is going to come from looking after our existing customer base, and making sure we continue to produce a product that serves people well and stands the test of time.”

Find out more about Vaughan Constructions by visiting www.vaughans.com.au.

Network Pacific Strata Management: Value-added services

Managing-Director-John-Botha-Network-Pacific-Strata-Management-The-Australian-Business-Executive

In operation since 1994, Network Pacific Strata Management is one of Australia’s largest and most successful strata management organisations, with offices in Melbourne, Queensland, Europe and South East Asia. 

John Botha is Managing Director of JFB Management Services, a franchise business of Network Pacific Strata Management. Mr Botha has been with the Network Pacific Group since 2008, providing Owners Corporation Management Services to a large portfolio of key clients. After demonstrating long term success in management and retention of key high rise and multi Owners Corporations, the group gave him the opportunity to expand the portfolio as an independent franchised business, whilst remaining part of the successful Network Pacific Group. Mr Botha spoke to The Australian Business Executive about the success of his franchise business, the ongoing issues being dealt with in the strata industry, and the value-added services that help Network Pacific serve its clients.

JFB Management Services

“Network Pacific Strata Management as a company has grown enormously since its humble beginnings in 1994 as a home office operation in Doncaster East in Victoria,” Mr Botha says. “The group now operate offices in Victoria, Queensland and Malta.”

After moving to Melbourne in 2008 and joining the group, Mr Botha took on the lead role as Senior Owners Corporation Manager, before being given the opportunity to purchase his portfolio of clients and set up as a franchise of the group.

“We officially started trading on the 1st of January 2015, with 11 buildings and 1,500 lots under management. We’ve now managed to grow that to 55 buildings and nearly 4,000 lots under management. The team has obviously expanded significantly in that time, going from one staff member, to now having seven members within the team.”

The last few years have seen significant success for JFB Management Services. Following Mr Botha’s individual title of Strata Manager of the Year for Victoria in 2015, the business was awarded Small Owners Corporation Management Firm of the Year for Victoria in 2017. 

“In 2018, we then competed against all of the other states and took out the inaugural national award as Small Owners Corporation Strata Management Business for Australia, [and] we had one of our staff members take out a Corporate Support role for Victoria.”

Most recently, the company has been honoured with the 2019 award for Medium Strata Community Management Business at the Victorian awards, and it will now be competing nationally in the same newly-introduced category.

Strata industry issues

The Australian strata industry as a whole continues to face many of the same challenges it has been up against for some years. Legislative change is ongoing and ever-evolving, with many in the industry still waiting for several key changes to come into effect.

Network Pacific Strata Management is one of Australia’s largest and most successful strata management organisations

“We have seen the introduction of the new Owners Corporations Regulations, in 2018, which did seek to address some issues, such as external appearance of lots, with owners needing approval from the owners corporation formally prior to proceeding with works.”

In accordance with these regulations, owners are now formally required to make notification to the Owners Corporation for any intended renovations to their lots, especially those that will affect the common property or amenities of the development.

“The Owners Corporations Amendment (Short-stay Accommodation) Act came through in 2018, which really sought to regulate the so-called Air BnB ‘party houses’, and actually provide some avenues for redress for people that don’t comply and make life hard for other residents within the properties.”

The big change still on the horizon for the industry is the long-overdue overhaul of the Owners Corporations Act of 2006, announced in August 2015 by the minister for Consumer Affairs at the time, Jane Garrett. 

A 2014 review of regulations for strata managers resulted in the formation of the Consumer Affairs Legislation Further Amendment Bill. However, with the change in government that year, the bill was never passed.

“There have been numerous speculations as to when this is actually due to come to a conclusion and fruition, and most of those dates have actually passed already, so I wouldn’t be game enough to put another date forward for you. But at this stage it is mooted that on the 1st of January 2021, hopefully the new legislation will actually come into effect.”

When legislation is finally passed, it will represent the largest and most comprehensive overhaul of the original 2006 legislation, and will also include regulation of real estate agents involved in strata sales.

With some high-profile issues around strata-maintained properties being seen worldwide, there is increased scrutiny on the sector, as well as a number of government safety initiatives designed to tackle the biggest problems.

“I think you’ve got about 1 in 3, if not more, of Australians actually living in, investing in, or somehow affected by Strata Management properties,” Mr Botha says, “so there is certainly a lot of people affected by that.”

The 2014 Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne’s Docklands area was a major event, exposing a wide-range of safety concerns for buildings fitted with aluminium composite panelling (ACP). This has led to much-publicised proceedings and government intervention, aiming to alleviate concerns around the safety of these buildings.

“The Lacrosse building apartment owners were recently awarded $5.7 million in damages against the builder, however that has also predominantly gone against the architect, the building surveyor and the fire engineers involved in the project. That particular one is under appeal at the moment as well, so we’ll see where that finishes up.”

After the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, state government was forced to pay closer attention to ongoing safety issues. A taskforce was established to investigate and address the issue of non-compliant building materials used on Victorian buildings.

Mr Botha’s individual title of Strata Manager of the Year for Victoria in 2015, the business was awarded Small Owners Corporation Management Firm of the Year for Victoria in 2017

“The taskforce sought to oversee and provide a report on just how far-reaching the risk associated with inferior cladding materials were within Victoria. Once the audit was completed, the government announced that local government would seek to create cladding rectification agreements.”

These agreements allowed buildings to borrow money to fix any cladding issues, paying the loans back through each individual apartment’s council rates contributions over the coming years. Unfortunately for state government, very few local councils took it up.

“Most recently, this year the Victorian government announced a funding package of $600 million, which will be funded through increased permit costs and development costs for any new developments as they come through. The issue certainly remains a live subject. The likely outcome is that lot owners are ultimately the ones left to foot the repair bill.”

A major concern for the industry in recent years has been the emergence of general building defects, issues that are separate from the non-compliant building materials issue, such as cladding.

“That’s predominantly come about since deregulation and privatisation of the building approvals process for the industry,” Mr Botha says. “There are a number of defective properties around the place, and that seems to be increasing exponentially.”

The biggest changes saw councils in Victoria effectively removed from the building approvals process, with the majority of building permits now being issued by private sector building surveyors. 

“Until 2015, builders were even allowed to appoint their own surveyor to sign off on works being compliant and meeting code. These surveyors are now being held to account, with many of them finding difficulties obtaining indemnity insurance moving forward, especially after being caught up in the cladding fiasco.”

The client base of JFB Management Services continues to shift generationally, with the adoption of new technologies bringing new dynamics and changing the demand and service delivery expected by clients, with instant communication via email now commonplace. 

“Clients and owners in strata-type properties need to be aware that the strata manager is a trusted advisor and an industry professional,” Mr Botha says. “We do strive to deliver the best service we can to our buildings, the residents and the lot owners, within the ever-shortening time that we have available.”

Network Pacific Strata Management’s value-added services helps it take care of all aspects of its clients’ property management, maintenance and compliance needs. Find out more about Network Pacific by visiting www.networkpacific.com.au.

Newstart Homes and Chapcon Design & Construct: Covering residential and commercial construction

Web-Profile-Newstart-Homes-Chapcon-Construct-and-Design-MD-Nick Chapman

Chapcon Design & Construct prides itself on delivering quality outcomes and value for its clients. The group behind Chapcon recently took over Newstart Homes, a Brisbane-based custom homebuilding company serving southeast Queensland since 1987.

Nick Chapman is the Managing Director of both Newstart Homes and Chapcon Design & Construct. Starting out as an apprentice carpenter in the residential sector at the age of 15, Mr Chapman quickly developed the ambition to gain a Diploma of Building and Medium Rise Builder’s Licence. He started Chapcon in 2011, and quickly established himself in the Brisbane market as the go-to contractor for innovative solutions and budget-conscious decision making. Mr Chapman spoke with The Australian Business Executive recently about the different offerings of his two companies, and the long-term focus which has served both outfits extremely well. 

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“Both businesses have a great culture, which is something that we pride ourselves on, and something I couldn’t be more thankful for as the director of both outfits." - Nick Chapman

Long-term focus

Although Newstart Homes and Chapcon Design & Construct are both construction companies, the two companies are vastly different in offerings, and very different from an operational aspect.

“Newstart Homes is a custom homebuilding company,” Mr Chapman says, “focused on building high volumes of houses in southeast Queensland. It was established in 1987 and acquired by our group in late 2016.”

In order to achieve high volumes, the whole process from project inception to the delivery of a new home is designed to be as efficient as possible. This efficiency also helps negate many of the practical issues inherent in the construction industry.

“Sales and marketing, accompanied by a good offering, is really our main focus. Reaching the customers and presenting our offering is paramount, so we’re constantly reviewing our designs, inclusions and pricing, to ensure that we have the most suitable products for the markets we cater for.”

Chapcon is a commercial construction company, which has served a wide range of sectors since 2011. The company has worked on many different types of buildings, and operates in several different markets, including hospitality, fit-out, education, early learning, medical and industrial.

“The company works with government departments, local councils, private schools, along with large, medium and small private enterprises. Every project is different with Chapcon and has different ‘pressure points’, requiring a different approach from project to project.”

The team at Chapcon are highly experienced and diligent with project management and careful procurement, Chapcon makes sure that each project is appropriately resourced in order to deliver high quality projects and remain competitive with other specialist companies.

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Chapcon Design & Construct prides itself on delivering quality outcomes and value for its clients

“Both businesses have a great culture, which is something that we pride ourselves on, and something I couldn’t be more thankful for as the director of both outfits. We also maintain a long-term focus with all our clients, contractors and suppliers, where we try not to get caught up on the little things, and work towards outcomes based on long-term prospects.”

This long-term approach has been extremely beneficial to both companies, helping them forge great relationships and loyalty with the people the companies deal with on a daily basis, and from project to project.

Well-rounded skillset

Mr Chapman has recently taken over at Newstart Homes, a company which had been in financial trouble for some time. On taking over, the first order of business was to enact some changes to help sure up the business.

“Newstart Homes was placed into liquidation in late 2016,” Mr Chapman explains, “as a subsidiary of the Home Australia Group. At first, the interest wasn’t really there, but after having a bit of a closer look at the IP which was for sale, the potential became apparent.”

The acquisition of the company itself was problematic. Due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the sale, there were no background documents on the processes, so the new owners were required to reverse engineer the IP.

“A lot of the designs were outdated and the pricing had been incrementally increased since 2014, which was quite prohibitive. You don’t price because you have a thousand homes a year to build, you price to get a thousand homes a year, and that’s what we’re working towards. So now I think we’re in a good position to hit the market with confidence.”

With such a wide range of builders to choose from, Newstart Homes works within an extremely competitive market. The company has had a good name in the industry since 1987, and continues to be well trusted despite its recent troubles.

“We’re affordable and flexible when it comes to our designs, we try to take a bit more of a tailored approach than most of our competitors. We cater for various parts of the market, and I think we’re doing the right thing, so we’ll just keep that up and try to re-establish the brand amongst our competitors.”

Chapcon Design & Construct is a very different outfit to Newstart Homes. The company has the capabilities for a very diverse scope, as well as having some extremely strong relationships and a great reputation.

“[Chapcon] served as a great parent company to foster and enable the new beginnings of Newstart, where in some instances we were able to introduce some of Chapcon’s systems and processes to compliment Newstart’s model, and vice versa.”

Unlike Newstart, Chapcon doesn’t have a key area of expertise. By working across a wide variety of sectors, Chapcon’s strength is the way it approaches each project and is able to remain competitive despite the difference in project types.

“It’s an interesting market at the moment,” Mr Chapman says. “Money is cheap, but the banks are still quite tough on lending. There seemed to be a high level of caution during the year, as a result of things like the Royal Commission and a bit of bad press about the Australian housing market, and even the election.” 

Despite these concerns, general hesitation seems to be easing up, and some confidence is returning to buyers in the market. For Newstart and Chapcon, the key to growth is to maintain their adaptive approaches and keep fostering good relationships.

“We do have a well-rounded skillset and a good offering, in various areas of the market, so while it’s all going strong, we’ll continue expanding the way we are. If things do tighten up in one area or another, we can probably join our efforts into a niche in high demand.”

With a continued focus on fostering long-term relationships, Newstart Homes and Chapcon Design & Construct are both at the leading end of the Queensland building market. Find out more by visiting www.newstart.com.au and www.chapcon.com.au.

The implications of NSW ICAC on my political career

Andrew-Cornwell-The-Australian-Business-Executive

On 20 November 2019, the Federal Attorney General, the Hon Christian Porter MP, addressed the National Press Club. His speech canvassed a wide range of issues, however, the one that rang a chord with me, was his thoughts about a proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

Few people would argue with the value of a body that provides oversight over government and those who interface with it. Many states have their own so-called integrity bodies such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption of  NSW (NSW ICAC). However, as Christian Porter states, many of these bodies “have fallen well short of long accepted standards of justice and fairness”. There is no presumption of innocence. The mere footage of an individual walking into a public hearing carries with it a stigma that can never be erased.

Some of these bodies hold public hearings as part of their inquiry process. These are an opportunity for counsel assisting to make allegations with statutory protection from defamation. These allegations regularly ruin the reputations of anyone unfortunate enough to be called to give evidence, even if they are not a person of interest. With this, the rights of the individual are irrecoverably removed.  

The NSW ICAC currently has statutory protection to make findings in relation to criminality.  These findings should be made to the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” rather than the civil standard of “balance of probabilities”. Anything less is just a licence to defame. Allegations are made that never withstand the scrutiny of the justice system. This is the reason they have a reputation as “toothless tigers”.

Allegations are published as truth. Evocative language by counsel assisting dominates news cycles. It is an intoxicating mix and creates a temptation for counsel to push the boundaries rather than be more measured in their approach.

As a former NSW ICAC Commissioner said in relation to inquisitorial bodies, that it “is fantastic, you are not confined by the rules of evidence, you have a free kick, you can go anywhere you want to go and it’s a lot of fun”. 

When the Inspector of the NSW ICAC Mr Bruce McClintock SC was recently asked what impact the appointment of a zealot to run the ICAC would have, he responded “If you appoint people like that you will have problems”.

When referring to the improvements he has seen in the NSW ICAC in recent years Mr McClintock said that “I think the choice of counsel assisting is being done differently and better, which I think has cured, resolved or removed a whole series of problems that were there”.

Christian Porter points out that the legislative framework needs to be crafted with great care. He identifies that we need to learn from the failures of many of the state based ICAC’s where “reputations have been unfairly damaged”.

Sadly, there have been some recent glaring examples that justify these concerns.

The outrageous pursuit of Margaret Cunneen in 2014 by the NSW ICAC backfired spectacularly when the High Court ruled that the case did not even sit within their jurisdiction.

ICAC’s response was to issue a press release (long since removed from their website) that effectively claimed the High Court “got it wrong”. It was like a dentist claiming they should still be allowed to conduct brain surgery. Organisational arrogance somehow allowed them to justify in their own minds conduct that was outside their powers.

In my case, I had always placed great faith in both the NSW ICAC and the individuals associated with it.  Unfortunately, my trust was betrayed.

In 2014, the ICAC held a public inquiry into political donations during the 2011 NSW state election. I was a newly elected MP at that election. Along with many other state MPs at the time, I was asked to give evidence in private about my campaign.

As an MP, and as a father, I was determined to be utterly truthful and transparent.  I gathered all relevant documents together and provided a statement to Counsel Assisting that outlined matters in my campaign that may be relevant to the inquiry.

What happened next is on the public record.

I was invited to attend counsel assisting’s chambers. Counsel assisting served two bottles of wine to the people present including ICAC staff. Counsel assisting told me he would stake his reputation on protecting my reputation. I was given a written undertaking that this information would not be used against me.  

Unbelievably it was.  

Ultimately, despite all of the wild allegations, I was cleared. However, this took four long years. 

The model being proposed by the federal government is one where the new organisation will be tasked with building a brief of evidence to send to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions rather than making value judgements on individual’s conduct.

I believe this will result in improved oversight of government without trampling over the rights of individuals as we have seen in NSW.

It is just over 800 years since the Magna Carta was signed by King John of England establishing inalienable rights to citizens that still exist today.  These rights have been grimly defended over the subsequent centuries and should not be abandoned to pander political opportunism.

I look forward to the federal parliament following the counsel of the Attorney General and creating an organisation befitting our democracy.

Andrew Cornwell is a former NSW MP for the seat of Charlestown. His opinions are his own. 

How the nanny state is harming Australia’s economic prosperity

Kyle-Kutasi-The-Australian-Business-Executive

From city slickers to countrymen there is one commonality that unites us all in this land girt by sea. No, it’s not the Baggy Green. It’s this country’s ridiculous laws.  

The term ‘nanny state’ gets thrown around a lot in relation to modern Australian life. Our ‘nanny’ implies being cared for, nurtured, rocked back and forth and softly sung to while mummy has her third chardonnay with the girls on the patio. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that many small businesses across the country feel far from any of those things. 

With Sydney’s notorious lock out laws set to be withdrawn (mostly) in January (2020) following the sudden and shocking realisation by the NSW Premier that they were negatively impacting the night-time economy, it felt more than appropriate to take a look at some other laws helping businesses across the land thrive(!) to their fullest and most prosperous potential. 

Consider for a moment, the good ol’ Aussie sausage sizzle. Save for Russell Crowe and Rolf Harris, what could be more Australian than a public sausage sizzle? Some would say the bread, onions, and sauce combination elevate the barbequed sausage to a national dish frontrunner. As a new business owner, it is also a stellar way to draw immediate attention to your business, raise some quick money, and get your name out there. 

But selling food in Victoria is a particularly risky business. Setting up a sausage sizzle stall requires a Food Act registration application to be made to your local council. If the application is approved, then a Statement of Trade will need to be lodged to the council that you’ll be trading within. Once these two processes are completed and are done to the standard detailed in the Act then – and only then – may you, the humble temporary food provider, sizzle your sausages. 

There are copious fact sheets and online resources to guide business owners smoothly through the process. 

There’s a lot of controversy on the correct way to build a sausage snag; with onions, without onions, with sauce, without sauce. But if you’re unfortunate enough to like eggs, or bacon with your sausage sizzle there’s a price you’ll have to pay. The above regulatory process only applies to traditional sausage sizzles which are deemed a ‘class 4 food’. The traditional sausage is officially defined as a combination of the sausage, bread, sauce and onions. Eggs, bacon and vegetarian patties however are a ‘class 3 food’ which have stricter regulations on their sale and a more extensive application process!

The sausage sizzle is just one example of the many, many, strange laws and regulations that plague this spacious land. Opening a business has never been harder and accidentally committing a minor offence has never been easier. A brave new world indeed. 

Of course, you’re probably wondering, why is this so? Why do Victorians have such onerous laws about cooking sausages? 

The truth is, we live under many thousands of ridiculous laws. Most of them have become so commonplace that like the story of the boiled frog, we’re unaware we’re being cooked ourselves. 

Modern Western democratic governance is extremely risk averse. Governments get punished in the short term when someone gets sick from a dodgy sausage sizzle, but the costs of such regulation are spread over time and millions of people. Eventually, one day folks look back at the silly laws and repeal them, but not before everyone has suffered without even realising it. 

For example, NSW required travel agents to be licensed between 1986 and 2014. Western Australia required barbers to be licensed until 2009. Presumably both sets of legislation were the product of someone getting a poor consumer experience and some media moral panic. 

It all leads back at the end of the day to what the role of government is. Sadly, most Australians today believe it’s the government’s job to protect them from any risk. 

I can’t possibly understand why anyone would want a bunch of folks who can’t even build a canoe to decide what is best for them. Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that governments just put up roadblocks to success. Certainly, they mostly mean well. But the road to ruin has always been paved by good intentions. 

The key therefore, is to get back to that rugged individualism that Australians have always been famous for. We rely on those we trust. Governments should exist to provide us with police, courts and the armed forces. Let’s keep it limited to that please.  

Kyle Kutasi is a solicitor with Solve Legal, www.solveonline.com.au.

The grey zone: How business influence has become the new battleground for state warfare

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In the late 1930s the business model was primarily vested in a national market – you operated in a town, region, city or at most national landscape. The titans of industry were men (just about always men) who sat at the top of social orders that were national in nature and shaped by national narratives. You were an American Company (even if you felt you were Texan or MidWest or cosmopolitan Manhattan), an Australian outfit (either a subsidiary of a British firm or a local home grown product behind protectionist trade barriers) or maybe a Canadian concern driven by the exploitation of huge natural resources, growing labour availability and progressive confidence in a Dominion that was asserting its unique story. Transnational or global was the rare exception like Coca Cola, Ford or BP… and the cultural mindset was still nationalistic.

Survivors from the Edwardian era of mechanical and technological innovation, from the trenches of Polygon Wood, Vimy Ridge or Gallipoli, and the global depression that gave free trade, international markets and free flow of capital a bad name. You were not capitalists or managers of capital of anywhere – you were citizens, community leaders and stewards of precious capital from somewhere. Customers, investors or critics shared your shared citizenship. 

Take us 90 years or just three generations to now, and we are in a business environment where the product is designed in Seattle, manufactured in Shenzhen, shipped to Sydney, used by a backpacker from Sherbrooke with profits eventually distributed to pension funds in Stuttgart, Sheffield and Seoul. Global markets have risen because of technology, access, and trade since the end of the Cold War.

Nationalism is dead… so we thought. Everyone was a student of the “end of history” and reveled in the consumption of the same products, listening to the same music, driven by the same social media and embracing the “one world” viewpoint of unimportant borders, broad live and let live attitudes followed by a blurring of differences in political systems and their redundant values.

But then reality struck: we had invasions of territory by Russia, cyber trolling of opinions across national boundaries, the buying of influence in political parties across Western democracies by “new money” friends of authoritarian regimes, bullying of universities that offered platforms to critics of the authorities in Beijing, St Petersburg, Havana, Pyongyang or Ramallah. All in a decade post the global financial crisis when North American, Australian or European corporations were struggling to return to acceptable returns on investment, productivity or capital. Boom time followed by the downturn.

Faced with global debates on gender, climate, diversity, inclusion and redress for past historic injustices, it was easy to think that your market adversaries were just other global corporations, opinion leaders and a media circus of 24 hours coverage. Corporate Social Responsibility is a well established feature of a mature and risk managing enterprise (private, public or charitable). Corporate National Responsibility (giving due regard to the demands and peculiar requirements of the sovereign state giving you your “license to operate”) is something that fails to excite or trigger the Western executive or decision maker.

But an old problem has returned with a vengeance from the Cold War era: efforts by nations that have differing concepts of what capitalism, markets and freedom are to coerce, constrain, condition western liberal democratic society businesses to their agenda – illiberal, anti-competitive, neglectful of human rights and fundamentally corrosive to the national interests of liberal democracies.

It is played out in what is alternatively called the “grey zone” conflict and is in the news almost daily. We never fail to notice the allegations of impropriety with decision makers or the questioning of our social cohesion. Yet the main focus to-date of “hybrid warfare” — which uses non-military means to achieve warlike ends — has predominantly been on tactical methods such as cyber attacks, fake news campaigns and espionage. But understanding hybrid warfare’s strategic context equips political and business leaders better to address it. 

In simple terms, hybrid warfare uses capabilities not normally associated with war to coerce or subvert. Such techniques are intended to delay recognition that an attack is under way, provoke paralysis in decision making through confusion and discourage the victim from responding forcefully due to the absence of “legitimate” military targets. China, Russia (and to lesser degrees Iran and North Korea) are taking on capitalist democracies and hoping to re-make the international political, economic and trade systems through a coordinated hybrid effort that is taking place largely outside the traditional military or diplomatic realms. 

BRICS, the emerged Chinese development banking sector, the Belt and Road strategies and vast capital flows by the global wealthy from closed societies into Mayfair, Melbourne, and Manhatten all shape our acceptance that little can be done by tired, tense and politically divided free societies. 

The goals of these hybrid efforts appear to harm economic strength; undermine the legitimacy of key institutions such as governance bodies, academia, diplomatic entities and the media; sow social cohesion discord; and weaken the bonds between the nations and international organisations such as NATO. The erosion of economic resilience and the weakening of cultural values are probably the more pressing threats and likely the hardest to reverse once they are accomplished. 

Cyber attacks on private companies, state managed infrastructure and core government entities are a chilling example of grey zone warfare: something that sits below the threshold of naked violence or breaches of international law. 

With entities as diverse as the National Cyber Security Centre in London, the RCMP in Canada, the FBI in the US and Department of Defence in Australia all giving recent alarms over the threat profile facing civil society (in particular business and political decision makers) from State and State-sponsored  interference, the time to plan a modern style of deterrence is long overdue.

Policy voices like the RAND Corporation, the Royal Unites Services Institute, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Canada’s Mackenzie Institute have all pointed towards the growing risk profile posed by hybrid warfare and the corresponding requirement to bolster national responses.

Business is not in the business of defending a nation. But is it is a vital stakeholder in upholding the civic values underpinning its own legal, economic and cultural validation. 

Defence, security, intelligence and critical infrastructure leaders operate in an environment where they depend upon the reliability and resilience of private sector entities, their staff, managers and ultimately shareholders. Just as pension funds and mutual investors are long term players in capital markets, business is a long-term stakeholder in the preservation of Western pluralist free societies. 

Any security threat is a market challenge just as significant as the climate emergency, mass people movement, unfair trade practices or corruption. 

Shareholder value, brand or reputation management all contribute to today’s CEO headaches – but rising competition between great and emerging powers also raises the question: “have we met our corporate sovereign nation responsibilities?”. Consumers and shareholders via the media have plenty of opportunity to pass judgement on corporations that fail the test of public opinion.

Business leaders excel and profit from the freedoms derived from free societies under the rule of law. Defending these societies is no longer a luxury in a world only a few mouse clicks or fake news stories away from harm.

Noel Hadjimichael is a London based public policy consultant in the security, defence and civil society space with relevant experience working in politics, the civil service, industry and the charitable sectors.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its effect on search engine optimisation (SEO): What you need to know

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As with almost all developing technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a significant force being used by global search engines. AI will assist greatly in making search results more accurate for internet users. Therefore, understanding AI and its significant influence with search engine optimisation is now a necessity for all business owners wanting to lift their game by being visible to their future clients in 2020. 

First of all – what is Artificial Intelligence? 

From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the practical application of the self-driving cars of today, Artificial Intelligence has almost always captivated the human mind – both in literature and in real-world constructs. But what is AI, exactly? 

Essentially, AI allows machines to learn and develop from experience in much the same way humans do. Rather than performing just one or several tasks repetitively as per a specific program, AI allows for the experience to contribute towards a machine’s future decision-making processes. Relying heavily on natural language processing and deep learning, these technologies enable computers to be trained to perform many specific tasks by recognising recurring patterns in the vast amounts of data they process.

What makes AI so important? 

As the name suggests, AI adds an ‘intelligent’ aspect to currently existing products to almost everything from consumer products to internet search engines. From a search engine optimisation point of view, the relationship between artificial intelligence and SEO not only dovetails seamlessly but improves the experience for the end-user. However, AI is generally not developed and sold as an individual product but instead used to enhance existing products. For example, Siri was added to updated Apple products rather than being made available as a standalone service. 

The combination of similar technologies such as conversational platforms, smart machines, automation, and bots, along with vast amounts of data can be used to improve a variety of applications – both domestic and professional – ranging from intelligent security systems to investment analysis products. 

How will AI help improve SEO? 

Search engines sift through numerous data points to provide the most useful and relevant web pages for their user – and Artificial Intelligence thrives on data. The more data it acquires, the more comprehensive its algorithms become, and therefore the more it learns and can predict. Just as an algorithm can learn to play chess, it can also determine which products or services a specific web user may be interested in. These algorithms adapt to each new piece of data they receive, ensuring they are always learning and applying new information to future decisions.

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, SEO becomes significantly more adaptive and reactive to web user’s queries, learning more about each user and applying their interests to search results. This incredible level of accuracy is achieved through deep neural networks of information available from various interactions with multiple applications. For example, many people now use Google as their primary source of information and organisation. The more people use Google’s products such as the Google Home smart speaker, G-Suite, and of course, the global search engine where it all started, the more accurate the algorithm becomes.  

Due to this level of accuracy, AI is very likely to determine the entire future of SEO and associated practices in a variety of ways. Through my detailed work, discovery and working closely with Google Analytics, I have been watching how social signals were strong earlier in the year and now seem to be weakening. The way topics are weaved and expanded upon within niche markets is becoming more critical than ever before.

How videos and images will affect Artificial Intelligence and SEO 

For many years, search engines based their results entirely on text-based searches only. Although audio, video and images have almost always been essential in the online world, search engines were unable to process this media in their search algorithms until fairly recently. However, as technology is now advancing at such an incredible rate, the relationship between AI and SEO will see such media becoming more relevant and usable in web searches. 

Rather than only processing the manually inputted SEO data such as meta tags, text descriptions, and subtitles to find specific keywords, search engines will soon become smart enough to process the audiovisual signals often found in non-textual media, and rank the results accordingly. 

The ability of AI to discern the content within audio, image and video files will ultimately lead to a new type of video creator, specialising in the creation of search engine optimised video content – in much the same way traditionally text-based SEO techniques had on writers.

What will the role of AI in SEO be in 2020 and beyond? 

Naturally, search engines play the most crucial role in SEO. As search engines become smarter, so too has their level of influence increased. Because of this, SEO professionals have had to adapt and refine their methods continually. By 2020, it is estimated that at least half of all Google searches will be voice queries. The search engine giant is addressing this rise in voice search by updating their Google Assistant to increase its understanding of the natural conversation.

Not only is Google improving their voice search capabilities, but all other aspects of online search and results displaying. Context of searches and results are becoming more pre-emptive, making for a smooth search process for web users.

As Google and other search engines increase their capabilities, so too must business seeking to increase their online presence. As developments grow in artificial intelligence, SEO methods must adapt, also.  

Artificial Intelligence and SEO working side by side 

Thankfully, AI can also help with search engine optimisation. Although discovering precisely what words and phrases you need to optimise are vast pieces of the SEO puzzle, Artificial Intelligence tools can help with that, as one of AI’s greatest assets is finding patterns in huge sets of data – including search volume data.

Using AI tools can not only help you to create new content but also optimise existing content to improve your search rankings.

These days, local search is essential – especially for local businesses with a physical location. Ensuring your business is accurately displayed in local search results can be tricky. Still, with the help of artificial intelligence, this information-based issue can often be dealt with quickly and easily.

Topic clusters and pillar page creation is also a highly effective SEO method, as it helps the business to own entire areas of the subject matter by producing content based around several search terms. Although this task can be time-consuming, AI is enabling the process to become streamlined, thus increasing productivity.  

How AI and SEO can increase your business 

In the digitally-focused world, we now live in, having your business website ranked highly in Google search results is one of the most powerful things your organisation could do. As the number of potential customers turning to Google to find products and services they require is ever-increasing, having little or no web presence is now tantamount to throwing money away. By ensuring your website keeps up with the rigorous demands of search engines and web users, you can enjoy increased profits and peace of mind, as your new future clients keep finding you.

Senka Pupacic is the founder of Top 10 SEO, www.top10insydney.com.au.