Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australia’s annual exports rose by 4.2 per cent in 2016.
This growth has translated into a sense of optimism among small business exporters about the year ahead.
The competitive dollar and a number of Free Trade Agreements signed in recent years have created excellent conditions for export in Australia. One company that is taking advantage of these conditions is corporate presentation specialists, PowerfulPoints.
From small beginnings to large ambitions
Founder and CEO of PowerfulPoints, Lee Featherby, recalls having the idea for his business back in 2003, when he helped develop a PowerPoint presentation for a friend on the ‘pathophysiology of the gastrointestinal tract’.
Established as a response to a clear market gap for better presentations in Australian businesses, PowerfulPoints produces an extensive range of presentations in a variety of formats from traditional slide shows to full-scale video productions.
“In 2007 we were able to secure McDonald’s (Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa) as a client,” says Featherby. “We developed this relationship and started providing services to their offices in Singapore. Through word of mouth inside McDonald’s, this spread to China, the US and the UK. We have even done the crew induction video for McDonald’s in China, in Chinese.”
“I think our success is based on the fact that all of our account managers have a background in business and we have a very strong account service ethos. We focus on working with the client and making sure that they are addressing the right business challenge and that the presentation narrative is right,” says Featherby.
The key to his company’s growth, Featherby says, is constant communication with the client.
“We talk to the client to understand what their objective is and what they want people to think and feel at the end of the presentation. We work with them to make sure the content and structure is right. Then we work on the design. A pretty presentation without the right structure is just a waste of time.”
It’s all in the presentation
In five years the business has grown from four people to 18, and has added training to the portfolio of services offered. “The training side of our business grew organically,” says Featherby.
With a growing presence in China, Featherby decided to establish a wholly-owned foreign enterprise in the country in March 2015, allowing the business to take advantage of local opportunities. “We now also have four people within the organisation who can speak Chinese and English fluently.”
During a visit to China earlier in the year, Featherby was introduced to a large public relations company and was invited to quote for a job for a major financial service provider. The company won the contract.
With exports currently making up approximately 15 per cent of business revenue, Featherby says the plan is to expand. “The biggest challenges we’ve found are finding the right person to talk to in an organisation and having enough time to spend overseas to develop the relationships and networks needed to expand.”
Featherby explains that another challenge in his industry are long payment terms. “You get paid but it takes time, usually about 60 days after the end of the project. This means we have to fund the project for up to four months. That’s a real challenge when you’re a small business.”
Financial support for business growth
Exploring potential financing solutions, Featherby was referred to Efic by a couple of business colleagues. “Working capital is going to be one of the key challenges for building our export business, so finding a quick and easy solution is crucial,” says Featherby.
Efic’s Small Business Export Loan provides small businesses with unsecured funds in as little as nine business days. Tailored for businesses with revenue of between $250K and $10 million, the loan can provide a cashflow boost of up to $250,000.
“What I really liked about Efic’s Small Business Export Loan was being able to borrow the funds over 12 months even though the project was only four months. If I had to pay the loan back in four months, I would not have achieved much because I would have had to have paid it all back before I actually got paid. Having that flexibility is a real asset,” says Featherby.
So what’s next for PowerfulPoints? According to Featherby, “our plan is to have offices in Singapore, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne by 2020.”
For more information on Efic’s Small Business Export Loan click here.
Andrew Watson is Executive Director, Export Finance, Efic