Leadership, infrastructure & immigration

Build it and they will come

Leadership, infrastructure and immigration

Leadership, infrastructure & immigration

Last week I had the pleasure of attending an Australian Business Leaders Lunch put on by Australian Business In Europe and the Commonwealth Bank.

To say it was a worthwhile experience would be an understatement. It was a great chance to meet and network with a number of prominent and influential Australian business people in Europe and to meet a number of senior executives at some significant Australian businesses that have offices based in London.

Although the lunch was a relaxed affair as with any of these types of lunches there were a number of guest speakers. In particular there were two primate Australians, namely Alexander Downer the former Australian Foreign Minister and the current Australian High Commissioner to the UK as well as Sir David Higgins the Chairman of High Speed Two (HS2) – the company responsible for developing and promoting the UK’s high speed rail network – and previously responsible for the delivery of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Alexander Downer spoke about a number of issues and the focus of his current role. Primarily he stressed the importance of Australia continuing to have close business relationships with the UK, despite Australia’s growing business reliance on China and India for trade. He noted that the relationship between Australia and the UK had changed over the years and that the UK had gone from being Australia’s largest trading partner to at present being the 7th largest trading partner.

However Alexander Downer did stress that despite this drop the UK was still the 2nd largest source of direct foreign investment in the country and it was imperative that this was maintained and managed effectively. In term of the industries he pinpointed Infrastructure as being a key way of doing this. That developing and opening collaboration between the countries and businesses in this area was essential for both countries.

Sir David Higgins in his address continued along this vein. He noted in recent years his career had focussed on developing and managing infrastructure projects and he stressed the potential infrastructure projects can have in regenerating deprived areas. This he said was a key element in obtaining additional funds for building the infrastructure required for the London 2012 Olympics and which ultimately resulted in the regeneration of parts of East London. Regeneration was also seen as a significant benefit in delivering a high speed rail network. he commented that it provided a chance to redress some of the imbalances between London and other parts of the country. Whilst the logistics and plans for the project where not covered in any great detail the example given was that the time taken for a trip between London, Birmingham & Manchester would effectively be halved. Therefore this may start to address some of the imbalances between London and outside London. These examples were best represented by the fact that the Top 100 listed companies by value on the London Sock exchange had their headquarters in London, that for every £1 spent outside of London on transport networks there are £10 spent in London and the significant difference in property values between London and the vast majority of the UK.

When questioned about his thoughts on infrastructure in Australia, like in the UK, he again stressed the importance of continued development. In particular he said Australian cities needed to ensure they develop road and transport links in cities such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney especially as they grow. He also credited Perth as a city that had made the most progress in regards to this.

From an Australian immigration perspective his comments reflect what we have seen in immigration policy over the last decade and more. That the infrastructure industry and those associated with it were in continual demand and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This has been reflected in my experience since 2002 whether working in either individual or corporate immigration. Along with healthcare, IT and professional services I have assisted and advised more engineers, tradespeople and businesses associated with the infrastructure industry – such as infrastructure investment companies – than any other. It seems that it still proves to provide opportunities all over the world whether as a skilled individual, business owner or investor.

Australian Business Leaders Lunch

Australian Business Leaders Lunch

Getting more than you paid for

Coworking & Service

Coworking & Service

Getting more than you paid for

There are times that when you need something but it seems like the assistance or resources that you require will be more than you can afford to give – whether that is time, money or something else. Or that the return will not be what you want it to be.

However it does not have to be like that.

In my case this most recently happened when I established @CargilMigration. I knew that I had the skills to provide the services I was offering – 13 years of experience proved this – and that there was a market for what I do. But the other parts of the puzzle were problematic.  I realised I could not do it on my own, but I didn’t have a bottomless pit of money or resources either and I had a lot to get organised. Accounting support, web services, insurance & graphic design the list went on.

So I was consumed by whether I could get the resources I needed for the right price. Would I end up committed to something financially that was unsustainable? Or alternately could they support me if and when I grew?

Initially I thought it may be too hard and that I would need to make some serious compromises in everything I needed. Compromises that would affect the quality of what I planned to do and how I did it.

However the example that I really wanted to focus on here specifically was with regards to the challenge of finding some office space and access to meeting rooms.  My search was based primarily on location, price, accessibility., support services and a professional image. The usual things. However through some research, some due diligence, a conversation and a meeting I found what I was looking for at @Desk Union. Desk Union are a coworking space where businesses and individuals can find a home between Monday & Friday for their work needs. It has a prime location, a grand building, great amenities, flexible pricing and friendly and professional staff.

But in addition to the above they had more. They had benefits that you don’t often see when you hand over your money. In my case it was predominantly an automatic network of business and work colleagues. The benefits of which are derived from having people who understand what you are going through in trying to establish, manage and grow your own business. All of these people are great at what they do – whether it is in marketing, copywriting, social media, business coaching, business support services, events, engineering, architecture or running a coworking space – but the key is they have empathy for what you are doing and the challenges you face outside the specific service that you offer. They generally understand you and can support you, even though they don’t do what you do.

In respect to Desk Union they provide benefits that you may not even have thought of. Such as an excellent “Social Media 101” course that was provided recently by one of the foundation tenants @SharkDog. Or discounted accounting services through an alliance with @FreeAgent. Or an introduction to business management software providers such as @Appointedd.

So when it comes to finding someone to provide the services that you are after, whilst you should look at their credentials and experience in line with your needs, you should also try and get a feel for what else they can offer. This may be something physical or a service  or it may be something intangible. However the key is they should be able to provide a solution for what you need now and have some understanding what you may need down the track. Where possible you should also ask yourself:

• Do they understand what my my real needs are?
• Can they offer me something – tangible or intangible – that their competitors can’t?
• Can they change what they offer as my needs change?
• Can they empathise with me and do something about it?

Those businesses that can answer the above are the ones that that deserve your custom. Not the ones that see you as a just another sale. But businesses that can provide what may be seen as a standard product or service in a way that is specific to you.

This approach is what drives the immigration services that I provide, and from my experience it is what drives the success of Desk Union and those that work within it.



Doing Business in Australia – Barry Corr CEO @IrishChamber

Doing business in Australia

Doing business in Australia

Doing business in Australia – An interview with Barry Corr the CEO of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce (IACC)

The decision to immigrate to Australia is a big decision for everyone. For those contemplating it one of the first things they do is seek advice from people who have already been there and done it – be they family, friends, colleagues and some cases competitors – about the process and the personal challenges that may await them.

This is particularly so for people who migrate under the Business Innovation and Investment Visa Program. The onus on people migrating on the back of their Business Skills is to use their experience and money to get involved in investment or establishing a business in Australia.

In the case of Barry Corr, a previous client of mine, he is suitably qualified to provide this advice.

Not only has Barry been there and done it himself as a business migrant but in his current role as the CEO of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce (IACC) in Melbourne he now helps Irish businesses set up and operate in Australia and connect the Irish Australian business community.

On this basis I asked Barry if he could share his story with me. Barry agreed and shared some information about his personal and business experiences and achievements, his role with the IACC, business opportunities in Australia and his Top 5 Tips for business owners or companies considering establishing themselves in Australia.


As someone who migrated to Australia with their young family under the Business Skills program in 2007 can you explain what drove you to make that decision to move on from the UK? Was it business or personal? Or something else?  

Our son, Charlie, was born in 2006 and after that our lives really changed. Having started a business in 2003 and working every hour available to build it, all of a sudden priorities changed for me and my wife who had previously worked in an international clinical trials role. We had always had a thought in the back of our minds to go somewhere new and experience new things. Our friends from Australia did a great PR job and convinced us that was where we should go. In 2007, the opportunity came up to sell out of the business in Edinburgh and move to Melbourne so we took it and haven’t looked back since.

The business that you owned in the UK was in recruiting and HR services, and you have done the same thing in Australia with Luminant Talent Consulting and Finance Pro. Was it always your intention to enter the same industry? Or did you consider alternatives?  

I guess that initially I felt there was enough change pending with the move that I should stick to what I knew best work-wise and while I control both companies, Luminant.com.au is where I spent most of my operational time as that’s where the types of projects I preferred to work in tended to be. More recently I’ve stepped away from that as I’ve increased my involvement in the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce to become their first full-time CEO with national scope and that’s been really enjoyable.

How have your Australian businesses gone and what have been the biggest challenges so far for them?

I kicked things off with a recruitment focus having had many successful years operating in the senior marketplace but a year into our journey the GFC hit and everything changed, even in Australia, which was one of the most resilient economies. The business plan was reviewed and Luminant spun out in its own right as a boutique consultancy and advisory firm. That’s where most growth has come in recent years as recruitment becomes more commoditised. Having set my stall out with a quality above all mantra, I’ve no real passion to chase low margin recruitment business and with the quality of work that was coming through Luminant before taking on the Chamber role, I was fortunate to be able to be more selective around doing any search work.

Since September 2010 you have been involved in the Irish Australia Chamber of Commerce (IACC) as the CEO. How did this come about and what is a quick overview of your duties and goals there?

When I arrived in Australia I struggled to find any Irish business groups of note and the Chamber at that time was at a bit of a low ebb. As a disillusioned member, I thought I would drift away as things declined but a superbly executed “ambush” over lunch with a close friend and mentor, Paul Moynes, himself a past President, saw me convinced to take up a half day a week executive role under new President Brian Shanahan OAM.

Things began to improve under a revitalised and talented board, some of whom I will admit to “volunteering” into service for the greater good, and in the four years since the Chamber has returned to its position of leadership and support within the Irish Australian business community.

In recent months my role has expanded under our current President Rob Clifford and one of those original “volunteers” Fergal Coleman, who is now our VP. They and the board have solid plans to expand our offering and reach with the recent announcement of the inaugural Irish Australian Business Awards and the further expansion of our Business Mentoring Program .

As someone who speaks to businesses from Ireland considering setting up in Australia what industries do you see as offering the most opportunities for overseas businesses at the moment?

While the construction phase of many of the larger mining projects in WA is at an end, LNG is presenting many opportunities. On the east coast a multi-billion dollar program of infrastructure investment will create massive opportunity for engineers, advisors and project managers among others.

 From the IACC perspective what will be your focus for 2015?

We will host over 1,000 for a St Patrick’s Lunch in March in Melbourne which will take a little bit of work! Apart from that, the Awards and Mentoring are likely to provide the bulk of non-event work before we host a trade delegation in May and further delegations later in the year.

Given these dual roles, as a business owner and at the IACC, what would be your TOP 5 TIPS tips for migrating as a business owner or setting up an office in Australia?


  1. Do your homework before you arrive.
  2. Join the Chamber or an equivalent organisation – it’s a small investment that can save you lots of time and wasted cash!
  3. Appoint the best advisors you can as quickly as you can.
  4. Think outside the box for office space. There are lots of flexible solutions, shared workspaces and virtual assistance to be availed of. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside the office, do you need so much space? It’s an overhead that may not be necessary. In Melbourne in particular, when I was doing my own consultancy work, I’d say half my client meetings took place over a coffee, about 40% at client sites and only 10% at my building. On that basis, access to meeting rooms on a pay per use basis may be smarter than running your own to sit dormant.
  5. There’s some great talent here, don’t be afraid to hire good people and reward them well.


On a final note I have a few more personal questions for you. Starting with what do you miss most about your life in the UK and Ireland? And how do manage this?

It’s hard to be so far away from grandparents when you’ve got the only grandchild in the family! However, they love to come over for Xmas as the kids are off school for a long time, the weather is brilliant, the grandparents miss the worst of their winter and it gives us some time to slip away for a mum and dad holiday!

And what do you and your family enjoy most about Australia?

The family focus, outdoor lifestyle and limitless opportunities.

Finally, what has been your proudest achievement since your move to Australia?

Getting our Permanent Residency in 2014 was a great result after a long and difficult process. It gives us certainty as a family to invest in our future in Australia


Leaders are Learners – starting up business in Australia

Leaders are Learners

Leaders are Learners

Leaders are Learners – starting up business in Australia

When businesses look to set up operations in new markets, such as starting up business in Australia, it is usually because they are a leader in their domestic market and they wish to succeed in other parts of the world.

However packaging up what you offer domestically and sending it overseas does not guarantee success. To be successful on an international stage businesses need to see what has gone before them, learn from it and adapt what they already have for that new challenge.  This is equally true for whatever it is you do as a collective, be it business or sport.

I first came across the term Leaders are Learners while reading “Legacy, 15 Lessons in Leadership” written by James Kerr. The book is about the New Zealand All Blacks, possibly the greatest sporting team in the world at present but – and as a passionate Australian rugby fan it pains me to say it – undoubtedly the greatest team in the 140 year history of international rugby.

What prompted me to title this piece Leaders are Learners was an event I attended earlier this week at Murrayfield Stadium, the home of the Scotland Rugby team, in Edinburgh. Coincidentally this event was on the week that Scotland are due to play New Zealand, and through the windows of the function suites at Murrayfield I could see the Scotland team preparing for the upcoming match. At this point I should add that despite 29 games between them that Scotland have never beaten the All Blacks.

The event I attended was called ExploreExport 2014 and was run by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and Scottish Development International (SDI). It was a one day event for Scottish businesses to learn about export opportunities and some of the considerations of doing business in new markets. The event included a number of seminars delivered by SDI staff and successful Scottish business owners with operations in overseas markets as well as the chance for businesses to meet with trade representatives from over 60 countries markets around the world including Australia.

I attended two seminars. The first about International Ecommerce and the other Developing Products and Services for International Markets. The seminars were great and had that balance between common sense advice as well as some specific examples of successes and failures that companies had come across when opening up in new markets.

After attending these seminars, as well as having spoken to a number of business owners and SDI staff, there were three lessons that became clear in my mind for these businesses:

  • Don’t stop learning – A number of business that attended seemed to be leaders in their field. Some also had already been successful overseas as well. However they do not rest on their laurels and they do not assume what brought them success previously at home or in another country would work in a new market. They attended the event in order to learn whatever they could to ensure that they would be well placed for success in their new market.
  • Teamwork is imperative – Surrounding your business with the right people is key. Especially in a new market. So whilst support can often come at a cost, in terms of time and fees and mistakes, no one can do everything on their own and it is important to find the right advisers, mentors and support  – team mates – both before you go (such as immigration advisers) as well as when you arrive. The businesses I spoke to at the event were there to find these new team members.
  • Be Different – Common sense says that each successful business is different. It might be the product or service, the people, the culture or all of them. And from my discussions and observations at ExploreExport this applies to operating business overseas as well. So whilst the advice given in seminars was generalised at times the message given was clear and that was that each business needed to learn the lessons from those that had been before them but they had to make sure they maintained their own identity and forged their own path.

So bearing in mind the lessons I took away this brought me back to the All Blacks. The All Blacks are phenomenally successful and one of key parts of their leadership status, and stressed in Legacy, is their attitude to learning. They take what they are good at and build on it year after year. Despite the number of star players they have they maintain the ethos that champions do extra and they challenge themselves to improve and be different even when they are the best. However they ensure that they maintain the team ethos and that there is a shared responsibility between players, coaching and support staff.

The key for opponents of the All Blacks, like Scotland this weekend, is to learn what lessons they can from them and elsewhere but to be their own team and have a plan unique to their strengths. And this is pretty much the same lessons for businesses that were conveyed at ExploreExport 2014.



One Step Ahead – Subclass 457 visas

One Step Ahead - Subclass 457 visas

One Step Ahead – Subclass 457 visas

More often than not there are delays for businesses that use Australian employer sponsored visas such as the Temporary Work (Skilled) Subclass 457 visas for the first time. The key to minimising the chance of delays is for the business to understand the immigration aspects of setting up overseas. As failure to do so can be costly.

The good news is that most companies do consider these immigration issues, it is just that they are often not considered early in the planning for overseas expansion.

Rightfully so the primary and initial focus for these businesses seems to be on other issues. issues such as market research, pitching for work, obtaining patents or distribution rights, or doing their homework on organisational matters such as office location, suppliers, staff, logistics and all the other set up steps that need to be done.

However when a business calls me for assistance with subclass 457 visas late in the planning process this is where the first cracks will appear in their plans. The most common outcome of this type of conversation is that I inform the business that there will be a delay for both the business and employees to get the approval and work visas they need.

In my experience the results of these delays are as simple as staff being unable to start work when planned, to businesses losing their preferred office location, businesses occurring costs not budgeted for as staff have to undertake unplanned trips in and out of the country while waiting on work visas, businesses being compromised when tendering for work and blown budgets as they have to seek additional advice from lawyers and accountants that they had not considered.

From an employee perspective there are also problems. One of the most difficult issues I have dealt with was a staff member that was unable to get a visa because they did n’t meet the skills or education level that was required. What compounded this was the employee was integral to the overseas start-up process and had travelled to Australia numerous times to put into place all the pieces that were required to get the business up and running and had been appointed to run the business in Australia. So whilst an early phone call may not have changed the outcome it would have made it easier to manage a compromising and difficult situation.

However the most potentially significant issue that I have seen from a lack of immigration planning was a business receiving a warning from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) before any documents had even been lodged. This was the result of a business deciding to allow staff to fly in and out of Australia on a business tourist visa (which does not allow work) to provide services for a client instead of taking the time, effort and money to ensure they complied with Australia immigration and employment laws and obtain the right visa from the start. So whilst this business had a successful outcome and their staff got the visa they needed, it was the lack of foresight to try and understand what was required early on that meant their Australian plans were almost finished before they got started. It also meant they were subjected to an immigration audit within 12 months of establishing themselves in Australia which cost the business time and money.

Having said this I should outline some, but not all, of the immigration related considerations businesses need to consider when planning their overseas expansion. As ultimately these considerations will affect how business and employees can apply for visas, what businesses and employees need to prepare and provide from a documentation perspective and what obligations businesses must comply with on a long term basis. These planning issues include:

  •  Will you be an overseas business operating in Australia? Or will you be registering a local company?
  • Are the positions you wish to employ foreign staff in recognised as skilled positions for visa purposes?
  • Are there any licensing or registration restrictions that employees must meet in order to be granted a visa?
  • Do these staff members have the experience and qualifications they need to get a visa?
  • Are there any personal or family issues that will restrict an employee or family member from obtaining a visa?
  • What salary package will you be offering to these employees?
  • Will this salary package meet what is considered Australian market rates?
  • Will their contract comply with Australian employment requirements?
  • Do you intend to employ and train Australian staff?
  • Are you aware of the employer sponsorship obligations you have to meet as a sponsor of foreign nationals in Australia? Are these incorporated in your contract with them?
  • Can we sponsor our staff to stay permanently in Australia?

As you will see from the above questions there is a great deal of overlap with general business planning issues, but being aware of these changes the context of your research and any business agreements you enter it with clients, suppliers and service providers and allows you to stay one step ahead in being successful.


A New Start: immigration to Australia

A New Start

A New Start – how to approach immigration

When immigrating to a new country you need to understand your visa options and what they mean for you in the short and long term.  

Any new start in life generally means that, unless you are the exception, you will have some doubt and feel a little bit nervous about what lies ahead. Although one way of removing some of that doubt is through some research and planning.

When considering immigration to Australia this is particularly true. I have often seen people and businesses focus on the result in getting a visa. But in the short term they take some risks and rush through things, and decide on options that may not be the best path for themselves or their family or the business. In a lot of cases all they do is increase the length of time and cost it takes to get the visa that they need and expose themselves to great risk.

In the long term there is a high chance that circumstances will change and what drove a person to a new country will not remain the same. Often those who never thought they would leave Australia do, and those that were looking at a short term adventure end up wanting to stay. Or even more problematic they leave and then want to come back.

During the GFC there were plenty of stories of people having to leave Australia, after living there for a decade, because they held visas conditional on being sponsored by an employer but were made redundant. They made the mistake of taking short term tax and cash incentives instead of securing their families future by applying for Australian permanent residency.  I have also seen business owners establish but then sell businesses before they have the right to remain permanently approved. I have seen companies enforce human resources policies based on their home country laws that were completely at odds with Australian policy and law.

However, if all these people and businesses had asked the right questions or understood their situation by getting the right advice, they could have made an educated decision and managed their own risks. It would have come at a cost but not the cost they were ultimately exposed too.

So taking the time to understand all your visa options, the conditions attached to them and what they mean is imperative. You should understand in significant detail what a visa entitles you and your family to do, what public services you can access, what is the pathway to permanent residency or citizenship, whether you have to remain in the place you settle or with the employer you are sponsored by, what rights you have to buying property, what you as an employer need to consider outside of just getting an employee a visa and possibly most importantly who can help you answer those questions. Granted the list of questions can be endless but they can be broken down into the following;

  • Why am I moving?
  • Can I get there?
  • How do I get there?
  • What can I do when I get there?
  • If I need to leave what does this mean?
  • Who can help me?

So whatever your circumstances are, if you are looking at immigration to Australia and a new start, then asking yourself these questions will put you on the right track to a successful and exciting new chapter for you or your businesses life.