Even before the bushfires that devastated some small communities in eastern Australia, the Business Council’s new president, former MYOB chief executive Tim Reed, was backing the BCA campaign to connect with small businesses in regional Australia.
“Our Strong Australia campaign was an important way for us to get the chief executives of some of the country’s largest organisations to visit regional Australia and talk to people about what it is they really need and what we are able to provide,” Reed tells The Deal magazine, published in The Australian on Friday.
“It’s about getting out of the CBD and getting out to where most Australians work.
“We want to listen and learn and engage in a conversation.”
The mindset saw the BCA ready to move in January to draw on its resources to help regional Australia when the true extent of the fire devastation emerged.
After a fundraising campaign, the BCA has now started to roll out an initiative called BizRebuild, bringing together resources of some of Australia’s top companies to help recovery from the fires, focusing on helping small businesses get back on their feet.
While the Strong Australia campaign was developed under former BCA leader and former Origin Energy chief executive Grant King, who was president from 2016 to 2019, Reed’s selection as his successor has signalled a desire by the BCA to continue to forge connections between the big end of town and small businesses around Australia.
While Reed has kept a low profile since his appointment in November, leaving much of the public running on the BCA’s response to the bushfires to BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott and former governor-general Peter Cosgrove, who oversee BizRebuild, he regards the initiative as one of the most important undertaken by the organisation.
“I don’t think the BCA has ever done anything like this before,” he says. One of his goals as BCA president is to forge closer connections between big and small businesses.
“I grew up in a small-business family,” says Reed, who grew up in the Gippsland area in eastern Victoria.
“My father started his first business the year I was born.”
After working as a consultant in London and for several tech companies in Silicon Valley, Reed came back to Australia, joining accounting software company MYOB, where he worked for 16 years and was chief executive for 12 years before stepping down last year.
“I’ve spoken to thousands of small-business people about their businesses — their aspirations, why they started their businesses, what keeps them up at night,” Reed says.
“They were our clients and as MYOB chief executive it was important to develop a deep empathy with small business.”