Business News - Technology, innovation the keys to rapid growth

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Posted on 24 Jul 2015

Mining services is meant to be a declining industry, but don't tell fast-growing Perth business Aerison, which has tripled turnover in the past four years.

Thanks to innovative use of technology, Aerison has gained a competitive edge over its rivals, and taken on 350 staff to support its growth.

It's a similar story at Silk Hospitality, which also operates in a low-growth mature industry.

Silk has gone from a standing start in 2010 to having 400 staff providing outsourced housekeeping services to hotels across Australia.

Bright People Technologies has also focused on innovation to gain a competitive edge. When Petra Nelson bought into the software business she had 9 staff, today it has 44 staff and more impressively, 3,500 companies across Australia use its products. 

The people behind these businesses are all competing for the 2015 EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards, which will be annoucned on July 23rd. 

Bright move

Petra Nelson worked in executive search in the oil and gas industry before buying into Bright.

"That's where we really got interested in technology and automation," she said.

"But at the time we had to use off-the-shelf technologies.

"When the opportunity arose to buy into this business it was very exciting, because we would have our own technology that we could design to achieve the level of automation that we think is possible. 

"The flavour was different from what we had done in the past, in that there was a focus on compliance not recruitment, but this actually opened up lots of options for innovation."

When Ms Nelson bought into Bright, its technology was limited to workforce validation - the process of ensuring that people coming onto a site meet the employer's requirements.

It now also handles logistics, such as booking flights and car hire and accomodation in hotels and camps.

"When I became managing director, I was a little initimidated by the software development world and having ultimate responsiblity for the outcomes of a business I had no formal qualifications in," Ms Nelson said.

"It took me a little while to realise I didn't need to be a technologist. I needed to be a user advocate and this has enabled me to have a stronger focus on the business direction".

She said there was rarely a Eureka moment in technology innovation; it typically came from deep engagement with clients and prospects to uncover business issues not being addressed. 

"What I've learned with technology is you can do a lot of inward-looking work without having any external impact. It is critical that the business stays focused on client value at all times," Ms Nelson said. 

Growth plans include diversifying outside of the resources sector, into industries with similar needs such as defence, and into international markets. 

Petra Nelson

Bright People Technologies managing director Petra NelsonPhoto: Attila Csaszar

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