The importance of continued innovation to keep a business spinning

Small businesses have always been the backbone of the Australian economy.

Bendigo small business owner Paul Chapman is a classic example. Innovation has kept the wheels turning in his business for more than three decades.

Chapman has managed to carve out an enviable niche in the small business world. He’s built one of the largest businesses of its kind in the world - the Australian Turntable Company, which specialises in rotational movement. Since launching in 1987, the business has installed turntables in more than 15 countries and boasts a growing network of distributors.

Small businesses account for 33 per cent of the nation’s GDP and employing more than 40 per cent of our country’s workforce, official figures show.

And while some small businesses are at the cutting edge of technology and design in Australia, only 30 per cent engage in production innovation. These figures prove that there’s less innovation among small businesses than larger business operators.

Published in the Small Business Counts report by the Federal Government, the counts show that while the entrepreneurial dream is alive and well, the key to survival is about adopting an innovation mindset.

But success wasn’t always the story that Paul was spinning. The events of 12 years ago will always be etched in his mind.

He admits he’d become complacent when it came to innovation, which nearly cost him the business. He literally lost all of his clients in a week. “The greatest pain was realising I had let my family down. That hurt, with five kids that played heavily on my mind.

“I think I got out of that what our grandfathers would have done – I had been knocked down, but had to get up and get on with it.”

While many businesses would give up after such a crippling blow, Paul rebuilt his business one client at a time. He’s now recognised as a leader in good design, speedy installation, reliability and durability.

Listen to Paul's story on the latest episode of Paper Cuts.