Top tips from successful Australian exporters.

11 Dec 2020

In this two-part series, businesses across Australia have shared their stories of overcoming the challenges of 2020, offering up fantastic advice for fellow exporters. Here are their top tips.

Invest in your people – they’re your greatest asset

You can’t go wrong when you put your people first. Whether it’s keeping skilled workers engaged or upskilling staff whose work was impacted by pandemic restrictions, exporters from around Australia told us they had the best results when they looked after their people this year.

Sullivans Cove Distillery in Tasmania went through the biggest disruption to its operations in 2020 but it didn’t lose a single staff member, and no staff member lost a single hour. How did they do it? They re-rostered staff, put their cellar door team on as junior distillers, and in the process they all developed new skills and knowledge. The team which put Australia on the world map for high-quality whisky took to Zoom to host events and stay connected with international customers – even if just to say hi.

As Sullivans' Sam Cumming said: “Change brings opportunities you can never predict. To survive, you need to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. Trust your people, trust your brand and most of all trust your customers.”


For others, the greatest challenge was to build awareness and credibility while not being able to physically network. South Australia’s Fivecast – a law enforcement and defence-focused digital intelligence firm – was faced with no international travel, trade shows, or face-to-face meetings, and uncertainty around how to execute on the growth strategy they had in place. The team decided to concentrate their efforts on just one priority market – the US. Fivecast relocated top executive talent from Australia to the US, and focused on their core competency to deliver targeted solutions for data collection and AI-enabled analytics designed specifically to meet the requirements of its US customers.

“Establish a physical presence quickly and relocate an experienced founder to the region,” advises Fivecast CEO and co-founder Dr Brenton Cooper. “This helps build team culture and transfer corporate knowledge and history, accelerating growth opportunities.”

It was a move that helped Fivecast, not only successfully expand business with their largest customer – a US federal law enforcement agency – but also solve intelligence challenges for new US customers, doubling their contract value and establishing a solid foundation for continued accelerated growth.

Re-think your export strategy with customers at the centre

Disruptions to supply chains and travel caused major headaches for businesses big and small this year. Some exporters took the opportunity to re-think their export strategy, and re-focus on particular customers.

Byron Bay jeweller F+H Jewellery switched its focus from supplying wholesale retailers internationally to investing in digital marketing to target local buyers.

“Don't underestimate the importance of really knowing who your customer is and owning your own database so that you can control your communication and the story your customer receives, rather than relying on third parties to do this for you,” said owner Sharona Harris. “We found success by valuing our customers and refocusing our efforts on direct communication and marketing with creative content.”

The result? Harris has expanded her team, opened her first concept store in celebrity-rich Byron Bay, and built a strong local customer base that has had international impact by investing in direct communications and digital advertising.


Holmesglen Institute, a leading Victorian TAFE, also reviewed its strategy in 2020 when it was faced with the dilemma of international travel shutdowns and teachers working from home. It refocused on delivering exactly what its overseas partner, ZBTI, of China, was after.

Holmesglen began delivering Australian qualifications direct into homes of students across China. It met its partner’s expectations by providing Australian training standards, and opened up new channels of communicating with its students on WeChat. Student surveys showed positive feedback.

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