For years now I have been working, in various capacities, with the CDIC business advisers (previously the DIIC business advisers) and I have long thought that they are an exceptional group of people.
From my observations, the job they are committed to consists of extensive travel, long hours, time away from home, often unappreciative customers and very few acknowledgements and yet they are still passionate and committed to the plight of Australian defence SME and micro SMEs.
What is a business adviser? Well, the answer is they are different things to different people and they continuously surprise with their expertise and abilities. Officially, they are advisers assisting businesses to develop their defence businesses and to access government programs and funding. Unofficially, they are a sounding board for new ideas, a business consultant, a rolodex when you need a contact, a fact checker, a proof reader, a motivator, a realist (although sometimes we don’t want to hear it), and for so many of us in the SME space, they become lifelong friends.
In order to understand the importance of the business advisers, we need to look to the policy statements surrounding the Australian defence industry. The big picture started with the Defence White Paper in 2016, but for this purpose it is the Defence Industry Policy Statement (DIPS) and the Defence Industrial Capability Plan (DICP) that focus on the government’s desire to build a much deeper partnership with Australian industry. The desired outcome is to develop a potent, agile and adaptable future force that will support and protect our Defence Force for decades to come.
The goal of the government’s defence industry policy is to maximise Australian industry involvement in supporting defence capability. The skills, intellectual property, and resourcefulness within Australian industry are critical to Defence’s ability to fulfil its roles today and for the ADF to maintain the required level of deterrence and to protect Australia’s strategic interests.
In addition, there are specific capabilities that must be managed by the Australian defence industry for our sovereign purposes or for the protection of allied capability.
To deliver these capabilities to Defence is not an easy task, and the journey for a defence SME is (in most cases) a complicated and time consuming endeavour. Once it is acknowledged that the business has a capability, product or service that is needed by defence, then there is a long and difficult road required in order to convert that capability to a purchase order.
It involves management systems, security systems, quality, expert accreditations, skilled workforces, trade controls, financial resources, networks and relationships. Overall, it necessitates a significant awareness of the depth and breadth of the requirements to achieve success in the defence industry. For many SMEs, it is the business advisers that impart this understanding and guide the businesses journey to enable that crucial connection with Defence and defence primes.
Developing the partnership between Defence and industry and to support informed recommendations on where to direct government support and funding mandates an overwhelming need to understand current industry capability and where the supply or demand gaps exist. This methodology is at the core of the business adviser’s mandate, and understandably it is not an easy ask.
It requires a significant skill base, everything from business acumen, cyber security knowledge, trade control and import/export understanding, marketing and sales training, human resources and workforce complexities, etc, etc... You get the drift, these are highly skilled and motivated individuals who need to have a grasp on the full internal workings of a business as well as a considerable knowledge of defence, doing business in defence and with defence primes.
It is these business advisers that guide SMEs through the arduous journey towards successful defence industry outcomes and they truly deserve our accolades for their continued support and encouragement.
To that end, I would like to recognise all of the current CDIC business advisers and in particular the talented advisers that I have worked with directly. Thank you to Tony Martin (past adviser), Rodney Love, Sam McNaughton, Sam Wong and Steve Lakotij. Australian Defence SMEs owe you all a debt of gratitude.
More information about the CDIC is available here.