COSBOA chief executive Jaye Radisich resigns

Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Jaye Radisich has resigned unexpectedly, with sources saying tensions at board level led to her departure.

The shock resignation comes just 15 months after Radisich was appointed and just weeks after the organisation scored one of its biggest wins, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy specifically citing COSBOA’s lobbying as a reason for his decision to reverse his decision to extend the Do Not Call Register to business numbers.

However, a number of sources have suggested that Radisich, who was appointed as COSBOA’s first full-time in early 2009, has clashed with some members of the organisation’s board over issues including resources, lobbying strategies and COSBOA’s priorities.

COSBOA chairman Richard Brooks praised Radisich’s work and told SmartCompany this morning that he had enjoyed working with the CEO, but said that in any organisation with a diverse membership base there will be differences of opinion in the way matters should be handled.

“There is always going to be issues with regards to the priorities within the small business sector,” Brooks says.

“In any not-for-profit at different times there will be differences of opinions and those issues have to be resolved.”

Radisich emphasised that it was her decision to resign and told SmartCompany this morning she was proud of her achievements during her time at COSBOA, including boosting the organisation’s revenue 12-fold, making an “unprecedented” number of oral and written submissions to Government and greatly boosting the organisation’s profile.

“Those activities have certainly taken COSBOA to the next level. The scene is set for another small business advocate to take on the mantle. “

However, one area of difference between the board and the chief executive appears to have been government relations.

While some business lobby groups favour the strategy to lobbying via media statements, Radisich – a former Labour politician in Western Australia – was able to use her networks to get regular access to Government Ministers, Opposition spokespeople and department chiefs.

Radisich’s Labour Party past may have also led to some tensions, with source suggesting some COSBOA board members felt the organisation should lean more to the Coalition, as industry groups have traditionally done.

But Brooks says Radisich did a very good job of “maintaining a very balanced and realistic approach” to both sides of politics and worked hard to keep COSBOA as an apolitical organisation that “tells it like it is”.

“At times the role of COSBOA as a genuine apolitical organisation becomes very difficult to manage, because there are people within the sector who have very strong political views. “

Radisich has strongly defended claims she may have favoured one side of politics over the other at any stage during her tenure.

“I have acted in an apolitical manner at all times in my role and the proof is in the pudding. Anyone can review my record and will find that the interests of small business were front and centre of all my commentary. Sometimes the Government was criticised, sometimes the Opposition was criticised.”

Brooks says COSBOA is currently examining potential replacements for Radisich and will stick with the model of a full-time CEO who he hopes will continue “down the path that Jaye and I have taken”.

Radisich declined to comment this morning, but said in a note to “small business supporters, colleagues and friends” that it had “been a privilege to meet so many new colleagues, friends and advisors who have the interests of small businesses at heart”.

Her resignation is effective May 21 and she said she plans to take a “a short but much-needed break followed by further pursuits in business and a few exciting personal projects”.

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