COSBOA director denies organisation is in upheaval

Peter Strong, a director of the peak small business body COSBOA has denied the organisation is experiencing upheaval, despite the resignation of its chief executive and chairman, who cited his “personal values” for his decision.

Strong, who is acting in the capacity of executive director while a replacement is found for former chief executive Jaye Radisich, says the sudden resignations of Radisich and chairman Richard Brooks are not signs that the organisation is in trouble and has also dismissed rumours the company has financial troubles.

“It’s situation normal, except we’ve had some changes at the top that have scared people,” he told SmartCompany.

Strong says he has fielded calls from some members wanting to know what was behind the decisions and investigating rumours the organisation is facing financial difficulties.

“Every time someone says [there are financial problems] I rush back and have a look. COSBOA will not go insolvent,” Strong says.

Radisich resigned unexpectedly on May 13 after what was seen as a successful 15 months at the helm.

COSBOA announced last week that former chairman Bob Stanton would again take the chair after the resignation of Richard Brooks.

Brooks told SmartCompany he was not forced out of the organisation as some have suggested and said it would be “unprofessional of me to discuss things that happen at a board level”.

However, he said his personal decision was motivated by his “values”.

“I certainly was not asked to leave, in fact there was a certain amount of pressure to stay on.”

“The decision I made was one reflecting the values I have and the roles I have. I suppose at times I am a person who doesn’t compromise very well. “

Brooks also says he is very proud of his time at the top of COSBOA and particularly proud of achievements such as reversing the extension of the Do Not Call Register and the winning of a $2.2 million contract to help educate SMEs about the new Fair Work industrial relations regime.

He says Radisich’s resignation came a surprise, but acknowledges that she had found the process of forcing change onto COBOA was difficult.

“There is a diverse range of opinion in the sector. Attempting to change the way an organisation has gone for a long period of time is difficult to manage. I think small business is going through significant change and I think COSBOA will go through change.”

Brooks also stressed he would not look to set up a rival small business lobby group. Rumours of the creation of such a group have grown stronger in recent weeks.

Strong, who unsuccessfully applied for the chief executive’s role back in early 2009, says he is yet to decide whether he will apply for the vacant post this time around.

However, he says COSBOA will continue with the full-time CEO model, although flagged a change in the CEO’s focus away from business development and towards lobbying on issues such as workplace relations, access to finance and red tape.

“Our feeling is that there is so much work to be done that some of the core duties of COBOA didn’t get the attention they deserve.”

He also dismissed suggestions the new board would take a more political stance on issues with a Federal election looming, although COSBOA will take part in mass mailouts to SMEs in marginal seats that will compare Labor and Liberal policy in a range of areas.

“The board is very adamant that we’ve got to be a-political. Small business people will vote how they want to vote, you can’t tell them how to vote. “

Stanton is likely to retire from the chairman’s post at the COSBOA annual general meeting, scheduled for around November. Two new board members are likely to join in the coming weeks.

Radisich was not available for comment prior to publication.

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