Small business lobby group COSBOA has lost its fifth director since March, with Michael Pruscino from the Australian Newsagents Federation standing down, citing differences over the group’s new direction.
Pruscino told SmartCompany this morning that his decision was driven partly due to a change in personal circumstances and partly because the Newsagents Federation is unlikely to renew its membership to COSBOA next financial year.
“It’s taking on a direction which I don’t necessarily agree with. It’s not an issue with the overall aim of the group, I think it’s more a question of how one goes about that.”
Pruscino’s resignation takes the number of departures from the COSBOA board in the last four months to five, including former chief executive Jaye Radisich, former chairman Richard Brooks, Beverley Jenkin of the Australian Toy Association and Nicola Grayson of Consult Australia.
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Pruscino says the Newsagent’s Federation rejoined COSBOA in 2009 after being impressed by the performance of Jaye Radisich, who he says was able to advance the interests of small business by forming strong personal relationships with politicians and other key decision makers.
He says the COSBOA now seems to be moving toward a different style of advocacy that is less focused on leveraging relationships.
“I think the best way to run an association is through relationships. I think there’s a difference between aggressive advocacy and robust aggressiveness.”
COSBOA director Peter Strong, currently acting as an executive director while the organisation looks for a new CEO, admits that the resignations do not look good, but insists the organisation is in good shape.
He says a new director will be appointed to the board soon, and says many of the resignations have been caused by the time commitments attached to a board position.
“One of the issues we are fixing is the amount of time directors need to put in. We are going to make sure that is decreased as necessary to keep people involved.”
He also says the organisation will look to change the role of the CEO to focus less on bringing in revenue from new contracts to more on advocacy on issues such as workplace relations, competition policy and tax.
“We’re looking at the fact that COSBOA didn’t have the profile that we want.”
The organisation’s business model will now focus on holding events and “corporate partnerships”.
Jaye Radisich told SmartCompany the small business community should have real concerns about the organisation’s direction.
“Over the 15 month that Richard Brooks and I were leading COSBOA, we achieved a great deal in terms of new partnerships, new projects and new leadership for small business. Our direction was clear.”
“The people who now appear to be in charge of COSBOA may or may not continue that positive direction for small business and it should be of great concern to everyone in the small business community that the leadership responsible for that director have all left.”
Radisich declined to comment on rumours she may be involved in the creation of a new small business lobby group.