SmartCompany turns five

Well, they said we would never make it. A publication for small and medium business owners? It will never work. Many people better than you have tried and failed, I was told.

Yet here we are celebrating our fifth birthday. So rather than go through all the mistakes we made and the lessons we learnt, I asked my editor (even bosses have editors in media) if for once, I could share with the readers the ways I think we have changed our world for the better. Knock yourself out, he told me, in a rare display of indulgence.

So here goes – the five ways we changed our world in five years:

1. High quality journalism

Firstly, the team at SmartCompany created not just a publication but a marketplace that never existed in Australia before. Small business media has always been at the arse-end of journalism. The existing media completely ignored small business and small business owners, instead concentrating on Australia’s largest 50 companies. And most of the media servicing small business had little credibility, with advertisers able to pay to write advertorial disguised as editorial.

We changed all that. We took the high editorial standards of the best media companies and applied them to the news coverage of small business. It worked. 

We now send our daily newsletter out to almost 50,000 people a day. And we have almost 250,000 monthly uniques coming to our website to get our latest take on the news plus tips, advice and warnings for small and medium business owners. We have created awards that recognise the innovation and job growth in this sector. And we disclose the shonks and the crooks who have long sought to rip off small business owners or take advantage of their lack of a collective voice. 

2. Giving the sector a voice

The small business sector never had any political power. There was an assumption in Canberra five years ago that a small business owner vote was a vote for the Coalition. Groups that tried to fight on behalf of small business interests were often dismissed as fringe crackpots. Not now. Small business as a sector is taken much more seriously in Canberra. Investigations by SmartCompany have led to change – in politics and in business. 

3. Creating a community advertisers can actually reach

Once we had created a community of business owners we had an audience that advertisers can reach to get their messages across and sell their solutions. And why is that a good thing? Well, before SmartCompany came along it was agony trying to reach a small business. Where did you find these busy people who operate across so many industries and have such different needs? So not many people bothered. The problem with that is that business owners need to buy stuff. As we grow we need better banking services, better telephone systems, better software and so on. But often the small business just got a scaled down version of a big product (often still do, actually). By creating a community and communicating with companies about how small business people think and buy, small business owners now have a much better choice of products and services specifically related to their needs. That helps them do business better.

4. Extending our reach

The success of SmartCompany has meant that we could launch other publications into new areas and markets. When we were building SmartCompany I often was astonished at how hard it was. I had written about building fast-growth businesses for 20 years and I knew it was bloody difficult. But this difficult? What made it worse was there was nothing to read. And as every entrepreneur knows, the start-up phase of a business is very different to the growing phase. I vowed that as soon as SmartCompany was established I would go back and begin a publication for start-ups. So 18 months ago we launched StartUp Smart and it has helped many people change their lives. And next month we launch our next publication called LeadingCompany to help our readers build or maintain their position as top company.

5. A brilliant team

SmartCompany has also changed the lives of people closer to home. It is always hard building a new business but our staff, our contributors, columnists – in fact everyone associated with SmartCompany has felt the passion. We have all come on a remarkable journey together into the not-so-new-now digital world and I will always feel intense gratitude for our fellow travellers. Thanks one and all! It’s been a great five years. And now to the next five…

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