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Saturday / April 13.
HomemilastwordThe Last Word: Time to Stand as One

The Last Word: Time to Stand as One

In tourism ads, our government has created the picture of Aussies as down to earth, friendly and open – the type of person you can trust to call a spade a spade and lend a hand if you need one. Really top bunch of people. Everyone loves us Aussies, right?

Yes, apparently everyone does love us – although we don’t!

When I spoke to some of the eyewear designers at Silmo about their perception of Australians and the way we do business, the image they painted about us took me by surprise.

One eyewear designer – a leading one at that – told me: “Australia is the toughest optical retail market in the world. You’re the coolest people to hang out with but if I ask optical retailers about the guy next door, they hate him. They hate each-other. They don’t like anyone to do with their business. If I ask them about reps they say they’re no good – everyone sucks!”

Australians are nice to each other face to face, then… they stab each other in the back

His experience from years in the industry was that Australians are nice to each other face to face, then, as soon as they walk away, they stab each other in the back.

It’s a pretty sad indictment on our people – and it made me wonder about the level of respect we command among our overseas business partners if this is the impression we’ve created. Do they trust what we say to them when they see us so blatantly lie to our mates? Do they have faith in the quality of our workmanship and professionalism when we tear each other apart so freely?

And what about at a local level? If this is the way we treat each-other, can we trust that the person who says “what a great idea, commercialise it now” isn’t really thinking “bin-it while you’re ahead”? Is the neighbour you smile at on the way to work in the morning, bad mouthing you to the guy across the street as soon as your car has pulled away from the curb? What is a ‘mate’… who can you trust… is this tall poppy syndrome gone mad?

Cadbury says: “wouldn’t it be nice if the world was chocolate”. I’d settle for knowing when the barista in the cafe says “have a great afternoon!”, he’s not thinking “I hope you get run over by a truck”; that the person I do business with next is genuinely happy with the position of the ad I run; or the way I present their comments in the next feature article. I’d be ecstatic if the next time I went to an international optical conference I was told the Aussies are a great bunch – that we stick together and are genuinely proud of our country’s professional talent.

In business terms that could only be a positive. Australia may be a large continent, but really we’re pretty tiny in terms of population, output and buying capacity when compared to much of the world. So we need to work together. Acknowledging a competitor’s strengths doesn’t diminish your own – it simply shows a level of maturity and confidence in the understanding you have of your own personal value, and surely, it would also build international confidence in Australia as a whole.

Now, I just need to take those knives out of my back.