Doing business in Sydney

A work hard, play hard culture and strong economy make for tempting business opportunities in Australia’s commercial capital


A work hard, play hard culture and strong economy make for tempting business opportunities in Australia’s commercial capital

The attractions of Sydney are legion: year-long sunshine, beaches, the outdoors lifestyle and, more relevantly perhaps, the resilient Australian economy – currently the best performing in the OECD.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Australia says it has just had its busiest ever year, helping 2,000 businesses look at the Australian market, and it expects to out-do that this year.

Steve Bett managing director at international search firm Sargent & Trayler, says his business saw a clear opportunity in Australia: “Even through the tougher times, Australia wasn’t as affected as much as the UK and America,” he says. “From our point of view, small and medium-sized Australian-owned companies continued to hire people. It’s now very much an important city for our business.”

Easy to settle

The meritocratic attitude Australia is known for can be a distinct advantage when setting up in the country. Doors open much more easily than in the UK, says Bett: “Doing business in Australia is all about relationships. The Australian mentality is all about giving people a fair go; they’re always open to having a conversation with someone and getting to know them.”

In addition, the legal and regulatory environment is very similar to that of the UK, and it can be of benefit that the UK and Australia have strengths in common in areas such as finance and professional services, ICT, biotechnology, oil & gas and the rapidly emerging low carbon industries.

Paul Noon, director of UKTI Australia, says: “I always say that smart, knowledge-based businesses that are successful in the UK have a great chance of succeeding in Australia. The market in Australia is exceptionally friendly to business and British companies often feel at home here immediately.”

Business Capital Sydney, with its 4.3 million population, is certainly the commercial capital of Australia. It provides around 25% of the country’s GDP and was ranked as the second richest city in the world by investment bank UBS last year. “Sydney really is the centre of everything in Australia as far as business goes,” says Bett. He warns though that it is also the most expensive city in the country, with the cost of living being comparable to that of London. “Other cities are more affordable but don’t have the infrastructure and corporate sector Sydney has,” he continues.

One of the defining features of Australia is of course its scale, which is easy to underestimate – the distance from Sydney to Perth is the same as London to Moscow, for example – and UKTI recommends that decisions around how to expand in Australia should be considered carefully; while transport infrastructure is generally good, distribution is an important factor.

However, having a presence in Australia also gives you proximity to the world’s fastest growing region, the Asia Pacific, as well as India and China.

Down-to-earth mentality

Bett names the work-life balance as one of the biggest differences between working in Sydney and working in the UK. The outdoors lifestyle has attracted many to Australia and to Sydney in particular, though there is certainly an expectation for people to work hard – working hours aren’t noticeably different to those in London.

Business is conducted with less formality though, and UKTI stresses that mutual respect, modesty and parity are highly valued. In business this means a down-to-earth attitude and appreciation of open and honest communication, according to Bett: “If I were to go and meet a CEO of a company to discuss working with them, nine times out of 10 it would be in a coffee shop having a conversation, rather than in a boardroom. I find that a better way of building business.”

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