Speakers at Sale conference urge business people to embrace the digital world

Local business people take part in a workshop urging them to embrace the online world to help grow their customer base.
Local business people take part in a workshop urging them to embrace the online world to help grow their customer base.

BUSINESS leaders from across Gippsland converged on Sale recently, for a two-day conference facilitated by Binary Shift.

As the name suggests, the conference aimed to teach businesses across Gippsland how to make the best use of modern technology and transition from business models used in yesteryear to the digital age.

Participants heard from a range of speakers, including world leading robotics entrepreneur Marita Cheng who spoke via video conference from San Francisco, and a lecture by Telstra head of cyber security Grant McKechnie.

In workshops held at the Wellington Centre, demonstrations were given to show businesses how they could expand their brand simply by the use of everyday technology, such as shooting high quality videos on smartphones to distribute on various online platforms.

Binary Shift organiser Dr Elena Kelareva said it was imperative local businesses had a strong online presence in order to compete in today's world.

"Businesses everywhere in each industry and each location these days need to be competing globally because if they're not thinking global, Amazon is," she said.

"They [businesses] need to understand the impact of technology and how they can make the most of technology to grow their business and how they can innovate their business model and their products and services.

"Technology changes really change the way consumers interact with businesses and with brands, even just things like the ubiquity of smartphones, so now customers make decisions on the fly - they want instant results, they want to be able to make a purchase quickly - so if a business isn't online these days they're missing out on most of their customers."

Ms Kelareva also said it was important businesses looked to broaden their outlook on the technology that was available to them, pointing to one example that showed how a local business was able to yield better results through innovation.

"One of the workshops talked about a farmer in Phillip Island who was using drones to analyse what parts of his paddocks were growing successfully and what parts weren't, so he was able to identify that the irrigation system wasn't doing what the supplier promised," she said.

"So that's a really good success story where, without that use of drones, he might not have noticed."

Across a range of topics the conference covered aspects such as Google analytics, creating and protecting a sustainable brand and assessing innovative capability.

Foster resident Anne Roussac-Howne was one of the participants, and said the conference opened her eyes to the power of social media.

Ms Roussac-Howne has bought the old Toora bakery, and has plans to refurbish it some 40 years after it was last used.

"I do use it quite a lot [social media] and I feel reasonably comfortable with it, but this conference just took it to a whole new level," she said.

"When I started the page so people could follow the restoration of this 100-year-old bakery in Toora, within three weeks 800 people were following that so clearly it's a wonderful way to connect with people and to have them knoW what you're doing.

"Business-wise, a percentage of them will turn into customers.

"The opportunity to be engaging in this beautiful old building and do something in such an interesting town for me is very fulfilling."

A retired French teacher, Ms Roussac-Howne also encouraged those who may not have previously had time to commit to a project outside their profession to give it due consideration.

"Post-retirement there's so much to do and so much you can do," she said."I think one of the good things about it is that I'm not relying on this [running a small business] for my income.

"I don't have children to bring up or mortgages to pay as later in life you really are absolutely set up to take a chance on something exciting that catches your interest."

Next year's Binary Shift conference will be held at Federation University, Churchill.