Navigating the highs and lows of entrepreneurship

The pandemic was a challenge no one saw coming, but obstacles to succeeding in business are not new and maintaining focus is key, says 40 Under 40 judge Matthew Illman.

Mar 15, 2024, updated Mar 21, 2024

At risk of stating the obvious, those launching or in a start-up or scale-up will always face obstacles that need to be overcome; such is the nature of entrepreneurship.

When working with business owners, William Buck business advisory director Matthew Illman urges them to not lose focus on long-term strategy while responding to immediate challenges.

“There’ll be short-term issues requiring modifications, and COVID was obviously one of those where businesses made a lot of changes in a very short space of time,” Illman said.

“But much of it is about continuing to focus on the longer-term goals and what you want to achieve.”

“One of the real challenges I see with working with start-ups and ones in the emerging growth phase is getting the balance right between things they can do themselves and where they need professional advice or outside help.”

“As the time constraints on a founder or a business owner become more restricting, it’s important they focus energy and attention on the where they can add the most value within the business.

“A lot of entrepreneurs find that balance difficult.”

Illman is a judge in the InDaily 40 Under 40 Awards, recognising the state’s young business leaders and entrepreneurs.

In his business advisory capacity, he said there is an element of business coaching, particularly with newer ones.

“I’m in a fortunate position where I see plenty of different businesses across all industries – some much larger that have been around for a long time, and lots in their earlier journey.

“I’m able to relate their experiences and stories [to other clients and] offer examples of instances where things have been done a certain way, and how that might impact on their business at a certain point in time.”

Artificial intelligence and generative AI are hot topics in the business community at the moment.

However, Illman said AI is “still a work in progress” in terms of businesses understanding how best to use it for efficiency gains and to deliver new products and services.

“I’m not necessarily seeing transformational change in a lot of businesses, but there certainly are a lot of companies in the start-up space that are heavily based on AI.

“Over the next few years, it’s only going to continue to rapidly change and evolve the business landscape,” he said.

“It’s something that businesses of all shapes and sizes need to be aware of in terms of what are the opportunities it might create and the threats and challenges it might bring.”

Judging the 40 Under 40 Awards has allowed Illman to see the “the amazing work being done by a lot of really hard working and engaged entrepreneurs”.

“It’s crucial for us in the state to have people doing these things, coming up with new business ideas and opportunities, and hopefully becoming the future business leaders of our state,” he said.

“That’s something that we as a firm at William Buck are really passionate about – the future of South Australia.”

He has noticed an evolution in the attitude towards entrepreneurship locally and providing support for those with fresh business ideas.

“There was probably a time in South Australia when new ideas and new ways of doing things weren’t necessarily viewed as favourably as they are now.

“I think we have become a lot better and a lot more receptive to change and better ways of doing things.

“The definition of success hasn’t changed, but I think we’ve become much more open minded.

“Probably to our detriment, in South Australia we were a little too humble and young entrepreneurs weren’t as willing to come forward and promote the great work that they’re doing.

“Programmes like the 40 Under 40 have encouraged these people to put themselves out there and promote their ideas – and I think that has helped change the mindset around entrepreneurship.”

The 40 Under 40 Awards program is helping to bring attention to a new, younger generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders in the state. Nominations are open until Sunday, 24 March 2024.

Nominate someone or self-nominate now.

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