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On any night of the week, you’re likely to find one or more of the Outback Global (formerly Australian Outback Apparel) team attending a 3 am meeting in the United States by videoconference; fielding a telephone enquiry from a customer somewhere in the Pacific region; on board a flight bound for China to audit a supplier’s production standards; or at home doing the business accounts. It’s a gruelling schedule, but a deeply rewarding one as the team goes about the business of taking Outback Global…well, global.
Established in 2009 by CEO Jasmin Herro and International Sales Director Michael Cima - and now a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned company - Outback Global sources and distributes a wide range of high-quality work and safety wear, uniforms, business attire and promotional merchandise. The company has more than 50 direct relationships with factories across Australia, Asia and the Pacific region, and recently established offices in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou.
But it’s the company’s recent joint venture with a US entrepreneur that’s requiring the late hours and early morning shifts; an agreement that has the potential to take Outback Global to a whole new level and corner of the world.
With several decades of business experience between them, the team behind Outback Global understands that strong and strategic relationships based on mutual respect and shared values are key to achieving the long-term growth and sustainability they seek. Speaking with Jasmin and her husband (Outback Global’s General and Operations Manager) Slay in Sydney, it’s evident that those quality relationships stem from the heart of the business itself.
‘The people we seek to form business relationships with are motivated, have the same ethics, are trustworthy – and we like them’, said Jasmin. ‘Michael Cima, for example, is one of the most motivated, driven people we’ve ever worked with, and we’re so privileged to be standing shoulder to shoulder and forging ahead with him’.
Another valued relationship is the one Outback Global formed three years ago with business-to-business membership body Supply Nation. Supply Nation aims to contribute to the growth of a vibrant and sustainable Indigenous business sector by encouraging diversity within Australia’s supply chain. The organisation does this by connecting Indigenous businesses (Certified Suppliers) with corporate organisations and government agencies (members) that want to buy their goods and services.
As a majority-owned Indigenous company, Outback Global gained Supply Nation Certified Supplier status in 2010, and since then has leveraged numerous business and networking opportunities to grow its customer base in Australia and overseas.
But as Jasmin is quick to point out, it’s what you do with those opportunities that matters. ‘Every time I attend a Supply Nation event my business grows’, she said. ‘But I also put my all into those events … In Australia, there aren’t many Supply Nation members that we haven’t sat in front of and told who we are. We’ve been very proactive here’.
Outback Global knows that its ability to deliver merchandise and apparel is what keeps new orders coming. According to Slay, sometimes turning down a lucrative order or contract makes the best business sense.
‘You have to be smart about it’, said Slay. ‘The hardest thing for any business that is getting opportunities thrown at it is to say no. But at the end of the day, you have to be able to turn around and say... “I can’t do that at the moment”. It’s not fair to muck up an order or job for somebody because it hurts your customer, your brand and your reputation.
‘We had one situation last year where we had to say no to a major corporation because we simply couldn’t guarantee delivery’, he added. ‘All it would have taken is one or two days of that order being held up at port or customs and we would have missed the deadline. And it hurt, because we had been chasing the customer for a while!’
Jasmin believes it is experience and maturity that makes those tough calls easier. ‘I think 15 years ago we were different people’, she said. ‘We still have the same ethics, but as people we are stronger now. We have seen examples of what we don’t want in our business, and what we don’t want to be. We are very clear about who we are and where we are going. I think it’s that confidence that comes across at all levels. It’s part of the culture of our business’.
The Outback Global team drew heavily on that confidence to pursue one of its most important business opportunities to date. With financial support from IBA, the team took up a Supply Nation invitation in late 2012 to join a 23-strong delegation of Certified Suppliers at a major business trade fair in Denver, Colorado. It was there that, exploring the possibility of expanding their operations into the US, they were guided towards American entrepreneur Donald Fairconeture, President and CEO of Unity Promotions.
‘Once again, we went along to that event prepared to work hard’, said Jasmin. ‘We made a decision before the fair that if we were lucky enough to find the right partner in the US, then we would go for it. Our time in Denver was spent talking to potential partners. Through our networks we were assisted by some fantastic people, especially Denise Coley from Cisco Systems USA. Literally on the last night we were there, Denise told us about Donald Fairconeture’.
As the first 100 per cent Indigenous-owned company outside the US to successfully obtain minority business certification, Outback Global entered into a joint venture partnership with Donald. The result is a new company – Outback Global USA – which, over time, will see the business expand its merchandise and apparel into the large and lucrative US market.
'We still have the same ethics, but as people we are stronger now. We have seen examples of what we don’t want in our business, and what we don’t want to be. We are very clear about who we are and where we are going. I think it’s that confidence that comes across at all levels. It’s part of the culture of our business’.
If that all sounds too easy, Jasmin says it wasn’t, and that preparing Outback Global to expand to this level has taken years of building solid business structures. IBA has supported the company in that process, providing business support and mentoring in the early stages of formation, and ongoing support to facilitate the Outback Global team’s attendance at Supply Nation events. In 2012, the company also received a short-term loan through IBA’s new Fast Track Loan Assessment service enabling it to complete a contract with a major corporate in the Australian mining industry.
‘This was not a case of being lucky’, said Jasmin. ‘So even though it appears to have been a short amount of time in which this has happened, it’s actually been a whole lot of hard work. All this time we have been delivering on our side too, so that we look attractive to a partner. We had already been talking to all the people who made recommendations to us [in Denver] for a number of years. We didn’t just rock up and have people say “look at this little Indigenous company, what can we do for them?” There is no handout mentality at work at [Supply Nation] events. We had the whole Outback Global team in Denver. There were tireless meetings, lots of presentations, getting together and working out exactly what we wanted’.
Signing the US joint venture agreement was just the beginning of what continues to be a very busy time for the Outback Global team as it starts establishing solid business foundations for the new US company while ensuring its Australian business stays strong. That’s the reason for the late nights, early mornings and frequent flights to meetings and discussions across a number of countries and time zones.
Jasmin says she and the team are excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead. ‘We have a wealth of experience behind us as well as connections, relationships and skills’, she said. ‘In 12 months time, the story will be totally different again. We are just holding on now – we have the knee pads and elbow pads and we’re just going to hold on’.
Find out more about Outback Global or IBA’s Business Development and Assistance Program.