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Vicki Brown - ACCI Telstra Country Wide Business Person of the Year

Win leaves Vicki lost for words

Vicki Brown from the Small Business Centre Great Southern with the T-shirt her staff gave her after winning the 2010 Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Telstra Country Wide Business Person of the Year.
When Vicki Brown was announced the winner of the 2010 Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Telstra Country Wide Business Person of the Year – to use her words – she was "gobsmacked".

"When my name was read out I was shocked and humbled because I do what I do because I like doing it – not to seek recognition," Vicki said.

Vicki has been the manager of the Small Business Centre Great Southern for the past three years, with the Albany-based centre delivering services to Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet since 1988.

SBCGS provides its core services free to small business, backed by funding from the State Government through the Small Business Development Corporation.

In addition to the BEC, the Great Southern centre also runs the business incubator program and manages a National Enterprise Incentive Scheme contract from Albany up to Kununurra and out to the Nullarbor with clients on Cocos and Christmas islands.

"As a result, we have four or five income streams that make us an autonomous organisation and we have a strong board comprised of nearly all small business owners," Vicki said.

"This enables us to meet outcomes and be proactive rather than reactive."

Last year was a good one for awards with the Small Business Centre Great Southern winning the national title for Best Regional Business Enterprise Centre.

Vicki said it was great to beat the Eastern States centres and bring the trophy back to WA.

Vicki has previously worked with the Great Southern Area Consultative Committee after selling the family farm in Tambellup and moving to Albany. During her 23 years in Tambellup, Vicki was interested in community development helping to set up the Tambellup Community Bank – an involvement that continues today with her recent appointment as chair of the Albany Community Bank.

Vicki said she felt strange about the award because she did not own a small business.

"But then ACCI chief executive Graham Harvey said, ‘you might not own one of your own but you stick your nose into a lot others' – which is true," Vicki acknowledged.

"My staff quite rightly pointed out that I had only won the ACCI award because they made me look good.

"It is all a ‘we' effort. The board is supportive – they give us the freedom within good governance to get on to do what they've paid us to do.

"We have the right people here so that it is a positive experience from the front door to when a client leaves and it is having the resources that we can call on – the network.

"I have a fantastic working relationship with the Department of Commerce, the Chamber, the Great Southern Development Commission, and the telecentres within the region. It's about building that network and remaining close to it."

The SBCGS board meets every Wednesday for breakfast which means it is never more than a week away from hearing and being able to respond to any issues affecting small business in the region.

"Ultimately everybody that's involved wants to improve the acumen and opportunities for small business – and we have fun as well," she said.

Despite there currently being an economic flat spot, Vicki said new business inquiries were constant.

"As long as there is Government there will always be red tape, so there will always be a need for people like us to help others untangle it," she said.

"As long as people want to run businesses there will always be something for us to do.

"Anyone who doesn't know where to get the answer to a business question comes in here, and if we don't know, we usually know someone who does."

Vicki encouraged Great Southern businesses to enter the 2011 ACCI awards saying they were a great opportunity to have a close look at what they have achieved.

"My firm belief is that not enough small businesses are strategic – they limp from crisis to crisis and taking part in the awards lets people have a very honest view of their business, and it does help them to become more strategic," she said.

She found it hard to believe many businesses did not even have a budget or compare cash flow to help predict trading conditions.

"All these things help you work smarter not harder. I would highly recommend that people enter awards and not just the chamber awards as they can provide free publicity or a link on a website – you don't know where it might lead to," she said.

"And once you've written one application you can often just tweak it to adapt to the next application."

As for Vicki and the SBC there are no immediate plans to enter any more awards.

"We might just do what work comes through the door this year!"

The closing date for all applications in the 2011 ACCI Business Awards is March 4.

Return to Award Winners 2010