You don't have to be a dyed-in-the-wool patriot to put Australian suppliers at the top of your shopping list, reports Stephen Craft.
It's never been easier to buy goods and services for your business from offshore. Books, computers, graphic design and accounting services, all just a few clicks away. So why restrict yourself to vendors who happen to have an ‘au' at the end of their domain name? Here are seven good reasons.
#7 Currency issues
Currently, the strong Australian dollar is making offshore shopping look pretty attractive. But it's important to remember that our currency is also one of the world's most volatile. A rapidly falling dollar can make life uncomfortable for anyone who relies heavily on overseas suppliers.
So, while buying Australian means you can't benefit from favourable exchange rate fluctuations, it also means you won't be disadvantaged if foreign exchange markets turn against you.
#6 World-beating products
When we think of Australia's areas of competitive advantage, we tend to think of sectors like agriculture and mining. Yet Australian companies have a whole lot more to offer.
"We actually have some really surprising areas of competitive strength," says Peter Switzer, independent economist and financial commentator. In particular, he believes Australians shine in industries that combine technology with creativity, such as software, architectural services, event management and niche manufacturing.
Gavin Dixon, chief executive officer of accounting software company Reckon's Business Division, agrees. "Australia is innovative in software," he says. "The Google Wave development is an Australian initiative."
This culture of innovation gives Australian products an edge.
"You can't outsource innovation," says Dixon. "You can't go to India or China and say, ‘Please be clever for me'. Australia has a culture of doing things, rather than waiting for things to be done."
#5 Designed for Australian conditions
Unless a product has been designed for Australia, you can end up spending valuable time customising it for our regulatory environment and financial system. Reckon's Quickbooks payroll software, for example, has been built to interface with Australian banks and superannuation funds, as well as the Australian Tax Office.
#4 Reliable supply chain
Reliability can be an issue with overseas suppliers due to the logistical complexity of ordering and receiving products from half a world away, says Ian Harrison, chief executive of the Australian Made, Australian Grown campaign.
"We all understand that you can enter into an agreement with a Chinese supplier and get a product delivered here that's a lot cheaper," he says. "But if there are supply interruptions or transport problems or wharf problems or quality problems, there are generally some very good reasons for thinking locally."
#3 Local support, from local people
Sometimes a local product that costs more upfront can be better value over its life-time. Especially if it comes with fast, effective after-sale support.
"If someone is down the road or around the corner, they can do that pretty rapidly."
Dixon says having a local support team on call is a boon for Reckon customers.
"It saves you time on the phone and offers a faster resolution of your issues. That adds up to a more productive environment."
#2 Local business partnerships
A good supplier can do more than provide great after-sales service. They can become a partner who helps make your business more successful, often easier if they're working in the same market.
"You have to evaluate the value-add of working with a local operator," says Switzer.
"That could include after-sales service, the ability to network with your supplier for referrals, and all of those other things a business can benefit from: network sharing, information and reconnaissance about the market … you can't downplay the value of that kind of thing."
#1 Keep the money here
There is another, more altruistic reason for us to buy Australian: to help sustain the communities where we live and work.
"If you've got an Australian product that's similar to an imported product, then you can be more comfortable that you've invested back into the society or environment that you're seeking to grow your own business in," says Harrison.
"It's also a strong marketing strategy, both in Australia and overseas," says Harrison. In particular, he says the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo is a powerful brand, recognised by 98% of Australians.
"We're in the business of branding," he says. "And Australia is one of the most powerful brands around."