Business Success


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Western Australia’s Most Resilient Small Business Leans on Great Depression Experience

  • Written by Metropolitan Digital


Image Credit: State Library of Queensland

If there was one hot topic in business communities in the last few years, it’s business resilience.  The onslaught of setbacks for small business has seen the end of some iconic Western Australian brands.  One Perth small business’s continued success and resilience is grounded in the last “unprecedented time”; The Great Depression.

1933, Western Australia saw unprecedented political tension, a dire economy, supply chain eradication, unemployment and ongoing resurgences of the deadly Spanish Flu.  A young Perth painter, named Arthur Cochrane, desperate to keep afloat, started his own painting service.  Fast forward 90+ years and AJ Cochrane and Sons remains a leader in the Perth painting industry.  How?  What did AJ Cochrane and his sons know that kept them afloat for the last ninety years? 

What AJ Cochrane learned starting a business during The Great Depression

  • Loyalty.  Treat customers with respect and understanding.
  • Quality.  Even in tough times, don’t sacrifice the quality of your workmanship, it will only create more tough times.
  • Value.  Price gouging in “rich” times only leads to distrust in tough times.  Always provide value. 
  • Mateship.  It’s almost a ‘cringe term’ these days.  AJ Cochrane was all about the human, not human resources.  Looking after your staff, having their back when they need you, taking time to get to know your clients – it’s all jargon and policy these days but back then, it was called “being a good bloke”.
  • Do the work.  Jumping on board with every new management fad, marketing fad, signing up for “business gurus” – this is all just noise that doesn’t get the job done.  Focus on doing good work.  Make sensible and workable business decisions without compromising who you are. 
  • Roll with it.  There’s always another economic downturn coming.  There’s always an unforeseeable setback.  That’s experience.  That’s how you learn to deal with the next downturn or pandemic, or materials shortage – you learn a lot more when times are tough.  

Business resilience as a checkbox

Business resilience isn’t a checkbox on a corporate insurance form.  It’s more than a corporate department name.  It’s not just a subject in your MBA.  There’s a danger in treating business resilience as a legal and operational problem.  Sure, it’s important to have a contingency plan when things get tough, but without the staff to carry out your plan or the customers to fund it, the plan won’t get you far in a crisis.  It comes down to how well the company connects with its staff and customers.  You’ll never survive if your product or service is subpar.  That’s the only thing that really matters.

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