Doing Business in Australia

An expat anticipating doing business in Australia is sure to find that the friendly, yet professional corporate atmosphere of the country will provide an exciting opportunity to develop a career. Being predominately a market economy, in the throes of embracing internationalisation, Australia has evolved into one of the easiest, and most interesting countries in which to do business in the world. Doing business in Australia is an easy process

The approach to management in Australia is consultative, pragmatic, and strictly non-hierarchical. Those in positions of relative power are accorded respect in virtue of their human and interpersonal qualities, not simply because they happen to be the boss.

In Australia, it is important that managers do not appear aloof from or out-of-touch with the members of their team – all members are equally important to the collective well-being of the group, and everyone is encouraged to air their opinions and ideas on a regular basis. A wonderful feature of the Australian business world is that this egalitarian ethos provides opportunities for colleagues to form close personal bonds with each other – even between so-called 'bosses' and so-called 'junior employees'.

Fast facts

 

Business hours

8:30am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

Business language

English
 

Dress

The dress code is smart, formal and conservative for men and women. 
 

Gifts

Gifts are not usually exchanged during business meetings; however, if invited to a colleague's home, be sure to take along some wine, chocolate or flowers.
 

Gender equality

Female expats looking to do business in Australia will find little or no gender bias. Australia is very progressive in terms of gender equality in the workplace, with many top-level positions being filled by women.
 

Business culture in Australia


The business culture of Australia claims a bit of a hybrid character, incorporating the trappings of British formality and conservatism, the egalitarian ethos of Scandinavian countries, and the dynamic, innovative approach to business that is generally thought of as American in origin – rounded out, of course, with characteristic South Pacific warmth and friendliness. While it is important for individuals to be smart, punctual and professional at all times, it is equally vital that one is willing to be 'part of the team', and to interact with colleagues in an engaged, interested and respectful manner.

Australia has a proud history of trade unionism (more than 50 percent of full-time workers in Australia belong to a union), and several labour acts – designed to prevent individuals being discriminated against on the grounds of race, gender, and age – have ensured the institutionalisation of egalitarianism in the workplace.
 

Greetings

Business etiquette in Australia further reflects the egalitarian ethos. Use titles initially, though one will almost certainly be told to drop them – at which point, first names can be used. Maintain eye contact when speaking to associates, as this is regarded as a sign of forthrightness and trustworthiness – qualities which Australian businesspeople tend to favour over showiness, self-aggrandisement or empty promises.
 

Communication

Do not be surprised to hear colleagues talking bluntly and frankly to one another – try to remember that in Australia, direct communication is valued far more highly than diplomacy. A good general rule for business etiquette in Australia is to always try and 'get along' – the last thing one wants to be considered is a loner or a malcontent.
 

Meetings

Business meetings in Australia should be scheduled a week in advance, and then confirmed a few days before they are due to take place. Be punctual, as lateness can be seen as a symptom of flakiness or indifference. Expect a little small talk at the beginning of the meeting – with the topic of conversation most likely to be sport. Business meetings in Australia do not generally proceed from a set agenda – rather, they are viewed as open forums, in which ideas are to be debated and discussed. In fact, over-preparing for a meeting can make a person seem pushy and maverick – as though they wish to bully others into adopting an opinion on the issue at hand.
 

Attitude to foreigners 

Australia is a famously friendly, welcoming society – and foreigners should experience no xenophobia in the workplace whatsoever. Remain as friendly and open to colleagues and all will be fine.
 

Starting a business in Australia


Australia is ranked an impressive 11th on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2016. The country has fallen a few places since its 2015's ranking of 7th, however it still excels in a number of criteria. These include dealing with construction permits (4th), enforcing contracts (4th) and getting credit (5th). However, Australia faired relatively badly for trading across borders (89th). 

Steps to registering a business

  • Fill out and submit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Form 201, “Application for Registration as an Australian Company.”
  • Obtain a certificate of incorporation and an Australian Company Number (ACN)
  • Register for an 11-digit Australian Business Number (ABN) with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

Dos and don'ts of business in Australia

 
  • Do be honest and forthright – look to really get to know Australian colleagues on a personal level.
  • Do get involved in 'team-building'; egalitarianism is the backbone of the Australian work ethos.
  • Do make an effort to get to know colleagues outside of office hours, even if it's not normally something an expat is used to.
  • Don't try to prove credentials by talking about them – rather, show one's qualities, by working hard.
    Do exchange business cards upon the first meeting of an associate. 
  • Don't criticise the Australian way of doing things, without a sense of humour, and being willing to get drawn into a (friendly) argument about it.
  • Don't be insulted if colleagues addresses someone in a blunt or plain-spoken fashion – this is simply the way Australians communicate with one another.

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