Opening A Business In Australia - Business Media MAGS

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Opening A Business In Australia

Peter Borain moved from South Africa to Australia almost twenty years ago, bought a small moving company and grew it into a successful, national brand called “MetroMovers.”

Now he has developed a new moving app, movepal, that’s the first to market in Australia and set to change the way Australians move.

On reflection, he believes that today, “Australia is an exceptional place in which to do business. The strong economy, skilled and dynamic, multicultural workforce, competitive tax structure and stable political environment make Australia an ideal location for foreign investment.”

But the journey has not been straightforward. How did Peter start from scratch and build a successful business in a new country? Read on below for the gems Peter’s experience can impart to other South African business entrepreneurs ready to succeed in the lucrative Australian waters.

Finding The Right Business

Peter originally moved to Australia on a 547 Business Migration Visa. The conditions of the Visa required he set up a business, employ at least 3 Australian citizens and make a turnover of around half a million dollars within the first two years.

Peter started his journey by doing due diligence and researching dozens of businesses and business models in Australia. He was originally unsure about what would work in Australia: Import/ export? Manufacturing? Peter recalled “we realised manufacturing wasn’t really a good business to get into because of high wages, high cost of raw materials, high cost of goods and services and the strength of the Australian dollar.”

Then he researched home services. In South Africa, he had been involved in the home services industry, but more focused on commercial cleaning and security. So removals might have been a new field in a new country, but the industry was somewhat familiar. He searched extensively and finally found a model he believed would make a good start: a small two truck moving company in Melbourne that had a good reputation, had been running for over 15 years and was owned by an industry veteran who was ready to retire.

Set Up And Growth

After the handover, the previous owner remained with the company for another 3 months to show Peter the ropes before he retired. And Peter notes “we paid a premium for it (the company), but because it was so small, it didn’t really matter because we could afford to buy it… and what we learned from working with him was invaluable.”

Based on his extensive research, Peter decided his best option was to buy a small business because “the smaller the business, the easier it is to do your due diligence and learn what they’re doing” that makes them successful. Peter continued to run the moving company for a short while to make sure he had the hang of the business requirements. Then he rebranded it “MetroMovers” and began to steadily, but quickly, scale the business. Soon MetroMovers was working all over Melbourne, then all across the state of Victoria before MetroMovers expanded out to Sydney and Brisbane.

Expanding the business across multiple states wasn’t easy: Peter needed to purchase more trucks, hire more staff, lay out the cost of setting up in another city, find the right people and learn all the different legal and tax requirements particular to each different state. “It takes a year or two to get that right” He recalls. “Hiring blue-collar labour is difficult in Australia,” he elaborates. “Most of these positions are part-time and casual. The unemployment rate is low (currently 5.3%) so you need to be competitive in when hiring and provide an attractive wage, place to work, benefits and allow for a comfortable work-life balance.”

He notes that Australia’s landmass might be 6 times the size of South Africa, but the growing population still stands at less than half. That means the jump from a small to medium and then to a big business model requires a lot more work than in a population-heavy location because “60% of the market” are spread out between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. To make growth worthwhile, you need to scale your business into other major cities and regions.

Recommendations To Other Entrepreneurs

So what advice can Peter offer to new entrepreneurs looking to enter the Australian market?

Whether you are buying an existing business or starting from scratch, Peter advises you to start in a field you’re familiar with. And do your due diligence:  Australian labour laws are very different from South African laws. There’s a lot of red tape to cut through to set up a business, it’s expensive to employ people and there’s a lot of cultural nuances to learn.

“If possible,” he urges, “work for an established company for at least a year first just to learn how things are done.”

He also highly recommends researching where you want to set up your business early on. Different Australian states are subject to different laws and some will be better suited to your chosen industry than others.

Then, he also advises newcomers find a good accountant right from the getset. The accountant will help you navigate through the complicated Australian tax and insurance requirements “so you don’t get tripped up as you go along. Because if not, you will have to pay much more in penalties.” He found the Australian accounting firms were very helpful and provided a lot of additional information and insight. They can also refer you to a recommended, experienced business broker, ie. one who has successfully worked in your chosen industry a long time and has completed a significant number of business transactions.

Finally, Peter warns, be prepared for a lot of hard work: Australian business owners are very hands on. They are involved in every level of their companies, from the books to the tech to the tools. The owners make or break the company. But if you start on the right foot and run your business well, he explains, the results will be worth it.

South African investors are invited to become early shareholders in movepal to help disrupt Australia’s $2 billion dollar moving and $44 billion dollar freight (and retail delivery) industries. Movepal is a chance to get in on the ground level of an offshore tech start-up investment opportunity, in an offshore currency, that has projected massive growth and potential.  

Feel free to contact Peter Borain by email at for more information or for Australian investment opportunities.

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