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5 key mindsets for building a successful business in Adelaide

Many people regard Adelaide as one of the toughest markets in Australia to start and grow a business. In fact, there is even a common saying, “If you can make it in Adelaide, you can make it everywhere”.

I made Adelaide home in 2003 and started my first company here in Adelaide in 2012. My business journey has had its fair share of challenges and I’m not sure what portion of that can be attributed to being physically located or rookie mistakes that everyone makes within the formative years of business.

The one thing I know is that I love living in Adelaide and despite the lure of moving to a bigger city, I intend to call Adelaide home for a long long time. Here are in my opinion the key mindsets you need to start and grow a successful business in Adelaide.

1. Relationships before sales

The degree of separation between people in Adelaide is so small. Very rarely do I meet someone new and not have mutual connections or interests.  This makes building and nurturing genuine relations very vital. We all love to work with people we know, like and trust.  My business is predominantly built on referrals and having good relationships certainly help open doors. The key take out is, don’t take anyone for granted or piss people off. You do not know who that person is connected with. I once had a waiter on my favourite coffee joints introduce me to the CEO of a company I was trying to get to for long time.

2. Your reputation is everything

Bad news travels fast in Adelaide and it’s very hard to recover once you screw up. There are plenty of times when I have lost money on projects even though I knew the client was entirely in the wrong all because I did not want this to impact my reputation. Now, I’m not trying to suggest that you should allow people to take advantage of you. The key take out is while this a no a brainer: do great work and keep your clients happy. You will never please everyone but you can choose to respond to nasty people gracefully and end up as the one with integrity.

3. Play the long term game

If you want to crash and burn quickly in Adelaide, play the short term game. We are a smaller market and do not necessarily have the resources and economics of the bigger cities. It takes a while a build rapport with your target audience and gain the trust you need to transact in business. There are a lot of consumers and businesses that been burned by businesses looking to cash in fast and people are generally very wary. I am a fan of fast growth but you need to balance between fast growth and not watering down the quality of your services or failing to fulfil your obligations. Your customers want to feel that you’ll be around to help out when things go wrong.

4. Community

One of the best ways to build connections in Adelaide is plugging into your local (business or social) communities and actually making a valuable contribution. Before I started my business in 2012, I was active in Adelaide startup and tech community for about 5 years. During that time, everyone knew me as the smiling tech guy who you could grab a coffee with and brainstorm ideas or ask for help when you are stuck. When it came time to start my business, I was not a stranger in the business community. Being plugged into your community helps you build connections, increase referrals and reassures your audience that you are still around. The key take out is plug in and contribute to your local communities.

5. Don’t just think local, think global

It’s easy to be self-absorbed with what is happening around you when running a business that we forget that they are is a big world out there to be conquered. I believe that it’s possible to build a global business from Adelaide.  First off, our location means that we are at most 3 hours away from major capital cities. Try flying from Sydney to Perth. Our lower cost of livings you have more money to re-invest in your business.

Am keen to know your thoughts and tips on what it takes to build a great business from Adelaide.

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John Kiama


  1. Tom Trewartha on May 2, 2016 at 1:30 PM

    Great article John. You hit the nail on the head when it comes building relationships and not burning bridges.

    The question I have is why does Adelaide have a reputation for being a tough market to crack?

    Yes, we are a smaller population and it can be hard to break into already established relationships between businesses and suppliers – however I believe there is plenty of opportunity and business to go around.

    Do we try hard enough to sniff out opportunities and implement ‘purple cow marketing’ (this is a great book to read)? I don’t think we do.

    My thoughts are to take risks, put yourself out there, do what others aren’t doing (eg. call instead of email), set up partnerships and go for it!

    • John Kamuchau on May 2, 2016 at 1:49 PM

      Hi Tom,

      To answer the question “why does Adelaide have a reputation for being a tough market to crack?”, there are a few ways to look at this. One is the mindset within ourselves and how people perceive Adelaide. My experience is that we can be hard buyers but once you win trust and deliver, Adelaide customers are very loyal market.

      That said, you have to put yourself, take risks and offer real value. That is the key to succeeding in any market. Nothing will ever stop you from growing a global brand here.

  2. Sharnee on May 2, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    Great article John, thanks for sharing 🙂

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