Department of State Development

A key characteristic of a small business entering the market is rapid growth, often followed by a slowing-down phase. Both of these phases can be linked back to a number of factors affecting their business.

In some cases business owners choose not to grow their business once it is established. They may be happy for the business to achieve a sufficient level of income and do not want the headache of further growth.

Some business owners want their business to continue growing but they encounter various barriers to prevent this growth. 

The information provided in this section is aimed at those small business owners who are interested in growing their business beyond just an income.

Topics in this section include:

The basics of business growth

The concept of growth for a small business is usually measured in terms of the number of employees or by sales and turnover. A number of other measures can also be used to describe business growth, including:

  • growth in the number (or size) of assets
  • increased market share
  • improved productivity (output)
  • various financial ratios e.g. return on assets, return on equity, debt to equity, profit margin, current ratio etc.

Whichever way you measure business growth, or how fast the business grows, the important thing is to sustain business growth to meet your goals and objectives.

Resources and downloads

Business innovation

Innovative businesses are constantly researching new and better products and services, more efficient processes, new ways of delivering services and other innovative strategies to get and stay ahead of the competition.

Characteristics of innovative businesses:

  • constant awareness of new technologies, markets and competition
  • able to carry out research and development to bring new products and services to market
  • willing and able to use new technologies to build new capabilities
  • strong focus on creating new processes and systems to improve products and services.

Advantages of innovation to small businesses:

  • Larger organisations often see smaller businesses as a source of innovation. Small businesses have an advantage of being flexible, adaptable to changing market conditions with rapid internal communications and decision making processes.
  • Innovation allows you to charge premium pricing. Bringing innovative ideas to the market allows you to compete on the benefits that innovation delivers to the customer which no one else can provide. Thus, you can charge a premium price for your product or service and make more profit.
  • A more attractive workplace for employees. Innovative businesses place great importance on company learning, benchmarking, training and networking. Businesses that have developed an innovative culture are more likely to attract and retain staff. Having a stable, knowledgeable and innovative workforce will become a key part of your business success.
  • See the Department’s Innovation section to learn more about innovation and support programs.

Winning major project work

It is important to recognise that there is no single approach or magic formula that will guarantee success in winning major project work, but some approaches are more likely to lead to success.  Ultimately your ability to be part of a major project supply chain will depend on the businesses in the chain forming a positive view about your business.


Winning Government contracts

The scale of major projects underway or in the pipeline in South Australia provides significant opportunities for high growth and prosperity for small and family businesses.

Business SA in conjunction with the Office of the Industry Advocate (OIA) has developed a Tendering Handbook which gives clear advice on what needs to be done so small businesses are better equipped to win government contracts. It is also a practical guide to help small business on tendering rules and requirements and managing the tender process.

For more information on winning contracts with the South Australian Government, contact:

Industry Participation Advocate
Phone: 8226 8956
Visit Industry Advocate

Business collaboration

Business collaboration is a way for small businesses to expand their client base and tap into new markets by partnering with other organisations to address skill or resource gaps, allowing them to bid for a wider range of work or for larger projects.

Importing and exporting

Global markets are vital to the future of South Australia’s economy. Overseas trade and investment helps generate jobs and billions of dollars for the State’s economy.

Importing and exporting are two strategies that could help to grow your business.

Before you start importing or exporting, seek professional advice to ensure that your products and services are ready and that you know how to operate in foreign markets and can comply with government regulations.


All competitive businesses should continually be seeking opportunities to improve supply chain management whilst reducing costs and boosting their profit margins. Importing goods or raw materials is one way of achieving this.

A successful importing strategy can help grow your business by enabling you to access higher quality and cheaper products and raw materials, reduce your manufacturing costs, and enable you to provide goods and services to new local (domestic) markets. 

All goods imported into Australia must be cleared by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

You should check to see if your goods fall under quarantine regulations as some products have been assessed as posing significant risk and are not allowed entry into Australia. Other products are only allowed into Australia upon the granting of an Import Permit from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

The Department of Agriculture provides an import conditions database - ICON which holds the Australian import conditions for over 20,000 plant, animal, microbial, mineral and human products.


Exporting enables you to grow your business by entering into overseas markets, thereby expanding your network/s, providing an opportunity to promote your business overseas and exposing you to new ideas, management practices, marketing techniques and ways of competing that you may not otherwise experience when operating solely within local (domestic) markets.  

Exporting can provide balance by spreading your risk and reducing your dependence on the domestic market. It can also increase your resilience and competitiveness within domestic markets.

Each overseas market is unique and can be very different to the Australian market - just because your products and services are desirable here, does not mean that they will be overseas where consumers may have very different needs and expectations.

You will need a sound understanding of the market/s culture, language and business practices.  You will also need to research export duties, insurance/s and finance, payment (currency) and trading terms, documentation and freight and logistics, distribution channels, market size, growth, the key players in the market.

Resources and downloads

  • Visit the Department’s Trade section to learn more about exporting from South Australia, key export markets, the Export Partnership Program and Tradestart assistance
  • Austrade has a step-by-step guide to exporting - from getting ready through to common legal issues.
  • Visit the Industry Capability Network for a list of local suppliers in Australia 
  • Visit Department of Immigration and Border Protection for general importing and exporting information including legislation controls (prohibited and restricted imports), packaging and labelling requirements, clearances, declarations, documentation and permits, intellectual property rights and applicable import duties, taxes and other costs. All goods imported into Australia must be cleared by Customs
  • Visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to learn more about Australia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that can make importing and exporting easier and more cost effective
  • Visit Asialink to download Country Starter Packs - how-to guides to help businesses get started or expand in Asia (China, Indonesia, Korea and Thailand), featuring business, marketing and legislative information, market insights, specific opportunities and practical case studies
  • Visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to find out about importing and exporting regulations in Australia. Some products have been assessed as posing significant risk and are not allowed entry into Australia. Other products are only allowed into Australia upon the granting of an Import Permit from the department
  • Use the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) to determine whether a commodity intended for import into Australia: is permitted; is subject to import conditions; requires supporting documentation; requires treatment; needs an import permit.
  • Manual of Importing Country Requirements (MICoR) - sets out the requirements that exporters must meet for products and commodities to be accepted for import into specific overseas countries. 

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