How should small businesses behave if they want to sell to big business?


What sort of behaviours should SMEs cultivate to be successful dealing with larger companies? Business Advantage PNG asked Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur Wayne Gerard and KPMG Australia’s Energy & Natural Resources Technology Partner, Barbara-Anne Bensted, who have been on both sides of the deal.

Chief Entrepreneur for Queensland and founder of tech firm RedEye, Wayne Gerard, and KPMG Australia’s Barbara-Anne Bensted. Both have done business in Papua New Guinea. Credit: BAI

Wayne Gerard, CEO, RedEye and Chief Entrepreneur for Queensland

Prior to founding my two most recent companies, I was a consultant for a number of years, and was always working with large corporates. So, when I started at a small business, I really had the opportunity to take a clean sheet of paper and build a business from day one that cared about culture, that cared about diversity, that cared about inclusion, that had a great set of ethics and the right operating practices.

So, for me, building a business from the ground up that really had the hallmarks of a large business from day one has actually allowed me to scale and it has allowed my business to now service some of the world’s leading organisations and help them manage over AUD$350 billion (K898 billion) worth of assets.

Barbara-Anne Bensted, Energy & Natural Resources Technology Partner at KPMG Australia

One of the other things that’s key is transparency.

Wayne Gerard

Big time.

Barbara-Anne Bensted

… because, as a large corporate, being able to partner with a small-to-medium enterprise, you do actually have to have a degree of transparency. I don’t think you can overplay that enough, particularly when you tie that in with the values and ethics area. That will hold you much longer past the transactional nature of what you may do with an individual business. If you display ethics, values and transparency, you will build long-term relationships.

Wayne Gerard

An example of that would be, for us as an organisation, we go ‘open book’: we have transparent openness around the scope, the schedule, the budget, how we intend to deliver things.

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‘No one knows the business of the client better than the client.’

When we’re working with our large mining customers, for example, we literally sit down with a customer and go, “Right. Here’s every activity in the project plan. Here’s the activity, here’s the effort, here’s the time. Does this make sense? Is this going to solve the problem the way you envisaged it being solved? Is there anything else we need to add to our project plan and schedule to make sure we can deliver the outcome for you inside your business operating environment?”

Because no one knows the business of the client better than the client.

Inevitably, there are unforeseen circumstances whenever you’re delivering something that’s large and complex for a large customer. And, as small business, often you have less capacity to react to some of those uncontrolled situations.

So, I have to be transparent and say to my other clients, “Hey, we’re on track, however we’ve had this challenge with one client, this is the impact to you.”

Be really proactive and transparent with that and I think that builds trust and confidence and that builds your credibility in the market.

Barbara-Anne Bensted

I think one of the things that I would point out is, it never hurts to ask.

Quite often, I think small-to-medium enterprises feel intimidated by larger clients. And I think it never hurts to ask, knock on the door, ask, see what they think, make an offer, as Wayne said, come up with a proposition.

It might surprise you just how often that you will at the very least get a hearing, quite often get some good feedback and may even walk away with a deal.

This is an edited extract from a longer ‘keynote discussion’ between Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur Wayne Gerard and KPMG Australia’s Barbara-Anne Bensted during the 2021 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference. If you missed the conference, you can gain access to all the exclusive presentations, slides and videos from the event with an on-demand ticket.


  1. Brian Dyson says

    I do business with some very large companies in PNG but find you are often treated with some distain no matter what valuable service you provide. They are really slow to pay on completion and extremely poor communicators on the whole. Its tragic really, good operators can’t continue to business with them and the cowboys emerge from the shadows with their shady deals, corrupt practices and total disregard for their workers or safety measures. I persevere only because the new generation of Papua New Guineans are so aspirational.

  2. Karu Philly says

    1.Why is there problems faced with local smes to prosper?
    2. What is one business that you help to grow and is now successful in PNG, while inPNG

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