The right staff

Most Australian dot-coms see having the right staff as the most important factor in reaching growth targets, but it's not getting any easier to find or keep them.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu's inaugural dot-com CEO survey reports that dot-coms are still "full of confidence", with an average expected growth rate of 160 per cent in the next year. But 90 per cent of respondents saw having staff with relevant skills as the most important factor impacting on that growth.

"The key to success, as with any fast-growing business, is having quality people and being able to maintain vitality through periods of exponential growth," says Peter Williams, the national leader of Deloitte's e-business practice and a dot-com specialist.

"The shortage of skills is a global phenomenon and is worsening in an increasingly tight employment market. But dot-coms still have some advantage over traditional players in that they offer an ‘in' into an exciting market."

Williams says that while most of the dot-coms he deals with have quality people, he agrees that staffing problems are not going to go away. As a result, he predicts a move away from traditional business infrastructures to a business arena in which there will be many more mergers, partnerships and acquisitions.

"While many companies are still not very good at acquisitions, due to problems ranging from clashes of culture to process differences, solutions will be found quicker than many expect," he said. "It's all to do with connectivity. We're still in the caveman phase when it comes to this. But the real-time, all-time connectivity solutions that are emerging at a rapid pace will drive many new business models and solutions."

Williams adds that while dot-coms initially sold themselves on culture and employee option schemes, the recent drop in the share price of technology companies means they will need to re-evaluate these schemes to ensure they are able to retain and attract talented staff.

Deloitte's survey canvassed the views of CEOs from 88 of Australia's leading dot-com and internet technology companies, with an average turnover of $13.5 million. Other important factors impacting on company growth included understanding the target market (88 per cent) and having innovative ideas (84 per cent).

Another key finding of the survey was that 62 per cent of respondents believe that the e-business strategies of traditional businesses present an increasingly significant threat to dot-coms.

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