Sky's the limit if you catch a good wave

Timing is everything, but it helps to know current trends, writes Christine Long.

Timing is everything, but it helps to know current trends, writes Christine Long.

If you're still trying to find your niche, a report by Deloitte Access Economics could offer some inspiration. Positioning for Prosperity? Catching the Next Wave identifies five "super-growth industry sectors" likely to provide a $250 billion boost to the Australian economy in the next 20 years.

Deloitte's Chris Richardson says mining will continue to be a major driver of prosperity but "that boom is slowing and our competitive advantage is being challenged".

The next "super-growth waves" will come from gas, tourism, international education, wealth management and agribusiness.

We spoke to three businesses intent on catching one of the next big waves.

Tourism: Eureka Skydeck 88

When you hold the title of highest public vantage point in the southern hemisphere (88 floors up), you can lose your competitive edge in a jiffy if someone decides to build a taller tower. To grow beyond one-hit-wonder status the company has kept investing in technology, customer service training and building relationships since it opened in 2007.

General manager John Forman says: "We built the observation deck with cutting-edge technology in its day and over the years we've continually upgraded our technology."

Also key to keeping the visitors coming are close links with event tourism bodies, cruise markets and taking some chances.

Skydeck generated about $1.5 million of publicity globally through its King Kong collaboration in May, in which King Kong climbed the tower to mark the opening of the stage musical in Melbourne.

"That was a big risk for us financially, but it definitely paid off in those first two months," says Forman.

The business plans to open another attraction on the rooftop. One thing is certain, though, it won't involve bungee-jumping.

"Eureka is primarily a residential tower so I'm sure a lot of residents wouldn't want someone bungeeing down while they were having a shower," says Forman.

International education: Higher Education Consulting Group

David Wright didn't need to do much digging to see the business opportunity in international education. From the moment he left his role as vice-president at Macquarie University he was approached by a US university needing help developing its international capability.

"The average university in Australia is 22-24 per cent international students - that's almost double the UK and 10 times the US," Wright says. "Places around the world are looking to Australia to say: 'How do we manage agents? How do we manage pathways? How do we manage marketing in-country?"'

Although the business was officially launched in June, it was fielding calls from early in the year.

Wright also sees an opportunity to help Australian universities maintain their world-leading position via strategy development and marketing.

The challenge? Identifying and building relationships within universities responsible for strategic development.

Wealth management: Blue Sky Alternative Investments

Investment director Alexander McNab says the Blue Sky business could not have been launched at a worse time, kicking off in early 2007 just before the global financial crisis. "It was horrific timing." Fortunately, from there the only way was up.

It saw an opportunity to provide Australian investors with access to alternative investments by offering private equity and venture capital, hedge funds, private real estate and real assets.

"In Australia, investors across the board are investing much less in alternatives than they are offshore and I think that's detrimental to investment returns in those portfolios," McNab says.

It now has $400 million in funds under management. Once that would have come solely from large superannuation funds but now the fastest growing part of the business comes from the escalating self-managed super fund sector.

What could prevent the business from capturing a bigger slice of that growth opportunity? Only investment performance, McNab says. "We have a view that if we can maintain our investment track record there's nothing that would prevent us from getting to a couple of billion dollars in three to five years' time."

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