Steve Baxter speaking in Rockhampton.
Steve Baxter speaking in Rockhampton. Allan Reinikka ROK080317abaxter1

Rocky's top business export shares secrets to success

GET out of the way, take down barriers and let young people get on with the job.

That's entrepreneur Steve Baxter's advice for all levels of government looking to capitalise on and grow innovative start-up businesses.

The former North Rockhampton High School student made some of his millions with schoolmate Bevan Slattery, with the pair launching PIPE Networks in 2001.

Since leaving the company, he's launched several other businesses and, in 2015, joined the team on Shark Tank Australia where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas for real investment.

This week, Steve is part of a team of entrepreneurs travelling through regional and remote Queensland to show students innovation isn't limited by location.

While Rockhampton proved an ideal place for a family to grow up, Steve said it hadn't influenced his business work.

He had left the city at the end of Year 11 to join the Australian Defence Force, where he spent nine years as a regular soldier.

It was these experiences outside his home state which Steve said had more impact on his future career.

Siblings Ros Baxter, Amy Andrews and Steve Baxter grew up in Rockhampton. Amy and Ros are both authors, while Steve is on Shark Tank as a successful businessman.
Siblings Ros Baxter, Amy Andrews and Steve Baxter grew up in Rockhampton. Amy and Ros are both authors, while Steve is on Shark Tank as a successful businessman. Contributed

Yet, he hasn't been able to shake ties to regional Queensland.

"It's surprising, the number of Rocky people in Brisbane and elsewhere is amazing,” Steve said.

"It felt like with PIPE for many years we were constantly doing business with ex-Rocky people.

"We used to call it the Rocky Mafia.

"It's not easy doing business in the regions.

"They're smaller economies and therefore it's a bit more competitive and in lot of respects.

"If you can do bloody well in the regions, you can do well pretty much anywhere, it breeds pretty resilient business people.”

Steve cited Apple's App Store as an example of how people could reach up to half a billion customers from anywhere in the world.

"You can do this from anywhere in the world,” he said.

"Will it work? I have no idea and you don't either until you just go and do it.”

But before doing anything, Steve said young entrepreneurs needed to do more than simply have an idea.

He said those looking to get into that business space needed the right skills and a problem people would pay to have solved.

Then they can create a solution.

"The idea to solve it might change over time, but the problem is usually always valid,” Steve said.

Shark Tank hosts L-R Steve Baxter, Janine Allis, Andrew Banks, Naomi Simson and John McGrath
Photo Lisa Benoit / The Morning Bulletin
Shark Tank hosts L-R Steve Baxter, Janine Allis, Andrew Banks, Naomi Simson and John McGrath Photo Lisa Benoit / The Morning Bulletin Lisa Benoit ROK

Most people will recognise Steve from Shark Tank, a forum which he believes is a great way for businesses to get their names known even if they don't walk away with an investment.

Each pitch usually lasts over an hour, but Steve said that was condensed to roughly 10 minutes on screen.

"We dispense a lot of advice,” he said.

"I recommend everyone has a crack.

"It's a half a million dollar TV ad if you get on. That's a hell of a start to a business.”

When it comes to advice for governments to help facilitate start-ups, Steve's message was simple.

"In all layers of government, I suggest you get out of the way,” he said.

"Old people shouldn't tell young people what's good.

"I've been on way too many roundtables, usually with government, where they sit there and say 'I think we should concentrate on CD-ROM publishing' or something equally as archaic.

"I'm 46 now and ten years ago I was too old to be making decisions on behalf of young people.

"You need to super encourage and get enthusiastic, highly skilled young people and let them go.

"Don't give them any boundaries.”



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