I, like many others, was sad to learn of the hundreds of jobs lost when Australia’s biggest steel maker, BlueScope Steel announced the closure of its Port Kembla, NSW steelworks and its Western Port steel mill at Hastings just outside Melbourne.

Since then we have heard a litany of responses sheeting home the blame at everything from the high Australian dollar to the failure of Government to insist on Australian content clauses in resource contracts. During the debate we heard from many Australian engineering companies and smaller operators who should be prospering from the resources boom and are obviously not. While I can understand the concerns of all our manufacturers, I do believe we are approaching the problem with the usual left brain thinking and looking for solutions in the wrong place. Respected consultative guru Tom Peters, himself an engineer, once said,”The problem is never the problem. The response to the problem is almost always the real problem.”

In my experience the resolution to any problem, large or small lies in this bleeding flash of the obvious and in a further insight into the issue, genius Albert Einstein added his own unique comment when he stated, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Taking all this on board, what is it that we have missed here? Something that is so simple it has passed us by at 100 miles per hour. Why can we not get overseas companies, who buy our resource rich minerals to use our products and services? In my opinion the answer can be found in what we call SELLING.

If any other organisation fails to SELL its product , we fire the sales team and train a better one. I know for a fact that engineering companies do not have great marketing skills nor an appreciation of its potency and they have for a long time failed to develop their marketing departments or hire people with the right skills. Yes it is a competitive world, and yes the odds are stacked against us, but waiting for legislation or a Government handout is not the answer. That sort of thinking simply foists the blame for our own inadequacies on some other authority who have neither the resources or the ability to resolve the issue long term.

It’s time Australian companies held a resources Expo to demonstrate their skills, products, services and differentials, forcing state Governments to listen to their offerings and opening the door State on State to present what they have. Often their products are better, not cheaper, but significantly better and they need marketers and skilled sales people to create the tools to convince, cajole and lobby. What they don’t need is a bandaid fix that will force overseas companies to use a work force they resent.

Save for the food and their allied businesses, Australia has never nurtured strong marketing departments in our manufacturing industries – look at their websites for evidence of this. We do however have differentials and we must create more.

SELLING the manufacturing industry is an awesome responsibility, because thousands of lives depend on it. I don’t know how hard BlueScope worked on its marketing but however hard it tried it certainly failed to convince and create desire for the product. Firing a 1000 people can’t be a happy situation but I wonder what light BlueScope’s marketing budget might shed on the demise of this important organisation.