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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Joanna Andrew


Raised in the Riverland on a grape and citrus property, Joanna Andrew became a partner in the South Australian legal firm Mellor Olsson at the age of 28.

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Four years later, she became the youngest woman to be invited into the capital partnership of the firm.

In recent years, Andrew’s legal career has diversified from the practice of personal injury and medical negligence into corporate law and board advisory work.

Last month the 38-year old was named a winner in InDaily’s inaugural 40 Under 40 Awards.

Andrew has developed a wide board portfolio across different industries and is the Independent Chairman of Australian Vignerons.

We asked her some more about doing business in South Australia.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

SA has strong referral networks and loyalty stemming from a smaller, close-knit business community. There is a strong sense of helping out other SA businesses before going interstate within the private sector, which provides better opportunities for cross-referrals.  I think this stems from a very strong parochial community with businesses supporting other SA businesses. We’ve also seen that there is a sense of pride with this support and a willingness/keenness to help other businesses out when things are not going so well. A great example of this is Spring Gully and the outpouring of support from both the business community and local consumers which led to increased sales, helping to rescue the business.

Travel is made easy with access to the airport, which is centrally located and of a high standard. Since its renovations, the airport itself is now a great introduction to our state for business colleagues and tourists visiting from interstate and overseas. Combined with the central location of our state, this all makes business travel readily accessible and less stressful.

Affordability of doing business in SA is a great advantage as our overheads (such as CBD rent) are far less than our eastern counterparts which means that we can be flexible and take more calculated risks when investing and putting money back into the business.

Opportunities are increasing in our state at a rapid rate. Initiatives such as 10Gig city, the old RAH site being reinvigorated for entrepreneurial developments, the upcoming overhaul of the riverbank and the formation of ThincLab within the Business School at the University of Adelaide all offer more incentives for entrepreneurial activities and increase the appetite to try something new within our economy in different and exciting sectors.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

There are difficulties with CEO and executive recruitment and retention which is in part related to wages that are typically lower than those offered in the eastern states. This is also as a result of the lack of large businesses and international organisations based here. This all impacts on economic growth, scale and quality of client bases and limits links to overseas/interstate opportunities for further growth and development of relationships.

SA has for a number of years lost young people to bigger cities for training, education and employment prospects. While some of these return to the state, it’s often not until they are at executive level that they do so, which has limited the ability of businesses to employ home grown talent at middle management level.

Recently, we’ve seen a stagnant economy which has mirrored cash flow issues and a general lack of business confidence. We have an ageing population which doesn’t stimulate the economy through the creation or purchase of new businesses, employment or property. There is also a lack of strategy within businesses as a result of our economic issues and a focus on the bottom line as opposed to assessing growth and opportunity. The red tape and bureaucracy historically placed on private entities and restrictions in practice can undermine business confidence. In Adelaide there is a general lack of appetite for risk and a lack of big business willing to fund new projects, which means the major projects that do get off the ground are ultimately owned by interstate businesses. While the ‘Old Adelaide’ mentality and established referral networks can be an advantage in some ways, it does make it harder for those who are new to our state to break in and make new connections.

Do you see your future in South Australia?

Yes, absolutely. I was born, raised and educated in regional SA in the Riverland, and my family all proudly reside in SA still.

I choose to raise my two children here as the lifestyle is fantastic for family as well as being a place in which I can expand business opportunities.

Mellor Olsson Lawyers has a sole focus on SA: we have fully staffed offices in Adelaide, Clare and Port Lincoln with other regional offices operated by appointment.

I am committed to giving back to SA through my not for profit work with board services and good governance training. Ultimately, this further strengthens the services which are available for other South Australians who are less fortunate than myself.

I am committed to addressing regional issues in SA. I achieve this in part through advocating for agricultural policy which protects our farming land and rights as well as our environment. My board work within the disability sector also includes expanding services to our regional communities where unfortunately many miss out.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

I believe it is important to really push our fantastic lifestyle difference in comparison to our eastern seaboard. Easy transport and ability to access the CBD is something that cannot be achieved for many other states and countries. Additionally, the quality and affordability of housing and schooling in Adelaide cannot be beaten across Australia.

Stronger developments and incentives within the private sector to encourage succession planning and opportunities for the younger generation and progression for professionals coming through the ranks.

With the increase in the diversity of our economy and general growth/business confidence, there should be an increase in wages. Along with this, I think many SA businesses need to also address lifestyle incentives for employees so that we are promoting a better work/life balance.

Established businesses need to concentrate on supporting new and emerging businesses in order to enable and sustain the state’s economic growth.

More about 40 Under 40

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.

The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.

For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.

40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:

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