From its base in Sydney, Rode Microphones makes product that is exported all over the world. The brand is one of the most innovative in the hugely competitive audio market. 

But it wasn’t always that way. At Microsoft Australia’s Joined-Up-Innovation event in Canberra, guest speaker Rode Microphones founder Peter Freedman spoke frankly about how he lost it all before hitting the big time. Peter also explained why you don’t have to have an original idea that’s a world-beater from day one, and why those starting out shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. 

FEATURE: The RØDE microphones story began 22 years ago.

Selling microphones was a way for me to try and make some money to get out of the nightmare of debt I had created in the late 80’s.

I had lost over a million dollars, and was forced to sell the house. We had two small children, and no real income. Character building!

I only wish something like Joined up innovation had been there to help me when I started the next stage of my business life.

At least I can now be a part of this major change in business culture, and through it, hopefully help other Australians.

The experience of serious financial difficulty made me very hungry for success. It made me understand how easy it is to fail, and also what business is all about. Making money.

What I have just said is very important, as I believe many people forget to articulate it, and keep it in the forefront of their business plans.

My wife and I now own one of the world’s fastest growing, most admired pro audio brands.

We have no partners, no debt, and money is no longer an issue.

We export 97% of what we produce to well over 100 countries. There is not a major city in the world where you can’t buy a RØDE microphone.

Along with this, I am very proud to say we actually manufacture these products here in Australia.

One mistake many people make when thinking about business success in Australia is to believe start-ups are the only way forward.

While start-ups are very cool, there are also many small businesses that already have a solid base.

In so many cases these people have many years of experience; all they need is the motivation to look for opportunities within their core competencies, and a little help.

You also don’t need to be innovative from the start. It’s great if you can be, but in many cases it’s an unrealistic aim.

Today RØDE produces some of the most technically advanced precision microphones in the world. We lead our industry in innovation. Design thinking is at the base of everything we do.

But when we started RØDE we were not being innovative in any way.

We were modifying a cheap Chinese microphone that was a copy of a German microphone.

It sold because it was a great product for the money.

This is how we became involved in the manufacture of microphones. We were making good money and we had the philosophy of continuous improvement in our mind at all times.

Innovation was a natural by product of these actions.

So you don’t need to be the best in the world from day one; you just need excellence in everything you do as your goal.

We need to make sure the next generation understands this.

We also need to encourage them to ask for help.

There are many business people like me who would welcome the chance to offer advice on everything from export, sales, marketing and manufacturing.

What an amazing - and yet currently untapped - resource.

We have a very strong culture of self-sufficiency and secrecy in Australia. Businesses are reluctant to show their hand. Most think they have to be able to survive on their own.

This attitude must stop. We must collaborate to survive on the world stage.

Joined up innovation is a great way to help Australians achieve future success in business.

There is so much talent here, we just need to showcase it, and have a way for people to network for mutual success.

We also need to have more confidence in ourselves and highlight the success stories.

While we are well placed to be strong in tourism, IT, education, food production, and of course natural resources, manufacturing produces more jobs and more associated revenue as other companies are established to service the manufacturers.

The generation of strong brands that are based on products with solid IP are also less subject to the vagaries of world economic cycles.

We don’t just need high tech, high value advanced manufacturing either.

I know Australia can make anything, in any market sector as long as it does not require large amounts of manual labour.

RØDE produces some very low cost consumer goods. There is no secret in how we do that. We apply design thinking to every product. We have the best in automated production machinery, and then we produce large quantities and market heavily so that our dealers around the world can easily sell what we produce.

We all need to be master brand builders and marketers. Nothing happens until someone sells something.Export is key. Every venture must have export as its focus. The Australian market is too small to be viable on its own.

If we even implement a fraction of what is possible, we will see more job creation and a higher standard of living for us all. We live in the best country in the world, and I am sincerely excited about Australia’s future.