John Bretherton is the director, sales and marketing, at the Computer Learning Centre in Milton, Queensland. He started out as an apprentice golf pro at the age of 17, and went on to a sales career in various fields, including financial planning, franchising and information technology training. He is a member of AIM.
AIM: You have been involved in a wide variety of fields. How did you come to information technology?
Bretherton: Probably by default. I was between jobs and did not really want to move into a full-time position. I came down here and saw that things needed to be changed. I had to pretty much start the whole thing over again. So, what was going to be a two-day job helping out in sales finished up as a 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week job.
AIM: In your assessment, is the Australian education system up to meeting the challenges of a globalised economy?
Bretherton: It is always changing, so people are always needing to upskill and become more productive. I do see it as a growth area. The kids coming out of school are much more au fait than, say, people over the age of 30. But there are a still a lot of skill gaps, even with graduates coming out of university. There are quite a few gaps in the theory they have studied. They need to be able to apply the theory to the real world.
AIM: Why are Australian businesses struggling to adopt e-commerce?
Bretherton: I put it down to fear of the unknown. Australian businesses have always been slow to grasp new technology. But when they finally do, they do it 110%. Once people understand the benefits of e-commerce and increase their understanding of how it all works, it is going to be a very effective way of doing business; it will be much easier and quicker.
AIM: What do you say to people who are now questioning whether the internet is core to the business?
Bretherton: It is a relatively new area of business and there has been a lot of hype with the dot-coms not delivering what they promised. People have been burnt. I think that as things settle down, Australian business will embrace it more. But it may not suit every business.
AIM: Do you think some businesses have focused too much on technology and not enough on the customer?
Bretherton: We train a lot of our people in customer service. A good business will always focus on its clients rather than technology, which should be used to enhance service to the client.
AIM: What are the smart managers doing in the slowdown?
Bretherton: They are keeping abreast of what developments are happening in technology while keeping their staff involved in quality customer service and looking for different ways of marketing their products.
AIM: How do businesses focus on training in tough times?
Bretherton: There exists a government initiative to upgrade the skills of the Australian workforce. New employees can be trained at no cost to employers. There are also incentives for use in training existing staff that are indirectly funded by the government. We offer training in print design, and there is a call centre that focuses on customer service, information technology and business administration.
AIM: What is the next big thing?
Bretherton: Microsoft has brought out a new package: XP. The Macintosh world is getting very excited about the new operating system, OS10.1. Both are very different to what has been available in the past. We hope that these packages will be more effective in streamlining business.
Robotics and voice-activated technology will increase simply because they will make things easier. Voice-activated word processing will enable people without typing skills to “type” letters. They are already using voice-activated technology in communications. Robotics has been around and growing for quite a few years.