Media Release, 21 August 2015

Executive Risk Solutions (ERS), a Western Australian business whose owner transferred his battle zone experience in crisis management to Australia’s mining and energy sectors, was named tonight the 2015 Telstra Australian Business of the Year.

Scott Houston, who served in international conflicts as a former Special Air Services Regiment trooper, established his Perth-based business in 2008 offering emergency response, crisis management, global safety, specialist security, and post-incident reviews.

Also Medium Business Award winner at the 23rd Telstra Australian Business Awards, ERS has recruited a team of more than 100 specialists from police, fire and emergency services, and military special forces, that provides 24-hour service and tailored solutions for government agencies, major corporates and not-for-profits.

Other Awards winners were ice tea beverage manufacturer Nexba and cotton processor Southern Cotton, both from NSW, and two Victorians, industrial electrical specialists Furst Electrical and corporate uniform manufacturers Cargo Crew.

Mr Houston, CEO of ERS, said that when he secured his first major contract – for security for the Roy Hill Project in WA’s Pilbara region – he told his wife and business partner Fiona: “I am in the steepest learning curve of my life but I am having the time of my life.”

With teams working in WA, Queensland and the Middle East, ERS is renowned for the professionalism and capabilities of its personnel working in high-risk, remote areas such as mining, ports, oil and gas.

Proud of moving from the battlefields of Afghanistan to the boardrooms of Perth, Mr Houston says ERS’s journey from start-up to a $20 million company is an example of hard work, a can-do attitude and learning from advisors and mentors along the way.

“We have experienced exponential growth and, in a highly competitive market, we have focused on delivering a more professional service than our competitors. Our commitment to professional development is paramount to our success – our investment in sending key personnel to the US for training each year has opened new doors for us in the oil and gas industry and port facilities,” Mr Houston said.

ERS has branched out into vehicle design and fabrication for first-response emergency vehicles.

Will Irving, Telstra Business Group Managing Director and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said this year’s winners and finalists have built highly disciplined businesses, leveraging specialised expertise with deep customer commitment to offer high quality products and services, and enable them to expand into new sectors and markets.

“The 2015 national winners are run by inspiring and resilient individuals who have taken great personal risk to start their businesses. They are celebrated for having excelled in their innovation, sector leadership and growth and all have amazing potential.

“Executive Risk Services is a fast-growing company with deep expertise and a very strong business culture that they are leveraging across Australia and overseas. 

“Scott Houston has developed a world class team with proven expertise in emergency response that has expanded to broader risk and issue management services. His leadership is shown by an absolute commitment to high performance and investment in his staff.

“The spirit and diversity of the business has to be applauded; it rode the mining boom when the business began and it has continually focused on growth opportunities, leveraging its skills into large customers across a range of industries and along the value chain into health and safety and reputation management.

“As CEO, Scott plays to his strengths, recognises his weaknesses and knows where and when to seek advice. He has real commitment to his clients, whether giving protection for senior executives, providing risk mitigation or running disaster recovery planning,” Mr Irving said.

The Telstra Australian Business Awards were attended by Federal Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn, Telstra CFO Warwick Bray, senior Telstra executives and Awards Alumni including Anthony Kittel of 2014 Telstra Business of the Year, REDARC.

The winners of the 2015 Telstra Australian Business Awards are:

Start-up Award
Furst Electrical
Bayswater VIC

In 2012 Melbourne siblings Mark and Lee Furst created Furst Electrical, a specialist contractor in industrial electrical services for manufacturers and secondary processing businesses. The company designs, fabricates and installs electrical control systems to increase the competitiveness of Australian industry through automation and innovation. With 11 staff, they have won major contracts with multinational clients. Telstra Judges praised the financials that the business had achieved, as well as the high level of innovation the pair brought to highly complex electrical engineering niches.

Micro Business Award
Sydney NSW

Nexba began on a beach in Rio Nexpa, Mexico, in 2010 with engineer Drew Bilbe enjoying a cold glass of ice tea. Inspired to create his own natural, low-calorie real ice tea, he teamed with his childhood friend Troy Douglas to launch Nexba in 2011. It is stocked in national retailers Woolworths and Coles and has sold more than three million cans. Telstra Judges were impressed that the business has thrived in such a highly competitive space and described the duo as great role models for young entrepreneurs holding the values of Australian-made, sustainable and natural production.

Small Business Award
Cargo Crew
Brunswick East VIC

In 2002, Felicity Rodgers used her design experience to offer fashionable uniforms that would withstand the rigours of a busy workplace and that staff would be proud to wear. Her sister Narelle Craig and husband Paul Rodgers later joined the growing business, bringing advertising and operational management expertise. Cargo Crew’s uniforms are supplied to major clients such as Dulux and Renault. The Telstra Judges said the business has redefined the modern uniform and they praised its growth potential as it expands into the casual professional category.

Medium Business Award

Executive Risk Solutions
Myaree WA

Regional Award
Southern Cotton
Whitton NSW

Southern Cotton was born in 2011 when a greenfield site in Whitton was transformed into a $26 million gin that processed 166,234 bales in its first year. The business deploys best-in-class technology, from paddock to the finished bale, to give growers the best returns possible. Despite originally being declined access to capital and told by banks that no-one could do what they wanted to do in their time frame, the business now processes 190,000 bales a year which judges said was considered huge on a world scale.

Telstra Australian Business of the Year
Executive Risk Solutions Myaree WA
For more information about the Awards or to nominate for the 2016 Telstra Australian Business Awards, visit or call 1800AWARDS between 9am and 7pm AEST Monday to Friday. The Awards were established in 1992 to celebrated brilliant Australian small and medium businesses.