5 & 6 April 2022
Photography credit: Camera Creations
The COSBOA National Small Business Summit, held over two days in Sydney, welcomed key political and industry leaders, and discussion on the future of the small business economy in Australia. The theme: Perspectives, Policy, and Purpose, had speakers discussing the pathways out of COVID-19, as well as the recent floods, plus there was robust policy conversation on tax, competition, industrial relations, workplace relations, digitisation, tenancy and landlords, insurance, and innovation.
Here are our highlights from 2022:
#1 NSW Treasurer focuses on female founders
The Hon. Matt Kean, NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy, officially opened the Summit acknowledging the powerhouse that is small business to the economy, saying “We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with small business in NSW.”
Mr Kean went on to announced that the NSW government is close to signing off on a new tranche of capital to support female founders, understood to be upwards of $10 million.
“We need to address both the gender pay gap and the gender investment gap which sees less early-stage capital flowing towards women business owners,” he said.
“That’s despite the fact that women make great entrepreneurs, with female-founded start-ups generating on average twice the return as start-ups founded by men.
“Investing in start-ups founded by women isn’t just the right decision ethically, it’s the smart decision commercially,” finished Mr Kean.
To find out more about how the NSW Government is support small business, visit: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/business
#2 Australian Labor Party announce themselves ‘the party of small business’
The Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party was next to address the room saying, “small business is the backbone of the Australian economy and has been taken for granted by the Morrison government for too long.”
He went on to describe the ALP as ‘the party of small business’, announcing ALP’s plans which will require invoices paid within 30 days to benefit more than 2 million firms and millions of employees would benefit from quicker payment terms and a plan to reduce transaction costs.
He ended the session saying what small business needs is a thoughtful government.
#3 Regulators said they aim to streamline their processes
The highly anticipated regulators power panel was facilitated by CEO of COSBOA, Alexi Boyd who welcomed Anna Longley, Assistant Commissioner - General Counsel of Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits; Danielle Press, ASIC Commissioner; Sandra Parker, Fair Work Ombudsman; Jeremy Hirschhorn, Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Gina Cass-Gottlieb, Chair of ACCC.
The discussion from the panel focused on building better open communications with small business to inform their efforts, from streamlining processes to business audits, all in a uniformed effort to create a ‘level playing field’.
Ms Press, ASIC said, “it is critically important to make sure big business is acting appropriately with small businesses.”
The Q&A section reinforced the regulators efforts to digitise; to simplify their processes, educate small businesses on the tools available and communicate clearer.
Ms Parker, Fair Work Ombudsman, said “we need to tell businesses what the law is and what the requirements are. We’ve found some small businesses tie themselves in red tape and make processes more complicated. We are constantly trying to help and communicate better.”
“As regulators we are trying to work out how to better share information. As opposed to having it separate,” said Ms Press.
See a list of quick links below to access small business tools from the regulators:
#4 A debate from both sides: landlords vs tenants
A hot topic – with the pandemic throwing more fuel to the fire – was the ‘Commercial Tenancy Divide’ which brought together experts to discuss both sides of the debate. The rising rent costs and the ability to extend the rent relief for small business (over the last two years) led the discussion with Lynda McAlary-Smith, Victorian Small Business Commissioner; Maree Adshead, Queensland Small Business Commissioner; Kelly Cunningham, Your Leasing Co; and Stephen Spring, Australian Retail Lease Management; all weighing in.
The consensus from the panel was that we needed to shift from reactive to proactive mediation to solve problems quickly. This was particularly evident with rent agreement, rates, gathering data, disaster relief and revitalising CBDs.
“We have lost sight of the fact we need small business for the economy,” said Stephen Spring, Australian Retail Lease Management.
See a list of quick links below to access small business tools and information:
#5 A message from the Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations
Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations, spoke about the importance of small business to the Australian economy.
“$314 billion in total economic support measures, this included the JobKeeper payment.”
She went on to say that Australia’s unemployment rate is at 4% as of February 2022. “This is the lowest unemployment rate in almost 14 years. As at Jan 2022, the Australian Government have supported around 1.8 million jobs.”
“For the first time, we are providing $5.6 million to set up a dedicated small business unit in the Fair Work Commission, to provide tailored support when dealing with the commission.”
#6 An honest chat with the Australian Council of Trade Unions
Peter Strong, Former CEO of COSBOA led this session with Sally McManus, Secretary, Australian Council of Trade Unions, to talk about unions in the lead up to the election.
“For the union movement the most important thing is fairness. For the last 10 years we have stalled, working people, haven’t moved ahead like big business has. We would essentially like to see more sharing in the wealth of the nation.”
Ms McManus outlined two main goals:
Better job security - in relation to the shifting workforce and rise of casual roles and less permanent job placements. “We aren’t saying we need to get rid of casual workers, nor are we looking to take away the choice from people. It’s more the jobs that are ongoing, these jobs need better security.”
Making sure pay keeps up to the cost of living – the cost of living has increased, but pays are going backwards.
“We would like to be in a position to be investing and reskilling in our own people. We don’t want our economy to rely on only young people and visa workers.”
“We should be more self-sufficient as a country,” said Ms McManus.
Ms McManus also discussed how the ACTU and COSBOA should aim for a bipartisan solution to find common ground.
#7 Powering digitalisation
Throughout all the discussions, a common theme emerged around small business digitising and modernising their systems.
Rosemary Sinclair AO, CEO, .au Domain Administration; David Field, Director, OZEDI; and Shaye Thyer, Head of Accounting, INTUIT; shared their insights on how technology is being used to help small businesses to simplify admin and have their time valued higher.
“Our research tells us that there are a small number (1 in 7) businesses yet to digitise. While 98% of business in Australia say that the internet is an invaluable tool. But 22% are worried about cyber security,” says Ms Sinclair.
Another hot topic was the introduction of e-invoicing. With roughly 1.2 billion invoices per year, e-invoicing could save small businesses millions in time and money.
With investments into technology and cybersecurity, small businesses have access to free tools, like aucheck.com.au where they can check their internet services are up to date and www.einvoicing.com a guide on finding an einvoicing solution.
#8 Mental health, wellbeing, and small business
Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia & Chair of Beyond Blue, started this session sharing key insights into small business owners’ mental health and how Beyond Blue continues to support individuals and workplaces.
Ms Gillard said, “Small business is both vital to Australia’s economy and the backbone of many of our communities. Running a small business is always challenging and it can be isolating and stressful.”
“Research commissioned by the Department of Treasury in 2020, showed almost 1 in 3 business owners reported a diagnosis of stress, anxiety, or depression in the last 12 months. Timely access to affordable mental health support can be the difference for someone quickly getting back on their feet or sliding further into a dark place.
“Small business owners are often deeply emotionally invested in their business. It’s part of their identity and sense of self and they can feel personally responsible for its performance and the welfare of their employees. That’s a lot of pressure for one person to withstand.
“Nearly a third of business owners agree is it difficult to find information about mental health support services available to them,” stated Ms Gillard.
Beyond Blue recommend a number of things small business owners can do to create mentally healthy workplaces to reduce stress and support themselves and their employees, including developing a wellbeing plan.
Access free resources for small business owners below:
The second half of this session was with Prof. Andrew Carr, Clinical Immunology, St Vincent's Hospital Australia and mediated by Christine Pope, Board Director of COSBOA, which focused on demystifying vaccinations in relation to small business.
The Q&A that followed Prof. Andrew Carr’s presentation, answered questions around the views on boosters, the likely hood of yearly vaccinations and effectiveness of RATs. The session provided invaluable insights.
Day one of the Summit ended on a high with the Gala Dinner, with presentations from American Express, Commonwealth Bank, Greg Ward, and Alexi Boyd. COSBOA’s Small Business Champion was awarded to Jo Palmer, Founder of Pointer Remote, for her work in bridging the gap between small businesses and a rurally located workforce.
#9 Working together - our recovery is leading the world
The Hon Stuart Robert MP, Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, opened the Summit on day two, reiterating the support government have given and continue to give, small businesses.
Mr Robert started by speaking about the recent floods, “The Morrison government, with the relevant state governments, have already announced $1.7 billion of support to New South Wales and over $1.35 billion to Queensland to rebuild after the floods.”
Moving on, Mr Robert spoke about the cost-of-living pressures and the cost of business.
“We are providing $1.6 billion in tax relief to support more than 3.6 million small businesses to increase their digital uptake and skills capabilities through a bonus 20% deduction. This is a big deal and will go a long way to modernising Australia’s small businesses.”
His opening addresses also outlined the initiatives in the budget to support small businesses saying, “to further illustrate the Government’s commitment to enabling small businesses to grow, innovate and create more jobs, the 2022-23 Budget contained an additional $25.2 million for initiatives that support small businesses, including $8 million for the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to work with service providers to enhance small business capability.”
#10 A competitive marketplace is vital for the consumer
Facilitated by the Hon Bruce Billson GAICD, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, this panel session with Fred Harrison, CEO, Ritchies Supermarket; Alan Tse, Co-Founder Altina Drinks; and Jo Palmer, Founder, Pointer Remote; discussed competition between big and small business in Australia and its importance to the consumer.
“The law doesn’t protect competitors, it protects competition,” said Ms Palmer.
Mr Harrison was adamant that it’s important to competition in Australia that the independent voice be heard. His key points were to “never let any player get to a point where they own 50% or more of the market,” and “to give consumers a choice” [in product].
The trio went on to describe what they would change if they were PM for a day, and how they would support small businesses to enable fair competition with the big businesses.
#11 Real success stories from small business
Since 2019, new businesses have faced bushfires, a pandemic, lockdowns and now floods – and yet, three very different, innovative business owners have found their success. In this session we heard how Miriam Rizvi, co-founder of The Beanies; Stephanie Weiss, Founder and CEO of Arula; and Sarah Collingwood, co-owner of Four Winds Vineyard, survived, pivoted, and innovated to drive future success for their businesses.
Facilitated by Sandy Chong, CEO, Australia Hairdressing Council, Sandy asked key questions around funding during the pandemic and what the challenges are right now.
#12 Cybersecurity and small business
Back on a more serious note, this panel on cybersecurity brought together Abigail Bradshaw, Australian Cyber Security Centre (Virtual); Daniel Lewkovitz, Calamity; and Matthew Prouse, Digital Service Providers Australia New Zealand; to talk about the importance of investing in cybersecurity for small business.
“You never get back the reputation after an attack. You don’t recover easily. It’s overwhelming. It’s your responsibility to make sure your systems are protected,” says Mr Lewkovitz.
Ms Bradshaw detailed the findings of ACSC cyber threat 2020-21 report revealing email phishing is the most common way small business are caught out. She went on to share that they found 68,000 incidents of cybercrime were reported via ReportCyber, an increase of nearly 13 per cent from the previous financial year – approx. one cybercrime report is made approximately every eight minutes in Australia.
Mr Prouse talked about small businesses being aware off the minimum-security levels to alleviate risks and said if an online service is free then it might not be secure.
This interesting and intense panel made us all thinking about our commitment to ensuring assets are safe and secure online.
To skill-up on cyber security visit:
#13 Insurance: To claim or not to claim
“We’re working in the perfect storm of issues in insurance,” says Andrew Hall, Insurance Council of Australia.
This session ‘The Insurance Dilemma’ invited Andrew Hall, Insurance Council of Australia and Alexandra Hordern, Director, ASBFEO to speak about the complexities of policy, what small businesses should be aware of when negotiating their insurance and how and when they can claim.
Ms Hordern says they hear from “small business saying they very rarely get paid out because there’s always something that happens to say that they haven’t done everything they could to protect themselves.”
Both agreed understanding policy, contracts and really understanding your insurance would be the best way to manage risk.
If you’re an organisation that helps small businesses, find out more about ASBFEO’s Policy & Advocacy resources
If your member small businesses need help, check out ASBFEO’s Disputes & Assistance resources.
#14 Reports on the Economy
The final panel of the day invited Robert Tedesco, Vice President & General Manager - Global Merchant Services Australia & New Zealand, American Express and John Shepherd, General Manager leading the Industry Statistics Division at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS); to speak about the impact small business has to the economy and the changes they’ve seen over the last few years.
“The road to recovery remains a difficult one,” says Mr Tedesco, who spoke about the impact the pandemic has had to small business merchants. The American Express campaign Shop Small is in its 10th year, and Mr Tedesco commented that they have seen small business react in three different ways to the pandemic – tripled business, stayed the same or lost business.
He also went on to say, “It takes decades to create overnight success” and encouraged businesses not to give up.
Mr Shepherd, shared stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and spoke about the data changes they are looking at, in particular to ANZSIC codes around regional data, attributes of business (including small and family business) and sector views (tourism and events).
“From March 2023, eligible small businesses able to complete the current Quarterly Business Indicators Survey through their accounting software,” said Mr Shepherd, which will help them better to define and understand the statistics around small business in Australia.
Elizabeth Skirving, CEO of Rural Business Tasmania and COSBOA Director, facilitated this economic session and shared between the 28 Mar - 3 April arrivals in Australia included:
4,600 students (steady)
5,300 skilled and other workers
35,000 visitors (42% increase on prior week)
1,950 working holiday makers (35% increase on previous week)
Closing the Summit was the Hon Bruce Billson GAICD, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. Bruce summarised the key learnings across the two days and gave an update on what ASBFEO have in the pipeline to further support small business.
Thank you to all our speakers, sponsors, partners, exhibitors, and organisers for making this event possible. We look forward to continuing to being the voice of small business in Australia.
To find out more about COSBOA or talk to one of the team, visit: www.cosboa.org.au or call (+61) 493 364 720.