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The Vodafone National Small Business Summit kicked off today, with the new Senator The Hon. Michaelia Cash MP, Minister for Small Business, Skills and Vocational Education, opening the day, commenting that Government needs small businesses to be successful, because when you [small businesses] are successful, our nation prospers, and that is what we all want.

Vodafone Australia, General Manager of Enterprise, Neelum Prakash, highlighted the importance of embracing new technology for small businesses to keep up with the pace of change. While Sarah Palmer, Executive General Manager of Business Service Delivery, NBN, provided an overview of new initiatives designed to improve the customer experience for Australian businesses.

The new Minister for Energy, The Hon. Angus Taylor MP, took to the stage and presented the key initiatives he will tackle in the role, advising there is a simplified and clear goal to, “Get prices down while keeping the lights on,” under his ministry.

Keeping the topic on energy, COSBOA, CEO, Peter Strong, and Fleur Anderson and Chris Black, 89 DegreesEast, presented a COSBOA energy research project, with the support of Energy Consumers Australia and the ASBFEO. Findings showed almost half of small business owners fear the ability to pay their energy bills.

Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) revealed the top emerging uses for small business in the next twelve months, from payment terms and changes to banking practices to unfair contract term legislation, access to justice and workplace relations. Ms Carnell also spoke on illegal phoenixing which is costing the economy $2-5 billion annually.

Sharing some frightening statistics, Paul Nielsen, COSBOA Cyber Security Ambassador, spoke about the dangers of the dark web and the importance of security for businesses.

Helen Gordon, CEO, Australian Finance Industry Association, shared some the emerging financial solutions available to small business to start-up, grow and consolidate.

Rusty Wallis, National Licencing Manager, APRA AMCOS was up next discussing how music is a huge part of a brand, helping to create a positive emotional experience for customers. She discussed the challenges for members, as small business people; in being paid for their IP and that the Association is key to advocating and assisting businesses in understanding copyright regulations.

Leanne Faulkner, Fortitude at Work, lead an interactive activity after lunch, that saw all delegates getting involved to subconsciously see how small business owners might react to the stress of presenting products to big businesses. With roughly 64% of small businesses being solo employers, wellbeing is vital to the success of businesses. Judy O’Connell took the stage next and said, “Making time to plan for your mental health care is a valuable business investment.”

Industry associations need to collaborate and bring more muscle to the table – says the panel discussion on the power of industry associations, who included Mick Keogh, ACCC Deputy Chairman, Ross Greenwood, 2GB Money News Show, Julie Owens MP, Federal Member for Parramatta, John Stewart, Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Communications, American Express Australia, and Kate Carnell, ASBFEO. Moderated by Peter Strong, the session deep dived into the power behind industry associations and more importantly what makes a good association.

The final session of the day was a panel discussing the issues in VET Training for the small business community, including, how industry and enterprise can engage in VET training to new entrants through on the job professional developments. The panel of experts included, Deb Brotdman, Comtech Group and Comtech Training, Cosmos Vlahopoulos, ADTIA, Greg Kenyon, TANDEM Group and Peter Murray, Box Hill Institute.

That’s a wrap for day 1 at the Vodafone National Small Business Summit.

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