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Highlights from the COSBOA National Small Business Summit 2023


4 & 5 April 2023

The COSBOA National Small Business Summit 2023, brought together key political and industry leaders to examine, discuss and workshop what small businesses need now and anticipate what they might need in the future.


Held over two days in Melbourne, the Summit was the biggest yet with hundreds of Association leaders, Government representatives, policy makers and small business influencers in attendance.


Setting the precedent for two days at the Summit, Matthew Addison, Chair, COSBOA, said “We come together to give small business a much needed voice, a shared voice for policy formation and implementation, a voice to explain the impact of decisions and programs upon small business. The Government has said, ‘No one will be left behind’, at COSBOA we say, ‘Don’t leave small business behind.’”


This passionate statement set the tone for the entire two days.


Here are our highlights from 2023:



The Hon. Natalie Suleyman, Victorian Minister for Small Business, kicked off the Summit saying she was “excited to be part of a government that factors in small business”.


In her address she spoke about the collaboration between government and small businesses, and how finding solutions and discussing ideas together is vital, because small business is the backbone of our community.

Suleyman also shared Victoria’s plans to back small business, by investing in precincts to support and grow:

· $10M to cultural hubs

· $5M in scholarships

· $2M to multicultural services


Lisa Belcher, Vice President Small and Medium Enterprises ANZ, American Express, said “we have a responsibility to do more... Everyone here has the influence to have a positive change.” She also announced the return of Shop Small, which will be in its 11th year come November 2023.


Grant Cairns, Executive General Manager, Business Lending at Commonwealth Bank, shared that 1 in 3 have started a small business since the pandemic and Commonwealth Bank is proud to be opening 4,000 small business accounts every week.


#2 Leader of the Opposition - Small business runs through the blood of the Liberal Party


The Hon. Peter Dutton MP, Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party, addressed the Summit, sharing his personal experiences of having family owned and run small businesses.


“The Liberal Party sees small business as an economic powerhouse, driving jobs and economic prosperity for our country. We see people who are risk takers and sacrifice for the sake of their families.


We see people who risk their own capital and enterprise and provide employment, which in turn, helps those workers support their families and provide for their own future.”


Dutton went on to talk about the support provided during the pandemic for small business and his plans for energy policy. Read his full address here.






[L-R: Robert Tedesco, Lisa Belcher, The Hon. Peter Dutton MP, Elizabeth Skirving, Grant Cairns, Matthew Addison]


#3 Disaster preparedness and resilience planning


“Small business owners love working in small business, and they are great at what they do – every day.


Helping small businesses to understand and planning for risk is paramount to building their resilience.” - Brett Smith, CEO, Rural Business Support - RFCS SA/NT.


The Regional Resilience panel session talked to the challenges, importance and need for planning for the unknown in regional communities. This comes as rural Australia have faced fires, floods and drought in the last 5 years, causing massive impacts to the rural businesses – in particular the supply chain, financial constraints and increased costs and skills shortages.


The panel saw Senator Tony Sheldon, Labor Senator for NSW, Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery, Brett Smith, CEO Rural Business Support - RFCS SA/NT, Lynda McAlary-Smith, VIC Small Business Commissioner and Anna Longley, Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits, sharing their perspectives, case studies and answering audience questions around disaster preparedness and resilience planning.


#4 We’ve got the data… but what does the future hold?



Robert Tedesco, Vice President & General Manager ANZ, American Express and John Shepherd, General Manager National Data Acquisition Division, Australian Bureau of Statistics, hosted a session to discuss the trends of small business over the last year and in particular, focused on the last quarter. The duo shared their perspectives and data on small business communities in Australia and the global landscape.



Tedesco spoke about redefining how we view our life stages because it’s not so clear cut anymore and the shift in generation perceptions impacts what we want now, e.g., financial freedom, and value.


While Shepherd shared statistics showing unemployment rate remains at a 50-year low and wage growth is increasing on avg. 3.3% annually.


So, what is the opportunity for the future?

The speakers suggested constantly talking to the consumer and bringing in the younger generations. To encourage small businesses to engage and build a tighter affiliation with the Gen Z and future generations to prosper in the future.


#5 Workshop: What is a cyber threat and how can you build resilience?


Small businesses account for 97% of businesses in Australia and Business Email Compromise (BEC) costs each Australian business $64k on average per incident.



Matthew Cole, Australian Signals Directorate, Australian Cyber Security Centre, hosted a lunchtime workshop, where he outlined the most common cyber threats to small businesses, including, malware, phishing emails, scams, and ransomware.


Four learnings from this workshop included:

1. Never pay a ransom

2. Use secure passphrases and multi-factor authentication

3. Recognise and report scams – think about how you operate / do staff know about cyber security – are they up to date?

4. Working from home – set strong passwords, written guidelines, support as required, ensure devices can encrypt data and are kept up to date on security


#6 The enterprises - real small business stories


Talking about their experiences of starting a business and the challenges they have faced, the opportunities, and the collaborations, Karen Finch, Legally Yours, Daniel Joinbee, Gunggandji Aerospace & Gunggandji Project Management and Hailey Brown, Vacayit, provided a dynamic and honest view as small business owners.


“Small business is hard. I wake up thinking, if it was easy most wouldn’t do it. What we are achieving is making a difference.” Daniel Joinbee.


When asked what the major challenges were as small business owners, they identified:

· Educating clients and changing the culture around working with small business

· Managing billings and payments

· Recruitment and training

· Continuing to offer opportunity and having everyone on the same level

· Mindset for bureaucracy and regulations

· Tax and all the business elements


#7 Building a safe & supportive workplace


This passionate session was busting myths and perceptions on what a safe and supportive workplace might look like.


Jim Mullan, CEO, Amaze, Daniel Valiente-Riedl, General Manager, JobAccess, Belinda Hazell, Principal Consultant, Optimum Standard and Sarah McCann-Bartlett, CEO, AHRI; shared their experiences, tips and advice to creating a positive workplace culture.


“We create culture by being clear and explicit in our expectations.” - Jim Mullan.


The panel discussed the opportunities of hiring Autistic people or people with disabilities.


“Why in 2023 do we still association disability with a wheelchair? When 90% of disabilities are invisible.” - Daniel Valiente-Riedl.


The panel acknowledged that a safe and supportive workplace should cover psychosocial elements, including:

· Clear job descriptions

· Tasks that are laid out with clear communications

· Positive workplace culture

· An open door policy to report back on issues


They also looked at women in the workplace and the need for building in respect, including a duty to have a workplace free of sexual harassment and bullying. The panel said that this doesn’t just apply to the employees; it extends to suppliers and customers as well. They also discussed the policy, procedures and communication around respect at work, and talked about how we can enable small business to develop a safe workplace through the changing of their workplace culture.


#8 Minister For Small Business – Better deal for small business


“We hit the ground running on our plan to get a better deal for small businesses,” says The Hon. Julie Collins MP, Minister for Small Business, Australian Labor Party (ALP).


Sharing their actions towards building a better deal for small business, Collins said the Albanese government had:


· Strengthened unfair contract term protections and introduced civil penalties

· Expanded coverage, so more small business contracts will be protected

· Allocated $18.6 million in funding for a new round of the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Services Program

· Delivered advisory services to small business

· Appointed Dr Craig Emerson – former Minister for Small Business – to lead an independent review of the Payment Times Reporting Act 2020


“We’ve also kicked off a new era of governments working together. Late last year, I hosted a roundtable with my small business state and territory counterparts – the first meeting of its kind in eight years. Taken together, these actions deliver a better deal for small businesses now and in the longer term.”


Collins covered the cost of doing business, worker shortages, workplace relations, cyber security, resilience and natural disasters, wellbeing support and giving small business more opportunities for success. She also took live Q&A from the audience.


“Support for small business is about much more than words. It’s about saying ‘yes’ when it matters.”



#9 Insolvency update with AFSA


Kicking off day two, Tim Beresford, Chief Executive, AFSA – Australia Financial Security Authority, shared the challenges for small businesses with insolvency.


His fireside session looked at ways to effectively communicate with small business, acknowledging the shift in how small business might operate, and the opportunities for technology to play a larger role. He posed the question; Is there any critical digital infrastructure that can be created to prevent emerging risks as an outcome?


#10 Industrial relations reform and the impact for small business


Discussing the impacts of industrial reforms was a panel on Industrial Relations; including Scott Harris, National Manager, Workplace Relations & Business Policy, Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Sandra Parker, Fair Work Ombudsman and Tony Ingpen – IGA Mt Evelyn and family business owner, where they spoke about the fair work act, job security, gender equality, pay rights, pay transparency, and the new protected attributes.


The in-depth session looked at the impacts of the changing legislations and pay reforms but also the challenge of generations not wanting to work full time and having the right to a work-lifestyle balance.


#11 – Cyber security – they only have to get it right once


This highly anticipated panel, sponsored by Telstra, discussing the factors of cyber security, was very popular with attendees. The panel made up of Narelle Devine, Chief Information Security Officer Asia Pacific at Telstra, Kate Pounder, CEO of Technology Council of Australia, Matthew Prouse, President of DSPANZ and Susie Jones, CEO of Cynch; demonstrated their passion for helping small business navigate the cyber world and prepare for threats.


Don’t just focus on protect and defend – someone is going to get in, it doesn’t matter what size your network is. The attackers only have to get it right once, and you’ll have to be perfect all of the time.” – Narelle Devine.


Devine put to the audience - ask yourself, if I got hacked, how long could I last, how long do I need, and have a plan that works for you.

Each of the panel were asked to provide one thing they would recommend:

· Every employee plays a part in cyber, work out what your ecosystem is, how it operates, make the right investments and invest in what makes sense to you

· Specialist access to cyber people would benefit small businesses

· Take time to complete and invest in the Cyber Wardens program

· Start exploring meaningful incentives to empower small businesses to seek cyber security advice, protection and insurance


“We need to bring cyber security to small businesses. And not drag small businesses to cyber security.” – Susie Jones.


The panel encouraged associations and leaders in the room to start taking about cyber security to their small business members, to ask them what their plans were, to get them to seek advice and to create cyber security policies that are regularly enforced.


#12 Thriving in a competitive economy


“Competition involves winners and losers. Some just play better than others on the day… there are rules to make competition fairer. And it’s the Government’s job to strengthen those rules and get the settings right.”


In his address the Hon. Dr. Andrew Leigh, Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, Australian Government, shared insights into the changes the Albanese Government completed last year to strengthen unfair contract term protections. He also spoke about unfair trading practices, fair competition and market dynamism, where new data on the economy at a fine-grained level can now be analysed to look at changes over time.



Leigh then joined a panel alongside, Mick Keogh, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Stuart Clues, Small Business Advocate & Red Tape Reduction Coordinator, Dominique Lamb, QLD Small Business Commissioner and Will Day, Australian Taxation Office, where Bruce Billson, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, lead the charge in asking the panellists the hard questions about the lack of competition with large duopolies, the land of the monopoly, and really not much competition to start with.


The panel shared their experiences and knowledge addressing the unfair practices and case studies of small businesses who had carved out new opportunities when faced with one of the big business obstacles.


The panel agreed that the biggest challenge is communication. They discussed the large amount of support out there; resources, small business debt helpline, however acknowledged that getting that to small business is hard, and discussed opportunities to communicate all the tools, services and support available.


#13 VET & Skills for workforce planning



The final panel session of day two saw Professor Peter Dawkins AO, Director at Jobs and Skills Australia, Troy Williams, CEO of Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), Jenny Dodd, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, Craig Robertson, CEO of Victorian Skills Authority and Patrick Kidd, CEO of Digital Skills Organisation, share their plans to increase jobs and skills nationally.


The panel discussed what their institutions have planned, raised opportunities for partnerships and ways to approach the skills shortage with upskilling and reskilling.


#14 Make the most of the changes and get more young people involved


“The world is run by people who turn up – let’s turn up and make a better decision and better support the community we stand for.”– Bruce Billson


Bruce Billson, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) closed out the Summit by commenting on the discussions across the two days. He celebrated the small business community and the achievements they have made over the last 12-months. Billson says he “sees a clear connection between the community we work for and the future of our nation.”


#15 A small business perspective is vital to give a voice to the small and big force of the Australian economy

Matthew Addison, COSBOA Chair wrapped up the Summit by reminding the leaders in the room to use the two days of thought-provoking debate and discussions to, ‘Be the voice for small businesses’, for those small businesses who wish to be productive, who wish to employ with appropriate flexibility, who wish to be part of a business environment where everyone: employers and employees alike are well rewarded.


"Don’t leave small business behind, because as a community they make up a big part of the economy.”


Next on the agenda for COSBOA is a new piece of work being produced with the support of the Commonwealth Bank - The COSBOA Small Business Perspective Report.


To be released in June, the Report will provide a perspective into the reality and lives of small business, giving all sectors of Government insights into what is happening and indicating the support required.


Stay tuned for announcements on the 2024 Summit: www.cosboansbs.com.au



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