There are more than 2.2 million small businesses across Australia. And with the federal election looming, the shape of their future is set to be decided in a matter of days. Here at Xero, we’re asking you to suspend disbelief, just for a moment, and imagine that you were the one leading the nation. What would you do to support the small business community and grow our economy? In this series, we’re asking exactly that. Exploring what matters most to the country’s small businesses, we questioned a diverse cross-section of owners and the Xero partners who support them on what they’d do in the hot seat.
But first, a little background on our new “prime minister”: Joe Falzon runs Earth Sanctuary from 100 acres of desert wilderness overlooking the spectacular East MacDonnell Ranges. A leader in the field of eco-tourism, this small family business is one of Australia’s first 100% carbon neutral venues. In Joe’s words: “The most important lesson from our indigenous people is to look after the land, and it will provide shelter and sustenance. I took this to heart, and with my three sons, set up the Earth Sanctuary as a sustainability centre.”
1. Late payments and extended payment terms can have a catastrophic effect on small business livelihood. As PM, what would you do to keep this in check?
Working within the tourism industry, I’m afraid this is an all too common concern for us. The problem is, if our payments aren’t honored in a fair amount of time, then we get set back on the things that we want to invest in. Which is why as PM, I’d set up a system that ensures it’s in big businesses’ interest that their payments are made punctually. And if they aren’t completed within four weeks, well, then I’d make sure they’d incur interest.
2. From telephone bills to internet connection and securing labour – the input costs of starting a small business add up. What would your government do to lessen the burden?
We need to create financial incentives and rebates to help small businesses not only get started, but to actually stay operative. In this vein, I’d allow a longer time frame to pay off any bills that they incur in their start up period. After all, if small businesses aren’t receiving timely payments from their clients, then how are they meant to maintain their own?
3. Small businesses found gaining access to all-important funding increasingly tricky as 2018 came to a close. Tell us Mr PM, where do you stand on this issue?
At the moment, figuring out which grants are actually available to you as a small business – and how to go about applying for them – is a whole lot harder than it needs to be. And people are missing out for that very reason. As PM, I’d make the entire process far simpler. I’d have the government offer in-depth assistance and guide small business owners in pursuing the grants that are right for them.
4. Helping small businesses unlock the potential of technology is a key part of our mission at Xero. As PM, what would you do to support them in embracing the latest advancements and staying competitive in evolving industries?
Technology has saved us plenty of time here at Earth Sanctuary, making our interactions with customers more efficient and educational. We need to make sure all small businesses are given a fair go when it comes to accessing the latest developments, so they can take advantage of these same benefits.
The issue is, most small businesses don’t survive because they aren’t given any guidance. I’d make sure small businesses are provided with adequate education, and pointed in the right direction when it comes to which technological tools they can use. What it all comes down to is giving them the support they need to grow.
5. It’s your first day in office – what would your number one priority be?
That’s a beauty! For both myself and my sons here, the number one priority is climate change. We’re very proud that our small business is carbon neutral. Which is why as PM, I’d reward businesses that do the same. We need to make people aware of climate change, and how each individual can make a difference. But on a larger scale, the government needs to support small businesses to do as much as they can to help. Because it’s not going to get better unless there’s more incentive for small business, in fact all business, to adopt alternative energy. So I’d make sure Australia makes a true commitment to bettering what is a very, very serious situation.