7 July 2020
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Why don't we give a f**k about helping small businesses?

Why don't we give a f**k about helping small businesses?

Peter Switzer
23 April 2019

The Coalition has pledged $1 billion to make it easier for 250,000 new small businesses to get started and grow over the next five years. But do we care? Do we think: “Helping businesses grow — you little beauty!”

These are the promises we’ll hear today and like all pre-election promises, many of us pretty well ignore all of them until there’s a specific promise that really resonates with us. And while that’s understandable, it’s kind of immature of voters not to respect the economic performance of a government and it seems irrational that voters don’t think: “These guys seem to be good at economic management — jobs are growing, unemployment is falling, home loan interest rates are unbelievably low and the Budget is heading into surplus.”

We’ve all grown up thinking inflation is bad and causes high interest rates, eventual stock market crashes and unemployment, so we should be pretty happy with the Coalition, apart from two things.

First, wage rises have been low and slow, though they have been rising faster than inflation. This means real wages for many Aussies have actually gone up because they should be able to buy more with their existing wage.

Of course, if you party at expensive watering holes, buy the best clothes, leave your air con on all day and night pumping up your energy bills and are totally uneconomical, you might have a higher personal inflation rate because you’re spending more on expensive stuff but that’s a choice thing.

Second, the Coalition has been a political disaster dumping Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull and while Scott Morrison, who was the economic architect of the pretty good economic numbers, is now PM and looking more effective than our former PMs, the disunity hasn’t been good for the Coalition’s CV.

Call me an economist but I don’t rate a pretty political picture over a good performing economy but that could be my economic bias, where I think jobs, investment and potential economic growth are really important. It’s why promises around this new Australian Business Growth Fund from the Coalition to help small and medium businesses is a good idea that Labor should match.

This kind of fund has been pioneered in the UK and Canada, and will kick off with $100 million from the Government and then banks will participate to provide funds for growth. The lenders would take equity in the business but not take control, which often happens with private equity funds.

But who cares? Unfortunately, not enough of us. And this a view I’d love to see future leaders change but to do that they’d have to believe in the importance of small business rather than simply tell us that “small business is the backbone of the country.”

Scott Morrison thinks this fund could create 50,000 businesses a year for five years but the first task of this Australian Business Growth Fund is to help existing businesses grow.

But who cares about the success of individuals and families that power these businesses? This is a great question while we’re in the middle of the great “take 3 get 10” days off because of the collision of Easter and Anzac Day.

While it’s great for employees, this quirky calendar coordination of days off must have cost lots of employers money, job problems and headaches.

Fortunately, all business owners get used to headaches and over time they learn to beat them or go out of business. But small business employers are job creators, trainers of young Australians, money-providers to help their employees fulfil their material dreams and can even be the leaders in their teams’ lives that can even substitute for disappointing parents.

The new age workplace is often portrayed as a ‘tribal’ location for young people, which is why employers are encouraged to listen to what their employees want when it comes to the business, its corporate responsibility and its purpose.

Around 4.8 million people worked for small businesses at the end of June 2017—up 66,000, or 1.4% compared with the previous year. Since 2013, the number of small business employees has increased by 197,000 or 4.3% and these are numbers that are nearly two years old.

However, as I’ve pointed out, small business owners are more than job providers but it’s high time we had leaders who were committed full-time on working to help small business owners/job creators.

Why? Well, I think in a world where we need to work to make our material dreams come true and where a fair amount of happiness is linked to not being poor and living hand-to-mouth, it seems rational to come up with ideas and policies that boost small business growth.

I guess if I wasn’t busy trying to build my own business, I could nationally crusade to make politicians get real on small business. But maybe we need a couple of gutsy politicians from Labor and the Coalition to take up the running on this.

And before I go, to underline just how ‘under the radar’ screen small businesses are, try and think of the Minister for Small Business and the Shadow Minister for Small Business.

The Minister is Senator Michaelia Cash. And for Labor the Shadow Minister is, wait for it, the would-be Treasurer, Chris Bowen. I own a small business website called www.growyourbusiness.com.au and I couldn’t have answered those questions! Why? These people never contact me nor do they do much small business talking.

I know Peter Strong is the boss of COSBOA (the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia). And why is that? That’s simple, he’s always on TV, on radio and in newspapers and websites talking about small business.

Funny that.

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