Each year on June 27, the United Nations recognises the vast contributions of micro, small and medium-sized businesses on World Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Day.
According to the UN, these businesses account for 90% of all businesses worldwide, along with 60-70% of employment and 50% of global gross domestic product.
In Australia, small businesses employ more than 5 million people and contribute $483 billion to the economy each year, according to the Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman.
This year’s World Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Day is focused on the themes of resilience and rebuilding. Three Australian business leaders reflect on what these themes mean in their sectors.
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Leah Rankin, chief customer officer, SiteMinder
“Small and medium businesses are a central lifeblood to our economy, but the harsh reality is that these businesses bear the brunt of periods of economic uncertainty. In the travel and tourism industry in Australia, this impact remains visible, particularly for the small and medium hotel business owners who are now welcoming back both domestic and international travel bookings at 2019 levels. While this is an opportune time for Australian businesses to capitalise on the resurgence of travel globally, for businesses like hotels where customer experience is king, this increased pressure paired with severe labour shortages will be extremely testing.
“A hyper focus on the customer will be essential to a resilient recovery for so many businesses across Australia. This is particularly true for industries like travel and tourism where demand is rapidly reaccelerating. Those that prioritise the end-to-end customer experience will ensure they capitalise on not just the short-term spike in customer traffic, but also the longtail of the return of travel we’re seeing globally. Digitisation will also be crucial. Small businesses should take advantage of any support available, including from the government.”
Hedayat Osyan, CEO, CommUnity Construction
“Small and micro businesses are the backbone of economies around the world, and Australia is no different. In many ways, some of Australia’s biggest industries and businesses rely on small businesses to ensure they can continue operating throughout different economic, political and social conditions.
“Small businesses are often more agile and have a clear purpose with distinct parameters, meaning we are well-equipped to address often overlooked market opportunities. In the construction sector, for example, it’s small and innovative construction companies that are enabling huge construction companies to keep functioning amid ongoing labour shortages, rising costs of materials, pressures on housing construction schedules, and more.
“While they’re addressing the macro issues of growing demand for new homes and the pressures on complex infrastructure projects, the smaller players are able to identify solutions right under their noses, such as hiring and training refugees and asylum seekers. This cohort of ambitious professionals are regularly missing out on opportunities to work due to unconscious bias in the workplace, though we have found sustainable, effective, and fast ways to provide meaningful work for refugees and asylum seekers while also helping construction companies deliver projects on budget and on time.
“This MSME Day, I’d love to see more small businesses show pride in how their small but mighty teams are making impact in ways that are keeping our overall economy resilient, and it would be wonderful to see more enterprises recognise the solutions small business owners can deliver to seemingly impossible problems.”
Gloria Larman, CEO, Women’s Justice Network
“This MSME Day we are viewing the theme ‘Resilient Recovery’ from the lens of a small organisation and grassroots not-for-profit, and also from the perspective of the women we support every day to build their own resilience and recovery from trauma as they re-enter society after time in prison.
“The reality is times are incredibly tough for small, purpose-driven organisations like ours. Ongoing effects of the pandemic mean there are fewer volunteers, the mental health and emotional support needs of women in prison or detention centres are more extreme, and the politicising of funding for the charity sector in the last few years on top of significant state and federal changes to our leadership have meant many NFPs have struggled to stay afloat.
“The unfortunate reality for many impact-driven organisations is that without the proper funding to help others, enabling a resilient recovery for our most marginalised and vulnerable community members becomes difficult or impossible.
“On MSME Day this year, I would encourage more corporate, public sector, and political leaders to recognise and support the important work that micro and small purpose-driven organisations have on enabling Australians to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, which in turn helps our economy and society to thrive.”