We’re faced with a long and painful recession as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. Until we have a vaccine, it’s probable that we’ll have further periods of lockdown as new outbreaks are stamped out.
While federal and state governments are charged with providing financial support for those who’ve lost their jobs and for hard-hit industries such as tourism, hospitality and retailers, it will be incumbent on small business and entrepreneurs to kick-start the Australian economy back to health.
Now is the time for Aussiepreneurs to step up and begin the fight-back.
But what and who is an Aussiepreneur?
Why would their unique qualities be so useful in our current recession?
And how can governments assist?
Aussiepreneurs are not flashy. They run the myriad small-to-medium businesses that employ almost two-thirds of all Australians — seven million people — and contribute over $600 billion of our GDP.
Half of them have been in business for fewer than 10 years.
Forget about the stereotypes of businesspeople such as Dick Smith or Elle McPherson, Aussiepreneurs are yours and my neighbours, and are the unsung heroes of the Australian economy.
An Aussiepreneur is someone who moves their business forward every day, and doesn’t stop when it gets hard.
They display the same qualities of endurance and ingenuity that form the ANZAC spirit which we revere in those who have served in our armed forces.
They build relationships because they aren’t in it just for themselves. They’re growing their businesses, not just for the benefit of shareholders, but for the benefit of customers, employees, and the communities that they operate in.
The government has launched some solid businesses assistance initiatives — in particular, cashflow boosts and the SME Guarantee Scheme. But they are temporary, and for the moment at least, COVID-19 is not.
It’s the businesses of Aussieprenuers, in particular, that will suffer most in a long-lasting recession, but they are also the source of a great deal of latent capacity.
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Technically, Australia may be out of recession (two consecutive quarters of negative growth) and return to positive growth by the end of 2020 or early in 2021, but that’s unlikely, and if we want to recover the ground that has been lost, that is a trickier task.
The Australian government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to undertake real reform that will reposition Australia and incentivise businesses to invest and grow, create jobs and boost economic prosperity.
Reforms that should be on their agenda include:
- Real taxation reform to reduce or remove red tape, including the removal of indirect taxes on business (for example, payroll tax and stamp duty);
- Income tax simplification and moving the tax base further into consumption taxes (GST); and
- Growing the SME Guarantee Scheme and making it permanent, similar to the US Small Business Administration Loan Scheme that allows for business acquisitions.
The businesses I’ve spoken with throughout the pandemic aren’t standing still. They’re making organisational changes and cutting costs when necessary to build cash reserves for the next wave of COVID-19 cases.
The Aussieprenuer and our SMEs have never looked for handouts, that’s not the way they operate.
But in this alarming and once-in-a-century pandemic, they need a hand-up — to get Australians back to work, to drive us out of this recession and into a hopefully, pandemic-free economy.