I have run my own small business for twenty years. And I love it. I love my team, my autonomy, getting to choose what projects we work on and with whom. The last year has tested me and my colleagues as we endeavoured to find new ways to deliver events that help organisations across tech, business and innovation to make valuable connections.
There have been a number of ways the government has helped us over the last year, but one thing that really stands out is how itsy-bitsy and disconnected dealing with government can be.
We were lucky to receive some state grants that were easy to complete and in one instance, we even had someone phone us to expedite the next steps!
But applying for a federal grant was a bit like choosing our own adventure — navigating through forms, criteria and emails was extremely time-consuming, frustrating and in the end a complete waste of time for our business and our supply chain, as the grants program ended up stalling before it even began.
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For small businesses, dealing with the government is a web of complexity.
Although I am sure all of these grant bandaids are designed to be helpful, it makes me wonder if COVID-19 is an impetus for bringing together the design and delivery of grants programs and indeed all our interactions with all levels of government?
To perhaps make it easier for companies to navigate and receive help when needed, with a bit more of a holistic approach to individual situations and to enable some future proofing for businesses?
We would also love the government to relook at the whole visa process for both companies and the individuals themselves. It was incredibly distressing to have to say goodbye to team members who had worked with us for many years but still had to leave during these trying times as they were not granted new visas. Strong assets to our team, not eligible for JobKeeper, and not allowed to remain working (hard!) in jobs, communities and a country they had fallen in love with.
Because our events rely on innovation, R&D and tech, the lack of skilled personnel and smart students impacts productivity on more than just our team — it has impacted everyone we work with.
Given that this is a wishlist, what I would also like from the government is a good story!
Though some people dismiss the need for targets, most small businesses have to hit them every week — or fall over! So, an amazing assurance for many of us would be for the government to paint a picture of where things may lead and to embrace our future. Give us a narrative to make us proud of what we do.
Small businesses employ people, pay them a salary, nurture them and their families, and that is nothing but a good story.