My wish list

Now is a good time for small businesses to start laying out what they want of government. My own suggestions range from dismissal to mentoring.



Colin Benjamin

Now an election is looming, it’s time for small and medium business owners to place their wish list at the doors of cabinet. At other times, ministers are too geared to existing constituencies to take time out to focus on the business engine of the future.


Now is the time to ask for a more favourable business climate for every firm that is not riding the back of the resources boom tiger.


As we head into APEC and the last sitting days of the fourth Howard Government, expect to see cries about unfair dismissal in firms with 16 or more employees and calls for tax cuts for small business managers to give them same treatment as small business owners.


The Rudd/Gillard attempt to find a middle ground for their fairness pendulum will prove that the IR debate is essentially a rerun of wider concerns about private equity benefits and personal economic conditions rather than a significant contribution to the promotion of small and medium enterprise.


Fran Bailey’s team of business advisors need to be given the resources and links to venture capital sources for business development to overcome the perception that the Government’s only concern in union bashing.


Here are some of items that could be included in a wish-list to be sent to all candidates claiming some sympathy for the pressures facing entrepreneurs and small enterprise owners.


1. The development of an Under 100 employee criterion for SME provisions rather than the micro-scale small business provision of fewer than 15 employees. This would ensure that there are not arbitrary and capricious barriers to growth of the hundreds of thousands of micro-businesses that would take on more employees if they could be assured of less tax office and union interest in telling them how to run their business lives.


2. A genuine commitment to a Fair Go for Small Business, including real reductions in regulation and red tape designed to protect the big end of town from local and smaller competitors. A 20% small business threshold on government tenders for firms with less than 100 employees would provide a fair comparative advantage for the sector that creates the customers and generates new taxpayers.


The aim should be to provide affirmative action that ensures small business has at least 20% of government contracts and tenders by changing all procurement guidelines to give them a reasonable chance to expand, rather than focus on least cost tenders at the lowest service levels.


3. Provide a business development and advisory service in every region along with the economic development committees. This should promote lower local and regional regulatory costs and provide financial incentives for export development and employee expansion without having to fund a raft of business consultants and fill in an avalanche of forms that add no value to the business. Each local authority should be given access to a small business development team and an entrepreneurial opportunities centre linked with the local library to help with tenders and marketing efforts.


4. Establish a creditor reference service that can assist in mediation of small outstanding claims and register agreements. This would work outside a legal setting to resolve outstanding conflicts over compliance with agreements. A small business adviser could conduct an independent review as a way of enabling companies in financial trouble to avoid bankruptcy during dispute resolution.


5. Work with superannuation funds and industry associations to establish small business development funds. These would act as collateral guarantees for business expansion for young people and women compelled to return to the workforce under the Government’s Welfare-to-Work provisions, to enable them to achieve sufficient momentum in the first year of business marketing and development.


6. Establish a business mentor scheme in conjunction with private education providers to enhance access to better business skills for expanding small business enterprises that do not rely on classes, exams and curriculum designs to establish a pool of experienced business advisers similar to the US SCORE networks of local business expertise.


7. Demand that every party adopts a one-in-two-out policy that scraps a couple of rules and regulations every time they feel the need to introduce new demands for information and form filling from the small business sector, All regulations, requests for information and procurement arrangements that have a substantial impact on small business will be designed first and foremost with the interests and capacity of small business in mind.


8. Make a fee-free Certificate IV Course in Business available in every secondary school as an elective subject for any family member interested in starting or expanding a small business in the community. This would provide a source of skilled employees for small business expansion and generate a climate of innovation, creativity and enterprise across the nation.


What do you think? What else should be on our wish list?


To read more Colin Benjamin blogs, click here.



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