Meet Jo Palmer, the small business champion changing the remote work game

COSBOA Alexi Boyd Jo Palmer

Left to right: COSBOA's CEO Alexi Boyd and Pointer Remote's founder Jo Palmer. Source: supplied.

A rural advocate for championing women’s voices and connecting businesses with remote workers has received national recognition by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA).

Jo Palmer is COSBOA’s Small Business Champion 2022, an accolade that recognises small business influencers who are making a real-world improvement to their industry or sector.

Palmer founded Pointer Remote, an online platform that allows businesses to expand their recruitment bubble and access the breadth of expertise the country’s regional and remote workers offer.

Alexi Boyd, CEO of COSBOA, says Palmer is an ideal recipient, having spent years as an “advocate, mentor and voice for enhancing women’s economic opportunities”.

“Jo is a passionate small businesswoman who saw an untapped pool of talent in rural areas that could be mobilised through remote work,” Boyd continues.

“She has worked tirelessly to job-match individuals and businesses from all over the country and has had a huge impact on building capacity in regional Australian communities.”

And business is booming: Pointer Remote has more than 1000 registered job seekers, about three times the amount it had around this time last year.

“Now more than ever, employees are looking for flexibility,” Palmer tells SmartCompany.

“Organisations, even those with bricks and mortar stores and offices, who understand that talent isn’t governed by postcode, are finding it easier to attract great people.”

Palmer says she was honoured to receive the COSBOA award, particularly “in the company of so many small business community leaders, owners and advocates”.

“In the five years that Pointer Remote has been in operation, it is small businesses from across the country who have really been able to leverage remote work to access the skills and experience they need for their organisation to grow.

“With talent in such short supply, businesses that have adapted to flexibility are finding it easier to attract new team members.

“We are so appreciative of those companies who have trusted us to help!”

Palmer, from small-town The Rock in New South Wales, was training and working as a teacher when she became determined to explore remote work to free up time and get access to more opportunities.

She launched Pointer Remote in 2017 but was forced to rethink the model when the pandemic hit.

“My company had previously made most of its money from businesses wanting to advertise job vacancies and when COVID-19 happened I felt my business model had become obsolete,” she said during a keynote address at the 2020’s International Day of Rural Women summit.

But Palmer quickly found her stride, and says she has since witnessed firsthand the benefits of cracking open a closed-off job market for small communities.

“The positive social and economic benefits that rural communities experience when locals are employed, are the key drivers behind Pointer Remote’s purpose.”

Palmer has also been a champion for women getting into — or back into — the workforce. It just makes good business sense, she says.

“The core of business resilience in women is connection — it’s so much easier to bounce back from adversity when you have good people around you,” she says.

Getting more workers, particularly women, into jobs is more important than ever, Palmer told the summit: if there were just 6% more women in the workforce, Australia’s gross domestic product would be about $25 billion higher.

It comes as regional Australia grapples with a worker crisis. The number of job ads surged by 36% from December 2020 to December 2021, according to Regional Australia Institute’s job vacancy report.

Chief economist at the Regional Australia Institute Kim Houghton chalked it up to border closures leading to a shrunken employment pool.

The COSBOA award, which was presented during the National Small Business Summit in Sydney this week, is not the first accolade for Palmer — she was the 2019 NSW-ACT Rural Women of the Year in the AgriFutures Awards too, which recognise the roles women play in coming up with programs and ideas that ultimately benefit rural and regional Australia.

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