Small to medium-sized businesses have their sights fixed on this Saturday’s Federal Election, hoping that the winning party will deliver some much-needed relief to the SMB community.
After two years of economic difficulty, SMBs need fiscal and general support to bring many businesses back from the brink of collapse. Likewise, the global shift to digital has left many SMBs behind, who do not have the same financial and operational capacities as big corporations or businesses.
Despite small businesses contributing $24 billion to the Australian GDP, representing and employing some 5 million people, the government’s support for this community since the pandemic has been lacking.
So, what are SMB leaders looking for in this election? Here’s a wish list from business leaders in the community.
Clearer pathways and initiatives surrounding the digitalisation
The Federal budget presented a disappointing outcome for many small businesses in Australia. It failed to provide adequate support for struggling SMBs outside of training and digital tech investment incentives. While the government provided tax deductions for businesses spending on digital technology, it failed to understand that many SMBs are reluctant or unable to expend any money on tech due to economic constraints. In this election, business leaders hope to see greater support for the small business community surrounding widespread business digitalisation and literacy.
Chris Dahl, Director of Sales and Growth at Pin Payments, said SMBs are hoping for greater transparency and clarity from the elected party surrounding their strategies for widespread SMB digitalisation.
“Small businesses have been hit the hardest in the last two years, yet the government has failed to provide SMBs with adequate initiatives and financial support to digitalise and adapt to the changing business landscape to survive,” said Chris.
“We need to see actual specifics regarding encouraging digital adoption from whoever is elected. It’s all well and good for parties to say they want to support digital, or even to put forward a dollar figure, but we need to see what that means in plain and simple terms,” said Chris.
Likewise, Mark Khabe, Co-Founder of PRIME BPM, said support for digital technology is paramount for SMBs this election, regardless of who wins.
“Research suggests that small businesses with higher levels of digital transformation are 50 per cent more likely to grow revenue, eight times more likely to create jobs and seven times more likely to export,” said Mark.
Despite the benefits of greater digitalisation for SMBs, neither major party has addressed the specificities or outlined a roadmap to achieve this.
“We’re seeing a lot of promises at the moment, but not a lot of clarity on a clear strategy to bring Australian businesses in line with the rest of the world from a digital perspective. Better NBN across Australia is a clear first step to providing SMEs with the basic tools they need to get digital. Still, business owners who are less digitally savvy also need digital literacy training and upskilling to operate on a level playing field,” said Chris.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) was a government initiative introduced in 2009 to upgrade Australia’s broadband infrastructure, yet 13 years later, there are still issues.
“Stronger digital support packages will help SMBs generate greater profits, expand their footprints and hire staff from anywhere. As digital transformation continues to change the ways businesses operate and function, greater government support will help Australian businesses expand globally and assist the economy with its recovery post-pandemic,” said Mark.
Greater SME funding support
While the Labor Party has announced its commitments will cost the budget bottom line an additional $7.4 billion, its key investments focus on childcare training and education and funds for cleaner and cheaper energy. Neither party has made substantial promises or allocated the necessary funds to bring SMBs back from the economic devastation of the last two years.
“Small businesses are already delaying any significant financial decisions, investments and hiring until after the election, which impacts the overall flow of business in Australia. With economic uncertainty at an all-time high in Australia, as the nation waits to appoint a new leader, SMBs will need additional financial support and the implementation of new initiatives to boost business,” said Chris.
Mark Khabe agreed that for the small business community to recover from disruptions, greater support is needed from the newly elected government.
“As one of the most impacted by the pandemic, the SMB community in Australia is currently reeling. A targeted roadmap and greater policies and initiatives are crucial to help the sector bounce back and drive its growth,” said Mark.
While many important issues need attention this election, the Australian business community should not be undervalued or overshadowed as the backbone of the economy.
With workforce shortages across the nation, overall increased support for SMBs will help small businesses thrive by hiring, training and retaining talent to boost the Australian economy.