Byline: Ben White
People start small businesses for many different reasons. Some see a problem that no one else is solving, or an opportunity that no one else has seen. Others want to break free from the shackles of their workplace.
Their reasons might all be different, but one thing they have in common is the drive to do something they are passionate about. With that in mind, it’s unlikely that anyone would ever start their own business because they love managing red tape and paperwork. But for many small business owners, this is precisely what ends up consuming their time.
Running a small business often involves juggling a myriad of administrative tasks, from tax and regulatory compliance to managing payrolls and paying bills. While all this work is essential, none of it contributes to growing the business. What it does do is drag the owners away from the reasons why they started their business in the first place. And worse still, it takes time away from learning and implementing innovative new ways to move their business forward.
Indeed, according to the 2019 McCrindle report Australia The Small Business Nation, the time and cost requirements of compliance with legislation and regulations – better known as red tape – is number one amongst the top five survival challenges for small business, and it shows no signs of detangling.
One solution is to hire more staff to take on some of the load. But this is an expensive option, as each new staff member comes with their own administrative overhead. Indeed, as the business scales beyond a dozen people, owners can quickly find they have become full time managers and are still a long way away from their passion.
A more cost-effective solution is for small business owners to leverage their networks and seek support from the wider SMB ecosystem. There are numerous sources of business advice available today, featuring tips and inspiration from other owners, entrepreneurs and industry experts that can prove invaluable for starting or growing a business. Tapping into the experience of others can help small business owners learn from each other’s mistakes and share their successes with untangling red tape or minimising time spent on administrative tasks or pick up tips for getting the best results from online advertising and minimising turnover amongst new hires.
Many of these solutions involve the implementation to technology. Thankfully these days cloud technology and pay-as-you-go subscription services give small businesses access to products and services that might have never previously been able to purchase outright and run themselves, backed by the kind of security they could also never afford.
But while many of these tools are easy to learn at the basic level, getting the most out of them inevitably requires a degree of skill that many small business owners won’t have. The good news is that nowadays small business ownersdon’t need to spend big to find help, thanks to the booming gig economy through services such as Freelancer.com and Airtasker. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 2.5 million Australians are currently employed on a casual basis, suggesting this is more than just a passing fad, but instead is a global trend that is set to redefine the workforce.
For small businesses owners the gig economy offers them the potential to quickly access the specialised skills they need to undertake a project. These services can also provide access to skilled professionals who have the expertise to implement any technology or teach business owners everything they need to know, rather than spending hours trying to figure out the technology by themselves.
For time-poor small business owners, the solutions are all there – if only they can free up enough time to look for them. Advice in the online world is abundant, and so too are the tools that can free them up from the tedium of administration and compliance. And there are many partners who can help them take the second and third steps. When pulled together the right way, these tools can help owners get back to their passion that led them to start a business in the first place.
Ben White is the Managing Director, Business & Wholesale, at Optus.