Empowering Australia’s Entrepreneurs

Small Business Association

Australia has a rich tradition of entrepreneurialism, with its small business sector today encompassing a diverse range of businesses from farming, retailing, manufacturing, trades work, and home based initiatives. Unfortunately, what is rarely spoken of is the high level of failure and personal tragedy often involved in the creation and operation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The statistics are startling, with 70 to 80 per cent of all start-up businesses failing within the first twelve months and a further 50 per cent of the remaining small businesses failing within five years.

“From the Government’s point of view,” comments Ann Nalder, Founder and Director of the Small Business Association of Australia, “they don’t see this as a major issue because for every failed business there are one or two start-ups. As far as they’re concerned, it levels things out.

“But on a human level, this is far more serious because if your business fails you will most likely lose your family home. As your family home goes, probably too will your marriage and your children, and it becomes a whole domino effect – your failure could also fail another small business who has links to you through goods or a loan – it’s a whole domino effect that can go on for a long time.”

Through the SBAA, Ms Nalder works with new entrepreneurs to ensure that they are aware of as many of the pitfalls involved in running a business as possible. The association’s goal is not only to prepare small business owners for success, but also to assist them in dealing with hardships and even potential failure. Ultimately, the vision of the SBAA is to “become the vehicle to reduce small business failures.”

“Being in small business has always been difficult – there’s nothing new there,” says Ms Nalder. What is difficult, she explains, is the high level of regulation involved in operating small businesses in Australia today.

“Years ago you could start a small business with loads of enthusiasm and a little cash. Due to the myriad of legislation, compliance issues and other costs, starting and running a small business today is more complex.”

For an individual starting up a business – particularly for the first time, which represents the majority – it can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible to be fully informed and aware of all of these regulations. “They come in as an entrepreneur with great ambition and enthusiasm, but they don’t know everything and they can’t possibly,” explains Ms Nalder. “However, if they become aware of many of the pitfalls then they have a pretty good chance of survival because they know what to avoid; that’s where the secret lies in it.”

In order to accomplish this very complex task, the SBAA approaches its work with two equally important directives: to reduce small business failure and to provide a pathway of support to its members and their families who are facing adversity in their business, have been bankrupted, and/or have had their business placed into administration, receivership or liquidation. In practice, this amounts to a plethora of after-hours workshops and networking opportunities for business owners, alongside a concerted effort to lobby on behalf of SMEs for more consistent and practical operating regulations.

Of course, not every business owner is cut out to be successful in business, with entrepreneurialism requiring a very special type of person indeed – someone who not only is outstanding at his or her trade, but also at the multitude of other ‘hats’ that must be worn to properly run a small business. These roles often include that of Accountant, Sales Representative, Marketing Analyst, and Occupational Health and Safety Specialist, just to name a few. The salient point, says Ms Nalder, is that the SBAA is able to help those entrepreneurs who are suited to the task to succeed where otherwise they might lose their way.

While the SBAA does take a strong stance on arming new business owners with the relevant knowledge and skills necessary to run a successful business, Ms Nalder says that the one thing it will never do is tell the business owner how to run their business.

“That’s not our role. Everybody is different and the person who has gone into business is an entrepreneur – they’re very special people and they will find their own way of how they want to conduct their business. Once you start to do that, you’re regulating, and it doesn’t work that way.”

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of membership in the SBAA is its community connection – with numerous charity involvements as well as the incredible support of its prestigious Patron, Mrs Georgina Hope Rinehart.

“For the first time in Australian small business history,” says Ms Nalder, “we have a true champion for the cause of small business. She has a real passion for small business and does so much work in that area; she won’t put her name to anything unless it’s something she passionately believes in.

“Small business is the engine of an economy but unfortunately, it is too often taken for granted,” concludes Ms Nalder. “There is so much human tragedy involved in this. There will of course be failures, but there has to be a reduction in failures, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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August 19, 2018, 7:49 AM AEST