There are more than 2.2 million small businesses across Australia. And with the federal election looming, the shape of their future is set to be decided in a matter of days. Here at Xero, we’re asking you to suspend disbelief, just for a moment, and imagine that you were the one leading the nation. What would you do to support the small business community and grow our economy? In this series, we’re asking exactly that. Exploring what matters most to the country’s small businesses, we questioned a diverse cross-section of owners and the Xero partners who support them on what they’d do in the hot seat.
But first, a little background on our new “prime minister”: Susie Jones is one half of the two person team behind Cynch. This Melbourne based startup is here to help small businesses prevent a cybersecurity incident from becoming the worst day of their career. In Susie’s words: “We’ve started our own small business to help small businesses.”
1. Late payments and extended payment terms can have a catastrophic effect on small business livelihood. As PM, what would you do to keep this in check?
What I’d really want to do is shake up the credit system. At the moment, there’s no incentive for large businesses to make payments on time – aside from that fact that it’s ethical. If they fail to do so, it doesn’t only have a dire effect on a small business’ livelihood, but on their personal life as well. Because, put simply, it’s all one and the same for most small business owners.
So, as Prime Minister, I’d like more accountability placed on large enterprises and government departments to make sure they’re actually paying their bills on time. And that they’re held accountable when they don’t. Then, I’d help decouple the financial situation between small business owners’ professional and personal lives.
2. From telephone bills to internet connection and securing labour – the input costs of starting a small business add up. What would your government do to lessen the burden?
I would like to see less strings attached when it comes to government funding for getting small businesses off the ground. After all, you can still have governance and make sure that you’re only handing over cash to businesses that are genuinely onto a real thing. Let’s get the money into the hands of the people who are going to change the world, rather than the hands of the big corporates!
3. Small businesses found gaining access to all-important funding increasingly tricky as 2018 came to a close. Tell us Mrs PM, where do you stand on this issue?
The Australian Government offers uni students cheap, low interest loans on the basis that they hold a lot of promise for the future. So why can’t we do the same for small businesses? We should set up a HELP-like system for small businesses, and the moment that their revenue hits a certain size, that’s when they then need to start paying the loan back. I think this would be completely transformative, and really accelerate innovation right across the economy.
4. Helping small businesses unlock the potential of technology is a key part of our mission at Xero. As PM, what would you do to support them in embracing the latest advancements and staying competitive in evolving industries?
I know this is a bit of a political hot-cake, but one of the biggest problems we’ve found as a startup engaging with government is that they can never actually recommend a business, solution or product in the tech space. If there is a solution out there that’s solving a problem for small businesses and can help them, then I’d make sure we eat our words and actually make a recommendation.
5. It’s your first day in office – what would your number one priority be?
Nothing we’ve spoken about here will make any difference in 20 years if global warming has done what it’s predicted to do. So my number one day in office would be all about actually addressing (and putting into action) some of the recommendations that have been made to government on this issue. It’s time to get cracking!