One way that COSBOA supports small business is through its advocacy projects. Two recent projects were centred upon energy and encouraging small business owners to employ people with a disability. Another project that COSBOA has been running is in coordination with Paddl Co. and aims to connect small businesses and emerging talent to find innovative solutions to business problems.
Funded by Energy Consumers Australia and the Australian Small Business Family Enterprise Ombudsman's Office, COSBOA launched a national survey of small businesses to investigate the impact of energy bill shocks and price rises. The project addressed energy bill shock for small businesses and to help 'future proof' them against rising energy bills and predatory pricing. As part of this project, COSBOA investigated ways to provide better quality information about electricity costs in different industries and how to ensure time-poor small business owners can get more support and tailored advice to help them cut their energy usage and electricity costs. The survey results will be used to advocate for policy and regulatory changes, and to develop simple tools, with industry-specific tips and info, to help small businesses in a range of sectors reduce their energy costs.
Small businesses who answered our survey (over 200 nationally) confirmed that massive energy price rises in recent years have seriously impacted their operations and financial position. 12% of survey respondents said they were already unable to pay their energy bills and 45% said they were concerned about their ability to pay them in future. More than half of small businesses found that energy prices had forced them to decrease their profit margins and another 27% said it had forced them to increase prices.
Some of the findings from our project were that:
To get better value from capital investments on energy efficiency upgrades, assistance is needed to help business landlords introduce business processes and behaviour change. Small business owners cope better with energy bills when they have different sources of energy, particularly those able to generate their own energy through solar panels. Small business owners don't know where to get good advice on energy deals or industry-specific information (most website are generic, confusing and 'not relevant to me'). Small business owners don't have the time to become 'energy experts'
COSBOA undertook this research project for the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council. The objectives were:
- to understand the experiences and challenges involved during the employment process for SMEs wanting to employ people with disability
- identify ways the government can reduce red tape to support this goal
- understand barriers for SMEs who are not currently employing people with disability and identify opportunities to provide greater support
- provide recommendations to the NDCAC on the above.
COSBOA found a really strong willingness from Small Business to do more in this space, but there is currently limited support or resources to help them do so - we hope this research will help give government some new ideas about the most effective ways to work with small business on supporting more people with disabilities into the workforce. A great outcome from the project has been hearing from small business people across the country on how important their industry associations are as a source of information and advice on matters like this, and how they would like them to be more involved in this important policy area. Inclusive employment matters to small business, and COSBOA is excited about being part of delivering solutions that are Win-Win for everyone.
We have partnered with Paddl Co. who run programs known as Paddl Games events. The COSBOA Innovation Games (Victoria) is a series of 5 one-day events that are designed to help small businesses develop innovation and digital skills. Each event is a structured one-day challenge facilitated by industry experts, with teams made up of students, graduates, sponsor employees, employees and stakeholders of the business to work intensively to solve a real-life challenge or opportunity that the business is facing.
This month we had the first three of five Innovation Games in the COSBOA Innovation Games (Victoria) 2018 series. The theme of the first day, held in Hastings and sponsored by AGL, was "How might your business use and more efficiently manage its energy requirements?"
Day two was sponsored by Australia Post and took place in Bendigo. The theme for this day was "Growing a business domestically and internationally using modern digital tools." The third day was held in Melbourne, supported by Canon. The challenge topic was "Staying ahead of the curve: accelerating your business to thrive in the digital world".
These events are supported by the Victorian Government and are an excellent way to help businesses innovate and improve. They connect young people, small and big business in a fun way that has benefits for everyone involved.