The Australian economy has fared better than most nations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic... thanks in no small part to the JobKeeper scheme.
It has supported over one million Australian small businesses but, as it comes to an end, many across the country are still concerned about their survival.
Despite some economists arguing businesses are well-prepared for this moment, Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy estimates that over 100,000 small businesses will be at risk of closure over the coming weeks and months.
However, the end of JobKeeper reveals a real opportunity for more targeted and sustainable support, enabling small businesses to help set themselves up for long-term success.
One way that this can be achieved is by helping businesses adopt the digital tools that can help them become more efficient, organised and profitable. Such technology is no longer considered a nice complement to productive work environments – it is essential. Although this transformation has been evident in the corporate world, small businesses have typically been slower to adopt digital solutions. In fact, a recent survey from CPA Australia found that Australian small businesses were least likely to invest in technology in 2020, out of the 11 countries surveyed.
Enabling this crucial shift towards digitalisation should be a priority focus of state governments, particularly as other support wanes. The Victorian state government’s Small Business Digital Adaptation Program, which offers a rebate of up to $1,200 for businesses that implement digital technologies from business management tools to website upgrades, is an excellent and popular example of a more sustainable way government can make a big difference in helping small businesses get set up for long-term success.
Establishing digital processes can give the power back into the hands of small businesses owners at a time when they need it most. Using digital tools can provide owners a greater overview of their financial situation, including insights into the all important cash flow. The digitisation of key areas, such as finance, can simplify and streamline processes for this sector. This not only enables businesses to be on the front foot, it returns time for small business owners to focus on stabilising and growing.
While such programs come at a cost, the success of small businesses is Australia’s success. The Australian Government already estimates that small businesses contributed almost $414 billion to the national economy in 2018-2019, accounting for one-third of GDP. The sector employs more than 4.7 million people locally, making it the nation’s largest employer. Just imagine what would be possible if more small businesses were digitally enabled.
As Australian businesses start to move on from the JobKeeper scheme, now is the time for both the federal and state governments to consider adopting initiatives such as the Digital Adaptation Program, providing financial support for small businesses that want to modernise their operations.
Lars Leber is VP and Country Manager, Intuit QuickBooks Australia