What are the challenges for small business?
In Sydney’s north, Christine Pope runs a holistic healthcare business and finds the biggest challenge is juggling her roles as a practicing naturopath and a business owner, with the latter requiring her to stay on top of changing regulations.
“Every time things change, even if it’s favourable, it’s really tough for us,” she said.
For other businesses, the major issue is access to funding.
“Investment and growing our business is the biggest challenge,” said Gary Cookson, the director of a Melbourne cargo bike retailer.
“We have to sit on a lot of stock. Although we have a retail store, we are also an importer, so funding that kind of thing has been the biggest challenge for us, I’m having to do that as a personal debt.”
For Sydney dentist Sam Hill, the biggest hurdle was the steep start-up cost of setting up a new dental surgery.
“You’re kind of behind the eight ball before you’ve started,” he said.
“The other thing would be getting in front of a lot of the red tape. You don’t know what you don’t know with starting up a business, so understanding tax, super, staff and legal requirements can be a little bit hard to juggle.”
What do small businesses want from this election?
Robert Campbell owns a sheet metal manufacturer in Queanbeyan, NSW and says the major thing he wants is stability.
It is a sentiment echoed by Lizzie Wigg, who co-owns a plumbing business in Darwin.
“We’re wanting our consumers and our suppliers to have a bit more confidence in the government, to want to renovate and spend money,” she said, noting a lack of job security in the NT as the Inpex gas project moves out of its construction phase.
Larry Prosser runs a small business funder in Brisbane and is more sure about what businesses do not want — higher taxes.
“There’s no question that we’re coming into more challenging economic times and the pressure will be squarely felt by small businesses,” he said.
“In order for small business to grow, we need to find every possible way of finding and enhancing ways of them being able to generate good cash flow to be able to employ more people and grow our economy.”
Which policies are most important to small business owners?
Several owners The Business spoke to welcomed the extension of the instant asset write-off to cover assets up to $30,000, but it is not relevant to all businesses, some of which do not need to make any further big purchases at the moment.
For others, their policy priorities are specific to their industries. For example, education and training are very important for Christine Pope’s business.
“We had qualifications in the VET sector for naturopathy and herbal medicine, and those qualifications have actually been taken out of the VET sector, which is a real problem for us and our workforce going forward,” she said.
“We’ve got an older age group who are attracted to the industry and basically it’s a second career, so they don’t necessarily have the commitment to go back to university for four years.”
Some small businesses are worried about the planned increase in compulsory employer superannuation contributions from 9.5 to 12 per cent.
Robert Campbell warns it will have a significant impact on the ability of his manufacturing business to be competitive internationally.
“All of the product that we manufacture competes with imported product and, for example, the other countries that we compete with have a 3 per cent superannuation levy.”
In Melbourne, Gary Cookson says he would welcome more support for research and development.
“We’ve considered manufacturing bikes. If we could be doing that and get some government support to do that, then an incentive along those lines would be great.”
Dentist Sam Hill is concerned about the rising cost of health insurance and welcomes Labor’s proposal for a Pensioner Dental Plan.
“Any time you have those less fortunate, with less disposable income, it’s important that we look after those people too, as there’s a lot of people who are out there who can’t access dental care,” he said.
Which party is best for small business?
Small business funder Larry Prosser thinks politicians’ self-interest has overridden public interest in recent times.
“There’s no real standout of great political leaders in this country at this time,” he said.
“I would have to say the LNP seems to favour the interests of small business over any other party. That being said, you’d have to see the political parties actually implement what they’ve promised.”
Metal manufacturer Robert Campbell thinks Labor is a better prospect this election.
“They seem to offer a more competent team and a more stable environment — business, of course, needs to have a stable environment in which to operate.”
In Melbourne, coffee roaster and cafe owner Mark Ryan found it a difficult question to answer.
“I’m very happy with the Greens and some of their initiatives, some of the initiatives from the other parties are good as well,” he said.
“I’d like to say one party has satisfied small business and given it the tick, but unfortunately I don’t know.”
Who are small business owners voting for?
Naturopath Christine Pope says she has had a good personal experience with her local Liberal member but is considering voting for minor parties in the Senate.
“There’s some of them I would obviously not be prepared to support, such as One Nation or Clive Palmer, but I’m looking to see whether any of those other minor parties have positions would be helpful in terms of influencing policy,” she said.
Dentist Sam Hill is undecided and plans to do more research before election day.
“Education, other services, healthcare are very important, but obviously [small business] is what we’re involved in, and a lot of other Australians are involved in … so that will be a large factor,” he said.