From the Commissioner – August 2022

Next month we will welcome seven councils into our Small Business Friendly Councils (SBFC) Program. What does that mean for the small businesses in those regions, and what has been achieved by the 33 councils already on the journey?

Every year, we ask participating councils to reflect on what has been achieved for their small businesses, and to share the highlights. It is important to remember that every council is different – their size and budgets can vary significantly, political landscapes and priorities are naturally varied, and the needs of local small businesses can be quite different. It is impossible to compare progress, which is not the point of the program. The program is about encouraging councils to take a small business centred approach to services, to inspire and motivate councils with fresh ideas and know-how through the shared learnings of others in the network, and to promote and celebrate when great outcomes are made possible.

Sometimes decisions will be made by a small business friendly council that may seem ‘unfriendly’ towards business. Being small business friendly is a journey and the small business friendly program only commenced in Queensland less than two years ago. Transforming organisational culture takes time and councils need our encouragement and support.

The QSBC website will have a major overhaul over the next few months. Soon you will be able to follow the progress being made by small business friendly councils. Since signing the charter, Cook Shire Council hosted its first ever small business breakfast networking event and nominated a single point of contact for small business enquiries. Moreton Bay Regional Council piloted a ‘data club’ for small businesses keen to use data to extract knowledge and better inform their business decision-making. Some councils have now introduced local supplier spend targets, and local supplier preference weightings for procurement. There are many encouraging stories and small businesses across Queensland are starting to experience the benefits in real and practical ways.

We love it when a business we have previously assisted with a dispute comes back and asks for guidance about how to grow, or how to instigate changes to their business. We have noticed a gradual shift in the enquiries coming through the office this month towards proactive guidance seeking. The Department of Employment, Small Business and Training has been developing brand new resources and tools to help small businesses get ‘Business Ready’ at the various stages of a business lifecycle. This month I wanted to highlight the new marketing, advertising and promotion page. Try starting with the marketing health check, to help focus immediately on the areas in most need of your attention and earmark the things to work on later. Let us know what you think!

Our mediators submitted their annual reports to my office this month and it has prompted debate about a really important question – how do you measure the ‘success’ of a mediation? Is it for example only when agreement is reached on every single issue in dispute? And if so, does that mean a mediation was ‘unsuccessful’ even if it has helped the parties to better understand what is important to each other, what their needs are, and where some common ground might exist?

So far, our data captures when an agreement is reached about a dispute, but perhaps we are missing the additional value of relationships that were restored, misperceptions that have re-adjusted, partial agreements and the understandings reached through the mediation process. We are not saying mediation fixes everything and works every time but given the possible benefits and the progress the parties can make, it is definitely worth a try. If you would like assistance with a dispute get in touch.

This week the Honourable Di Farmer MP, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development, officially launched the “Good People Good Jobs – Queensland Workforce Strategy 2022-2032”. It is the first of three multi-year action plans to address workforce participation, local solutions, school-to-work transitions, workforce attraction and retention, and skilling Queenslanders now and into the future.

Maree Adshead
Queensland Small Business Commissioner