From the Commissioner – September 2022

These days we have come to expect the unexpected, and September delivered – with small businesses needing to navigate a public holiday on the 22nd, for a National Day of Mourning in honor of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. What an outstanding and inspiring example of a life dedicated to service over self.

This month we also experienced unplanned challenges for the many individuals and businesses exposed to potential privacy problems as a result of Optus’ data breach. I heard a practical-thinking business owner recently describe scams and cyber-attacks as ‘the new break and enter’ and that ‘even burglars are working from home now’. I do not wish to make light of a distressing situation; however, he makes an interesting point. Implementing quality cyber and scam protection mechanisms should be as routine for us as locking up the shop for the night and turning on the alarm system. If you are concerned or would like to review your online security we have highlighted where to find some good, practical guides by the Australian Cyber Security Centre below. However, if you have experienced a problem, we recommend contacting the ACCC’s Scamwatch immediately.

Did you know that the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) can also assist small businesses that have been scammed? If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details with someone you don’t know, you should contact your bank or financial firm immediately. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can lodge a complaint with AFCA. AFCA is a non-government organisation providing free, fair, and independent help with financial disputes. Its role is to help consumers and small businesses to reach agreements with financial firms about how to resolve their complaints.

Speaking of resolving matters, our assistance team has experienced an increase in small business disputes successfully resolving either through our informal case management or mediation. During the last three months almost 80% of disputes resulted in an agreed outcome. This is up from 67% earlier in the year. We love it when this number trends upwards because it means those small businesses can move forward with business and life and avoid time consuming costly delays waiting for a hearing and decision by a court or tribunal. Less cost, less stress, more certainty for small business.

One possible reason for the increased resolution rate is by ensuring both parties have a key decision-maker involved in the discussion from the outset. We’ve explained how this can influence the outcome, using an example from one of our small business disputes below.

If you are one of the roughly two million company directors yet to apply for a director identification number, the November deadline is fast approaching. Now is the time to check in with your accountant or bookkeeper for advice if unsure whether this applies to you, or you can go through this checklist of who needs to apply. I applied for mine this week and it was fairly painless. I already had a myGovID so that helped, but I did need to stop halfway through to go and find some missing information. My timesaving tip: check through the instructions on the website before you start filling in the form. I didn’t do that and by the time I retrieved what was needed to progress, the form had timed out and I had to start over. It still took less than 30 minutes to complete the registration process, but it would have been under 10 minutes if I had everything ready beforehand.

Our expanding network of Small Business Friendly Councils continues to generate wins for local small businesses, finding ways to make it easier to do business. Read about Sunshine Coast Council’s progress with their local business champion series below. We were also pleased to Burdekin and Hinchinbrook to the small business friendly councils family, making that a total of 35 councils across Queensland who have pledged their support to their small business community.

We know there are many businesses struggling to get enough staff to operate properly. It is a challenge affecting businesses right across the country. If you have an innovative idea about how to better source, attract and retain staff – talk to your industry body, community group, local council, or chamber of commerce about submitting a proposal under the Queensland Government’s new Workforce Connect Fund. There is up to $1 million available for viable proposals by peak industry and community organisations. It opens for applications on 4 October, the fund guidelines, KPIs and details are available on the website.

Maree Adshead
Queensland Small Business Commissioner

For more details, read the QSBC newsletter September 2022