Buisness Development Series

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Work-Life Balance

The challenges facing small business owners.

Maintaining a stable work-life balance will likely be an ongoing challenge for many small business owners, who may find that the various responsibilities associated with running a business, from day-to-day operations to administrative duties, leave little free time to pursue personal interests.

Of course, it is important to retain perspective in seeking to get this balance right, weighing up both short and long-term goals, along with other related considerations, and approaches will naturally vary according to individual preferences and circumstances.

What works for one business owner may not necessarily be the right approach for another, however there are a number of strategies that can potentially be applied and which may be worthwhile pursuing.

Work-Life Balance: Managing Different Commitments

The arboriculture sector can present some unique challenges for business owners, particularly so given the widely documented challenges in attracting skilled staff, which especially for small businesses has the potential to create additional time pressures.

Meanwhile, overseeing a range of tasks, from maintaining and replacing equipment, to accounting, business planning and marketing has the potential to quickly eat into personal time, and taking work home may become routine for some.

Healthdirect Australia notes via its website that, amid the challenge of juggling different commitments, many Australians can be classified as “time poor”, with Australians working some of the longest hours of anyone in developed countries, stating that:

“A good work-life balance means you have harmony between different aspects of your life, where benefits gained from each area can support and strengthen the others.”

Previous studies have highlighted the challenges Australians face, with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s welfare 2019 report showing that, despite a downward trend, Australia has one of the highest proportions of people working long hours compared to other OECD countries.

Meanwhile, a recent Roy Morgan survey found that many Australians doing at least some work from home “find it difficult to switch off from work”, with those who are self-employed and who do some work from home more likely to agree it is difficult to switch off than those who don’t (43 and 38 per cent, respectively).

Seeking To Get The Balance Right

Of course, being well organised and utilising the range of business management tools at your disposal can contribute significantly to achieving a good work-life balance, while it is also important to be able to draw a clear division between your professional and personal life.

Healthdirect provides the following work-life balance advice:

  • Values – consider what is important to you in life, how much time you actually spend on the most important priorities, and make time for the things that are important to you
  • Time management – utilise tools such as diaries, calendars and apps, with it important to keep track of what you are spending your time on, and cutting down on time wastage
  • Boundaries – set limits on your work time and put time aside for other aspects of your life, going internet-free at times, and learning to say no
  • Downtime – dedicate a regular time each week to an activity you enjoy, with rest periods sometimes important to recharge the batteries.

Health direct additionally points to the importance of positive relationships and social support, along with regular exercise, in combating stress, with further information available at: www.healthdirect.gov.au

August 31, 2020 / by / in ,
A Proactive Approach

How businesses can navigate a path forward.

The Australian economy is currently dealing with the extensive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and around the country businesses of all types are seeking to negotiate its immediate and ongoing effects.

Industry will have to collectively adjust to the new economic and social reality, and businesses will need to position themselves as best as possible in the coming months in line with local, state and national planning and initiatives.

In doing so, businesses need to be realistic about their financial situation, and to keep up to date with the latest developments, including any government assistance they may potentially be eligible for.

A Look At The Financial Perspective: Steps For Businesses

In addressing the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more important than ever for businesses to exercise tight control over their finances, adjusting and redirecting spending when necessary.

Undertaking a thorough review of your business’ finances can help to shed light on the sorts of actions you should be taking, and can contribute to keeping operations running smoothly in both the short and long term.

As advised via the business.gov.au website, there are a range of measures businesses can take when it comes to carrying out a financial review, including:

  • Set up a cash flow statement – tracking all money flowing in and out of a business, helping to identify any reduction in cash flow early on
  • Talk to creditors – potentially helping to prevent late penalties, and get information about any hardship provisions they may have
  • Create a budget – providing insight into how to direct your money where it’s most needed, helping to prioritise any debt, make business decisions and get finance
  • Learn about tax support – relief is being provided by the ATO for certain tax obligations for taxpayers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak on a case-by-case basis

It is important for businesses to take a proactive approach when considering these and other measures, and acting early could help prevent potential future issues.

Of course, if in doubt about what sort of financial measures you should be taking, it is worthwhile seeking out expert advice.

Government assistance for businesses The federal government has introduced a range of measures to assist businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, designed to deliver both short-term support and address its ongoing economic impact.

For instance, one of its main initiatives is the $130 billion JobKeeper payment, designed to help keep Australians employed.

As advised via business.gov.au, JobKeeper is designed to help impacted businesses, accessing a subsidy to continue paying their employees, providing eligible businesses $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee until September 27, 2020.

Under another federal government initiative, business.gov.au advises that small businesses (employing fewer than 20 employees) that employ an apprentice or trainee may be eligible for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of their wage paid from January 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020.

Meanwhile, around the country state governments have also taken steps to  support businesses – and, in line with your specific circumstances, it is worthwhile looking into what sort of assistance your business may be eligible for at both a federal and state level.

The good news is that there are plenty of small business advisory services available, and it is certainly worthwhile utilising resources such as business.gov.au to determine what free and low-cost services are available in your area.

July 28, 2020 / by / in ,
Starting A Business

The importance of writing a business plan.

Starting a business can be a rewarding experience and fulfilling career move, and to give yourself every chance of success it is important to develop a clear and concise business plan, laying out your goals in detail and how you intend to achieve them. There is plenty of scope to build a career in the arboriculture sector, with skills shortages an ongoing issue for employers, and for workers who are dedicated to learning and developing a broad range of experience over time, opportunities will likely present themselves.

Starting a business may well be a natural progression for some, however it is important to be realistic about the challenges ahead, and detailed planning can help determine what it will take to achieve your goals and just how ready you are to take on the extra responsibility.

First Things First: Are You Ready?

Of course, as a starting point it is important to be fully qualified and knowledgeable, and wide-ranging industry experience will serve as a solid platform to begin exploring what sort of opportunities are available.

However, a willingness to take on the responsibility of running a business is also important, and it will help to be clear in your mind about what exactly you want and your preparedness to shoulder additional responsibilities, and to be realistic about your chances of success.

Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics shed light on business movement, showing that there were over 2.37 million actively trading businesses in the Australian economy as at June 30, 2019, with a 15.4 per cent entry rate and 12.7 per cent exit rate in 2018-19.

The statistics show that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry division was the only division to post an overall decline in business count in 2018-19, comprising a 6.9 per cent entry rate and 7.8 per cent exit rate.

Business Plan Checklist

Putting together a business plan will help to catalogue what is required to establish and grow your business, and to clearly articulate step-by-step processes and strategies, along with measures of success.

As advised via the business.gov.au website, it is worthwhile taking your time in putting together a plan (along with regularly reviewing it, and potentially taking steps to protect its content), and seeking out professional help if required, with different steps encompassing:

  • Determining who the plan is for – will it be purely for internal purposes, or also used for external purposes (such as when seeking financing)? Being clear on the plan’s purpose can help develop it for the right audience
  • Getting the research done – incorporating decisions about your business structure, marketing strategies and finances, with research helping to develop goals and targets, facilitating a better understanding of where your business needs to be heading
  • Being clear about your finances – in seeking to secure financing, you will need to show how much money you have, how much you need and how much you expect to make in the near future
  • Finishing with a summary – summarise the key aspects of your plan using as few words as possible, including details about your business, market, goals, current financial position and what any financing you’re seeking will help you achieve

The good news is that there are plenty of small business advisory services available, and it is certainly worthwhile utilising resources such as www.business.gov.au to determine what free and low-cost services are available in your area.

May 21, 2020 / by / in , ,
Liability Insurance And Subcontractors

Is your Insurance Policy covering the subcontractors you use in your business? The answer is no!

Insurers do not include subcontractors under liability insurance policies. If they did this, the insurer then accepts the liability for all of the work that the subcontractor undertakes. For example, you may have a subcontractor who does semi regular work for you throughout a year, but they also work for other companies and trades as well.

By including this subcontractor under your policy you are in fact covering them for all the work that they will perform throughout an insurance period, regardless of whether it is for you or not. This would include jobs that they undertake for other companies and which you know nothing of. The subcontractor could potentially cause an incident which results in property damage or an injury to a member of the public, and the subsequent insurance claim would be held against you, because they are an insured party under your policy. It will then be for the insurer to decide whether the policy will respond to this incident, or deny liability. It may leave you responsible to pay the costs for damages for work of which you knew nothing about – costs which could be in the tens of thousands of dollars or higher, depending on the incident.

Subcontractors should be treated like their own company and therefore should have their own cover in place for the work that they are performing. Just as you are required to have your own insurances in place, so are subcontractors required to have the same level of cover.

The best way to ensure a subcontractor you use has their own cover in place is to obtain a Certificate of Currency from them.

A Certificate of Currency will provide you with the information that is on their policy, and can give you re-assurance that they have cover and that you may not have significant out of pocket expenses. It is important to check the Certificate of

Currency received to ensure all details are correct.

Key points to look for include;

  • company name of the subcontractor
  • Are the dates current
  • Is the limit of liability adequate for the job you are performing
  • Are there any exclusions or limitations on their policy

Your liability policy should also include an extension for Vicarious Liability. Vicarious Liabilities can arise in situations where you are responsible for a third party (eg. the subcontractor or contractor who is working for you), and they are negligent in carrying out that responsibility and exercising control. If they are negligent you may be deemed to be responsible for some of the property damage or bodily injury caused by the subcontractor or contractor. Vicarious Liability covers this exposure for you, so it is important to check that your policy includes this extension so that you are not left out of pocket or with a damaged reputation.

Some Key Points To Remember When Dealing With Subcontractors:

  • Ensure all contractors are aware of their responsibilities and understand house rules
  • Ensure records are kept up to date detailing contractors attendance at principal’s induction program
  • Confirm that all subcontractors or contractors have their own adequate insurance cover in place that provides indemnity for you by naming you as their contract principal
  • Check that the cover a subcontractor has in place includes sums insured that match your insurance cover and has no clauses that will pass the liability on to you, or exclusions that relate to the work you are performing; and
  • Obtain and keep on file a copy of each subcontractor’s Certificate of Currency and diarise to ensure that an updated certificate is obtained each year or for when new work is performed.

For more information on Cyber Insurance or other insurance risks speak to Mick Le Grand at Fitzpatrick & Co – supporters of the Horticulture and Arboriculture industries for over 20 years – on (03) 8544 1600 or email [email protected].

Alternatively, visit www.fitzpatrick.com.au

April 22, 2020 / by / in , ,
Harnessing Digital Technologies To Drive Business Growth

Businesses across a wide variety of sectors are actively harnessing digital technologies to drive business growth, and those that don’t may be missing out on opportunities and falling behind their competitors.

Recent research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics for the federal government and its Small Business Digital Champions

Project has highlighted increasing small business adoption of digital technologies. The research, which classified digital engagement as basic, intermediate, high and advanced based on use of varying social media, websites, marketing and data analytics tools, found that:

  • In 2019, 55 per cent of small businesses achieved high or advanced levels of digital engagement, up from 39 per cent estimated in similar research in 2017
  • Small businesses moving from basic to advanced digital engagement see a 60 per cent increase in revenue per employee, having earned on average 28 per cent higher revenue growth in the last 12 months
  • Cost is the most commonly cited barrier to small business digital engagement
  • Of businesses with basic levels of digital engagement, 51 per cent don’t understand the potential benefits of engagement
  • More businesses are using social media to maintain their online presence before establishing a website

Of course, the nature of digital engagement will be determined by day-to-day business operations, and it makes sense to carefully consider how engagement can complement operations in your business.

Making your business visible: the importance of an online presence Maintaining an online presence is a fundamental component of business digital strategy, essentially providing a reference point for potential customers.

The 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report points to the importance of being active online, revealing that for 71 per cent of consumers traditional “word-of-mouth” referral comes behind online search and online reviews.

The report additionally found that 89 per cent of customers want a website that’s easy to navigate, while 48 per cent will stop considering a business if it doesn’t have one.

Meanwhile social media platforms are another important tool via which businesses can establish an online presence, with last year’s Yellow Social Media Report revealing 79 per cent of Australians use social media, with 47 per cent of small-to-medium-sized businesses on social media.

Without an online presence, it becomes more difficult for potential new customers to find you, while utilising the range of online tools available can help businesses not only advertise, but also build credibility and encourage customer engagement.

For instance, via a website or social media platform, you can provide an overview of your business, along with photos and videos of different projects worked on and other relevant information, allowing customers an insight into your experience, approach and range of services.

Where to Start?

It is certainly worthwhile keeping up to speed with the ever-evolving range of digital tools that can potentially help grow your business.

As a starting point, a number of state government websites provide information on digital strategies, and may also have information on relevant workshops for small business owners.

It is also worthwhile referencing the business.gov.au website, which provides a range of information about digital tools, including information on creating an online presence. Information on the Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions program can also be found at business.gov.au, with the ASBAS program designed to provide small businesses with advice about a range of digital solutions.

In the next issue we will look at how a small business in Arboriculture can make the most of the Small Business Digital Grants Program and how to be eligible for a government sponsored ‘digital makeover’

January 20, 2020 / by / in , , ,
Boost Your Business

In this new series we will look at business development strategies that can facilitate growth and help lay the foundation for short and long-term success.

Ensuring a business runs smoothly is an ongoing challenge, and in seeking to maintain hard-earned

momentum and promote further growth by boosting service offerings it is worthwhile exploring a number of options.

From acquiring new equipment, to taking on new staff, investing in training and development, and integrating new technologies across different aspects of your business operations, there are a number of paths businesses in the tree industry can take to enhance and expand their service suite.

In assessing what course of action is best suited for your business, it may well be worthwhile weighing up your current service offerings, and then considering how you may go about augmenting them.

Seeking external advice on what actions you may potentially take could provide additional perspective, with it also worthwhile observing how your competitors operate, and taking note of and acting on client feedback.

New Equipment

Old and comparatively inefficient equipment may be slowing a business down and driving up operational costs, and it is worthwhile regularly looking into the value that new equipment can provide.

New equipment may deliver productivity and efficiency benefits, along with increasing the range of services your business is able to offer, and over the long term deliver operational savings, however businesses will need to determine the feasibility of making an investment.

Business will need to weigh up a range of factors, from financial to operational considerations, in assessing the viability of investing in new equipment.

New Staff

Bringing in additional crew members could complement and help diversify the services your business is offering, potentially providing a path to further growth.

When considering expanding your workforce, it is, however, important to carefully weigh up your requirements and to keep in mind your responsibilities as an employer.

The Fair Work Ombudsman website offers a number of tips on hiring new staff, highlighting the necessity of being aware of all relevant laws, along with assessing your business’ current and future needs, and defining the role you want to fill.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Guide to hiring new employees can be found at: www.fairwork.gov.au.

Training Courses

As advised via the business.gov.au website, training and skills investment “can increase productivity and innovation, help you attract and retain high-quality employees and improve customer satisfaction”.

As an employer, you should consider a number of factors when it comes to training, with www.business.gov.au advising:

  • Identify skill needs – to help understand what type of training will benefit your business, encompassing identifying the skills you and your crew currently hav
  • Explore training options – look at a range of options, including formal courses, apprenticeships and traineeships, mentoring and workshops
  • Find skills funding and programs – consider government-funded programs
  • Build a diverse workplace – employers can access a wider range of skills by employing people with different backgrounds.

New Technologies

It is worthwhile exploring how new technologies can be harnessed to benefit a business across various operations, from the office to the job site.

It may be a matter of gradually integrating technologies, with it important to maintain a long-term outlook and recognise the cumulative effect small changes can potentially have over time in both directly and indirectly building upon service offerings.

Technology integration could range from using a smartphone personal assistant to provide reminders, to using cloud computing to store and share data, to fitting out machines with GPS to keep track of their location, and may in turn pave the way for implementation of complimentary applications.

Our next instalment in this series will look at some of the strategies businesses can employ to diversify their clientele.

November 20, 2019 / by / in , , ,