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Update from the Queensland Small Business Commissioner – September 2022

By 02/10/2022No Comments

From the Commissioner

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 honour 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 My GovID 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


It’s time to apply for your director ID

A director identification number (director ID) is a requirement for all directors. It is a unique identifier that directors apply for once and keep forever. All existing directors must apply for their director ID by 30 November 2022.

You can beat the rush and get your director ID online today via the Australian Business Registry Services website here.

For a step-to-step guide on how to apply, watch the director ID demonstration video.


Small business cyber security guide

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) have put together a guide to help small businesses protect themselves from the most common cyber security incidents.

You can use this guide to understand, take action, and increase your cyber security resilience against ever-evolving cyber security threats.

Download and use this guide to understand the following:

  • Cyber threats
  • Scam emails (phishing)
  • Ransomware
  • Software considerations
  • Automatic backups
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • People and procedures
  • Passphrases
  • Employee training

Download the guide here.


Workforce Connect Fund is coming soon

Have you been struggling to attract workers to your small business? The Queensland Government’s Workforce Connect Fund will provide up to $5,000 in funding to small businesses that identify an immediate need for new and innovative HR solutions to support their business. A network of industry-based workforce advisors are being established to:

  • work directly with employers to help them address workforce challenges and diversify their workforces
  • work with small businesses to discuss eligibility requirements and
  • assist small business to complete an application (must be submitted in consultation with an industry network advisor)
  • Once the network of advisors has been established, contact details will be published here

The Workforce Connect Fund will also fund large, scalable attraction and retention projects delivered by industry peak bodies and community peak organisations to connect, develop, and implement new and innovative strategies, services and/or mechanisms. It is anticipated that projects will commence delivery in early 2023.

For large-scale projects the level of funding is capped at up to $1 million and projects will be available for a maximum 12-month period. The funding round for large -scale projects will be coming soon; in the meantime you can read more in the Workforce Connect Fund funding guidelines.


2022 Growing Queensland Business Roadshow

The 2022 Growing Queensland Business Roadshow is being held during October and November across various locations throughout Queensland, to give businesses the chance to connect with council and state government representatives and to find out how to supply to government.

Businesses who attend this event will make valuable connections and will receive practical tips and information on:

  • government tendering
  • ‘greening’ your business
  • Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games

It doesn’t matter if you are an existing government buyer or supplier, or if you’re looking to become one. This is a roadshow event for all Queensland small businesses. Find a location and book your ticket here.


SBFC showcase – Sunshine Coast Council

For the last two years the Sunshine Coast Council has run its local business champions series which highlights and promotes outstanding businesses who are supporting locals in their community.

This year, the series is showcasing eight businesses that have made significant contributions to the Sunshine Coast business community by sourcing local produce and materials, developing local partnerships and collaborations with other businesses, and recruiting staff locally.

Launching this series has significantly raised the profile of all businesses who have been featured, which is part of the commitment a council makes when they sign the SBFC charter, which is to raise the profile and capability of their small business community.

Congratulations, Sunshine Coast Council raising the profile of your local small business community is exactly what it means to be a SBFC. Find out more about the program here.


Assistance case study – decision makers in a dispute

When parties go to mediation the best outcomes are always achieved when the decision-makers participate in the process. Otherwise communication can break down and make the initial dispute even more complicated.

Our office recently facilitated a mediation between a café business owner in Central Queensland and their landlord. The dispute was in relation to the ‘make good’ provisions which require restoration of premises at the end of the lease. The tenant believed the ‘make good’ provisions had been fulfilled and their bond should be fully refunded. The landlord however did not agree and was unsatisfied with the condition of the premises. The landlord decided to send their property manager to attend the mediation and make to decisions on their behalf.

During the mediation there was a great deal of informative discussion between the tenant and the property manager which resulted in most of the issues being worked through and resolved, except for one. The remaining issue was going to affect the landlord’s cash flow so the property agent decided it was necessary to pause the mediation and consult with the property manager.

This meant the landlord was having to make a decision without the full background of what had been communicated during the mediation. He did not accept the final matter in dispute. If the parties did not reach agreement at mediation, the next step would have been to escalate the matter to QCAT (which is roughly a 27 week wait).

The QSBC mediator adjourned the mediation and requested the landlord to attend on the adjourned date. This occurred, and an agreement was successfully reached – saving both parties time and money. Having the key decision-makers for each party present during a mediation is important.

Find out more about the range of assistance services the QSBC provides here.


Top tips for sole traders

If you’re a sole trader, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has put together some tips to help you meet your tax obligations:

1. register as a business if you’re carrying on an enterprise

2. register for GST if your business has a GST turnover of $75,000 or more (there are other instances where you’ll need to register for GST so find out more about when to register)

3. report all assessable income, for example, if you earn other income outside of your business such as a salary or wages

4.correctly claim deductions for expenses and only claim the business portion if an expense is for both business and private use. For example, make sure you’re:

  • working out the cost of sales (which is the expenses directly related to the production of a product) accurately and accounting for stock used for private purposes
  • correctly claiming expenses related to rent, repairs and maintenance
  • only claiming the business portion if you use your motor vehicle for private purposes

5. cancel your ABN if you need to permanently close your business.

Find more information via the ATO or speak with a registered tax or BAS agent for more information tailored to your circumstances.


4 warning signs your business is in financial trouble

If your business is in financial distress there are warning signs you can watch out for. Recognising these signs and taking action quickly can give your business the best chance to survive.

Learn more about the key warning signs to look out for so you can recognise if your business is under financial stress and learn what you can do to get your business back on track via business.gov.au‘s tips and resources here.


Small business wellness coaches

We have partnered with the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training (DESBT), the Queensland Mental Health Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland to engage six new small business wellness coaches located across Queensland.

Wellness coaches are available now in Cairns, Mackay, Toowoomba, Southern Brisbane and Northern Brisbane (and very soon in Townsville). These new coaches join the network of small business financial counsellors and tourism financial counsellors to provide a complete package of support for small businesses.

For details on how to find a small business wellness coach click here.