As the memory of holidays fade along with our summer tans, small business owners all over Australia are heading back to work and gearing up for a big year ahead.
Their spirits might be refreshed, but many of the challenges they faced last year are still obstacles for them to overcome this year.
As a trusted advisor with over 400,000 members, the Chamber for Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) regularly conducts surveys on the inhibitors of business.
Their most recent survey found that many of the biggest problems for small business owners can be solved by digital products, tools and innovation. Instead of taking the easy route and just publishing a report with these findings, the CCIQ decided to fix them.
The result is Collaborate – a partnership with BlueChilli to create high growth, scalable start-ups that solve real problems for small to medium businesses.
The start-up competition (with up to ten $100,000 investments available) is open to entrepreneurs, business owners and innovators with great ideas for how technology and digital innovation can benefit small to medium businesses.
So what is keeping business owners up at night, and where is 2016’s biggest opportunity for start-ups looking to create value?
These are the top 10 small business challenges
Healthy cash flow is a vital part of running a business. It is, literally, the make or break for many business owners who need to stay on top of their finances, especially cash flow, to ensure they can operate successfully.
There are many opportunities for apps and software to give business owners a more comprehensive view and guidance around their financial health.
Beyond just a stable operating budget, the real reason business owners create and progress their ventures is because they want to create lasting wealth, driven by profit.
But getting to profitability, especially for sole proprietors, can be very hard. Digital innovation is key to increasing profitability.
What are the opportunities for start-ups to help scale an owners’ efforts?
If profitability is about squeezing every cent out of a dollar, then productivity is getting the most from every minute. With every digital leap we take, we’re given new challenges to stay effective, focussed and productive.
But challenges represent opportunity – how an we use apps, technology, software and digital technology to remove manual, time-consuming tasks and let us focus on creating value in the areas where we have most impact?
It’s no secret in the business world that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. As social creatures, we like doing business with people we know and trust.
But for small business owners who spend their time getting work done and don’t have capacity to network to find more business, that’s a tough reality. How can we connect more business owners to each other, new opportunities and markets, and new customers?
Even before the digital economy, Ghandi nailed the importance of attracting and retaining customers, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Customers are the heart of a business. How can we help small business owners attract, retain and maximise their customers?
Nobody likes red tape. Least of all small business owners with limited time and multiple aspects of a business to take care of themselves.
Deloitte published a report “Building the Lucky Country #4 – Unleashing productivity” outlining that rules, regulations and red tape costs Australians $249B a year in compliance and loss of productivity. That’s the equivalent of everyone working 8 weeks a year just to cover the cost of following the rules.
From hiring, onboarding, HR, running finances, doing marketing, paying bills, and then actually doing their real work – entrepreneurs and business owners are stretched across many business functions themselves.
And understandably, many aren’t experts at every single process involved in running a business. How can we make the processes involved in running a business simpler, smoother… even enjoyable?
Direct, social, online, offline. Marketing comes in all shapes and colours. According to LinkedIn data, social media marketing was the single highest in-demand skill in Australia in 2015, closely followed by digital media marketing.
There is a massive opportunity to help businesses tell their story & grow their business, and the talent in Australia is well aligned to have a huge impact here.
While time is infinite, the hours in a day are not. Of course owners are stretched for time. Having more time boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
But it’s not easy to know what to focus on from the inside, and business owners are peppered from all directions with distractions disguised as opportunities. Are there tools and technologies to help them prioritise, focus and find balance in their work (and life!)?
Given the range of tasks above, it’s no wonder that innovation – tomorrow’s problem – is often shifted to the backburner.
And that’s where the opportunity lies for entrepreneurs and start-ups: if you have an awesome idea to solve any of these problems for small businesses, and want 400,000 of them – pitch it to Collaborate for a $100,000 investment to help make that idea a reality.