As one door closes it’s time to support small-business digitisation

Almost exactly a year after it launched, the end of JobKeeper is now here. Over the last few months, economists have been forecasting the impact of this, with some arguing that the Australian economy is well-prepared, while others remain fearful of the impact it may have on Australian businesses. Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy recently predicted that over 100,000 small businesses will be at risk of closure.

The fact of the matter is that businesses don’t want to be reliant on government funding to survive. They simply want the support that they deserve, as such a crucial part of Australia’s economy. The end of JobKeeper presents a new opportunity to support the small-business sector, and help in establishing the right foundations to see long-term success.

Despite the clear advantages of digitisation, the Australian small-business sector has fallen behind in digital transformation, with a recent survey from CPA Australia finding that our small businesses were least likely to invest in technology in 2020, out of 11 countries surveyed. On top of that, a disproportionate number of small businesses, compared to larger ones, “counted on JobKeeper to get them through the worst of the pandemic” and many now have less capital available to invest into tech-led solutions.

Enabling this crucial shift towards digitisation should now be a priority focus of both state and federal governments, particularly with the end of JobKeeper. The digitisation of key functions like finance can simplify the process for small-business owners and managers and provide them with a better view into a business’ financial situations. Using digital tools enables businesses to be on the front foot and frees up time to focus on things like finding new ways to expand operations.

The Victorian state government’s Small Business Digital Adaptation Program, which offers a rebate of up to $1200 for businesses that implement digital technologies, provides a great example to replicate. It has helped to fund everything from business management tools to website upgrades for 6000 small businesses to date. Small businesses that register for the program are given a list of digital services, such as Intuit QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner, to trial for a month. If they choose to subscribe, they receive a subsidy.

Small-business success is Australia’s success. Partnerships like these, where the government rewards those that take steps to help themselves, represent much deserved support for our resourceful and resilient small-business operators.

Lars Leber, VP and Country Manager, Intuit QuickBooks Australia