Small business owners all over Australia are heading back to work and gearing up for a big year ahead, and while their spirits might be refreshed many of the challenges they faced last year are still obstacles for them to overcome this year.
The Chamber for Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) regularly conducts surveys on the inhibitors of business, and 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 startups that solve real problems for small to medium businesses. The startup competition – with up to 10 investments worth $100,000 available – is open to entrepreneurs, business owners and innovators with great ideas for how technology and digital innovation can benefit SMEs.
So what is keeping business owners up at night, and where is 2016’s biggest opportunity for startups looking to create value?
1. Cash flow
Healthy cash flow is a vital part of running a business. It’s the make or break for many business owners who need to stay on top of their finances 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 a key to increasing profitability. Entrepreneurs should consider how they can do this to help scale an owner’s 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 can we use apps, technology, software and digital technology to remove manual, time-consuming tasks and let SME owners focus on creating value in the areas where they have most impact?
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, it’s a tough reality. How can we connect more business owners to each other, new opportunities and markets and new customers?
Customers are the heart of a business, so how can startups 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. 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 law.
From hiring, on-boarding, HR, running finances, doing marketing, paying bills, and 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 this process simpler, smoother and even enjoyable?
Direct, social, online, offline – marketing comes in all shapes and colours. There is a massive opportunity to help businesses tell their story and grow their business. The talent in Australia is well aligned to have a huge impact here.
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?
10. Research and development
Given the range of tasks above, it’s no wonder that innovation is often shifted to the backburner, and that’s where the opportunity lies for entrepreneurs and startups.
Applications for Collaborate close on Monday afternoon.
Colette Grgic is the general manager of corporate innovation at BlueChilli.