Aid for small businesses

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, has urged small business owners to take time early in the new year to take stock of their mental and financial well-being.

“Too often the daily quest to keep the doors open and manage the many immediate demands prevents time being spent thinking about the health, future and goals of your business. And for that matter, your own health.”

Research published by Treasury just before Christmas confirmed that many small business owners struggle with mental health challenges.

One-in-five of those surveyed had been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a doctor or health professional. In some industries such as manufacturing, retail trade, accommodation and food services it was one-in-three.

Small business owners said a key cause of stress was finding a balance between the demands of work, family and personal life followed by lockdowns owing to COVID-19.

“For small and family business owners, their identities are interwoven into their business and the stakes are so much higher than just a job,” he said.

The study found that small business owners feel acute pressure to ‘do it all’ and to keep up the appearance of being fine even when they are struggling. They feel others – family, business partners, employees, and suppliers – depended on them.

One piece of advice from Mr Bilson was to talk to trusted advisers and networks to find solutions. He further commented on the reliability of independent views as a vital ingredient to blend with optimistic entrepreneurs.

Most business owners who responded to the study said they had not used any of the support services available due to fears of poor treatment from disclosed diagnosis.

Mr Billson urged small and family business owners to take advantage of the many free support services provided by small business experts.

The Ombudsman also said it was important that policy makers, program designers and regulators understand that a time-poor small business does not have the same bandwidth as a big business.

“We should not forget just how vital small and family businesses are. After the global financial crisis, the bulk of new job growth was driven by small businesses. The same can be true now,” he said.

More information, resources and tips to help run your small business is available at www.asbfeo.gov.au

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