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Purpose 6: Small business support

Purpose 6 supports the growth of small and family businesses. Achieving it will contribute to economic growth, productivity and job creation by building a sustainable and productive small business sector. In 2019–20, we worked to achieve this purpose through two activities:

  • Activity 6.1: Supporting small business to transition to the digital economy
  • Activity 6.2: Promoting good mental health for small business operators.

Activity 6.1: Supporting small business to transition to the digital economy

Key achievements The Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions program continued to deliver low-cost, high-quality digital solutions advice to small business clients. The program helped more than 5700 new small businesses in metropolitan and regional areas in the first nine months of 2019–20.

The Small Business Digital Champions Project worked with 99 small businesses that underwent a comprehensive digital transformation. They received advice and up to $18 500 in digital goods and services, plus additional in-kind support from corporate partners.

Fifteen industry associations provided advice on digital technology to at least 5645 small businesses across regional and metropolitan areas. Free sector-specific digital advisory services covered topics such as technology trends, adoption, hardware, software, cyber security, digital training, planning and support.

A Small Business Digital Champions conference brought together participating businesses, corporate partners, mentors, Deloitte, industry leaders and industry associations to maximise networking, peer learning and the dissemination of expert advice. More than 60 small business digital transformation videos, case studies and expert advice pieces were published to inspire the wider small business community to ‘go digital’.

The ASBAS Digital Solutions program and 15 industry associations adapted their service offerings to also provide general business advice to businesses experiencing stress and difficulties as a result of COVID-19.

Performance criteria and results Table 18 presents the results measured against the performance criteria for Activity 6.1 and its associated Program 4.1 (refer to Figure 3), as set out in the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Corporate Plan 2019–20, pages 40–41. Table 18: Activity 6.1: Supporting small business to transition to the digital economy

Table 18: Activity 6.1: Supporting small business to transition to the digital economy

Performance criterion

201920 target

201920 result

Increased access by small businesses to advisory services that support and enhance their digital capabilities

Digital competency for small businesses increases

During 2019–20, the department delivered programs that assisted small businesses to transition to the digital economy:

  • ASBAS Digital Solutions providers supported 5734 small businesses over the first three quarters of the 2019–20 financial year.
  • The Small Business Digital Champions Project helped 99 small businesses undergo a comprehensive digital transformation, receiving advice and up to $18 500 in goods and services. Case studies are published online to showcase the benefits of technology.
  • Fifteen industry associations provided individual digital advisory services to 5645 small businesses members between April and October 2019. Milestone Reports due in April 2020 were delayed for six months due to COVID-19’s impact on small businesses. The next Milestone Report is due in October 2020.

Increased awareness of the benefits of digital engagement by small business operators

Business performance improves through implementation of effective digital strategies

In 2019–20, the following programs supported small businesses to engage in digital technology:

  • The Small Business Digital Champions Project aimed to increase knowledge of technology. An evaluation found that participants increased their confidence and made them more proficient with digital technology, as well as other business benefits, such as increased productivity, profits and resilience during COVID-19.
  • Fifteen industry associations participated in the Small Business Digital Champions Project, providing advice and support to their small business members. The advice is tailored to meet the small business needs and ranges from technology trends, adoption, hardware, software, cyber security, digital training, planning and support. In the first six months of the project, at least 5645 small businesses received support.

Analysis During 2019–20, we continued to assist Australian small and family businesses to transition to the digital economy. We achieved the following outcomes:

  • ASBAS Digital Solutions assisted more than 5700 small businesses in the first nine months of 2019–20 by providing thousands of instances of advice, including:
    • about 10 000 on social media and digital marketing
    • more than 6700 on websites and selling online
    • almost 6000 on small business software
    • over 2300 on online security and data privacy.
  • In June 2020, a targeted media campaign encouraged small businesses in specific regional areas to engage with ASBAS. Further information and video resources are available at business.gov.au/asbas.
  • The Small Business Digital Champions Project offered help to 100 small businesses with digital transformation. All but one business (which withdrew midway) benefitted from the comprehensive project. Business case studies, published at www.business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/digital-champions, showcase technology benefits to the wider small business community.

In response to COVID-19, ASBAS Digital Solutions and the industry associations supported small businesses by expanding their service offering to include general business advice.

Activity 6.2: Promoting good mental health for small business operators

Key achievements Minister Cash launched the My Business Health web portal in December 2019. The portal gives small businesses easy access to information on general support and mental health support services. The portal was developed by the department, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Beyond Blue and Everymind.

Performance criteria and results Table 19 presents the results measured against the performance criteria for Activity 6.2 and its associated Program 4.1 (refer to Figure 3), as set out in the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business’s Corporate Plan 2019–20, page 42.

Table 19: Activity 6.2: Promoting good mental health for small business operators

Table 19: Activity 6.2: Promoting good mental health for small business operators

Performance criterion

201920 target

201920 result

Increased awareness of support available to promote good mental health for small business operators

Regular engagement with stakeholders to maintain and increase the profile of mental health awareness for small business operators

During 2019–20, the department raised awareness of support by:

  • jointly developing small business mental health resources
  • delivering formal presentations
  • hosting an academic workshop in October 2019 for researchers in the small business field
  • forming working groups in July 2019 to pursue activities identified during roundtable discussions
  • holding regular meetings with a wide range of small business stakeholders.

Analysis During 2019–20, we continued to promote good mental health for small business operators. We achieved this by:

  • working with stakeholders, such as Everymind, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Beyond Blue and Fortitude at Work, to develop small business mental health resources
  • delivering a series of working groups in July 2019 to undertake activities identified during roundtable discussions
  • delivering presentations at the IPA-Deakin SME Research Centre conference in September 2019 and the Heads of Workplace Safety Authority Small Business Conference in March 2020
  • hosting an academic workshop in October 2019 that brought together leading researchers in the small business field to share insights and discuss opportunities for researching mental health
  • leading and participating in regular meetings with small business stakeholders, including the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, the Mental Health Commission, Beyond Blue and other government bodies, such as the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Treasury and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.