Local businesses provide economic benefits to our communities, and play a broader role in society by bringing us together.
However, anecdotal research by Commonwealth Bank’s Innovation Lab from hundreds of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) shows many feel invisible in the Australian innovation ecosystem. This is despite the huge contribution they make to Australia’s economy.
More than 90 per cent of Australian businesses are small businesses[i]. Further, they account for 33 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP), employ over 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce, and pay around 12 per cent of total company tax revenue.
Business owners often have to play every role, from boss to cleaner, and many report they lack the tools, tactics and approaches to compete, stay relevant and respond to disruption.
Small business is the least assisted sector of the economy[ii]. Only 15 per cent of small businesses report receiving any form of government assistance, compared to 30 per cent of medium businesses and 57 per cent of large businesses, according to the Small Business Counts report from the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
“The private sector plays a crucial role in helping to shape the future of work, and within that, the continuing role of small business,” says Claire Roberts, CBA’s Executive General Manager, Business Banking SME.
“But no organisation, or government department, has enough horsepower to help solve the increasingly complex brand and economic problems the small business community faces.
“This is why taking a ‘collective impact’ approach to support small businesses in the future of work is increasingly important,” she said.
Working across boundaries
“Collective impact is a framework to tackle complex problems – problems characterised by multiple stakeholders, with different perspectives about the causes of the problem and the best solutions.
“These challenges require working across organisational boundaries, as they are beyond the capacity of any one organisation or sector to solve.
“The value big business can offer as part of a collective impact approach around SMEs and the future of work is enormous. We are already helping small business with their individual and unique goals – from loans and funding, relationships with government at all levels, access to resources, to expertise in designing and executing strategies,” Roberts continued.
Partnerships and innovation
Victorian small businesses recently had the opportunity to partner with innovators from big business, tech giants, universities and government as part of the Small Business Festival Victoria.
It’s an annual event where many private sector organisations come together to deliver a ‘collective impact’ approach to help local businesses realise the significant benefits of embracing innovation and digital technologies.
As principal partner, CBA’s Innovation Lab hosted “The Small Business Restart”, a multi-stage program set up in the University of Melbourne’s Innovation Precinct.
The program enabled small business owners to participate in workshops and masterclasses with companies including Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and Mastercard, as part of a collective impact approach.
Building for the future
“The ability of a business to innovate, invent, capitalise on new ideas, and attract great talent is key to its success, irrespective of its size or industry,” said Roberts.
“In today’s environment, digital technology, accelerating connectivity, new talent models, and cognitive tools are significantly changing how we work, and while taking a collective impact approach is no easy feat, it does resonate with business leaders.
“Big corporates increasingly understand they have a role to play in addressing social issues, not only around the future of work, but changes in climate and addressing housing affordability.”
To do it, Roberts believes a collective impact approach will help communities and businesses find the best possible solutions.
“It’s important that all businesses can innovate and stay competitive as we prepare for the future of work, and corporates have a leading role to play in this.
“We have a duty to band together with government, academia and other key bodies to support sustainable business growth, and the growth of society as a whole and SMEs are an important segment in this,” she said.
To learn more about how CBA is supporting small businesses, visit our website: https://www.commbank.com.au/business/small-business.html
[i] Small Business Counts – Small Business in the Australian Economy, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman https://www.asbfeo.gov.au/sites/default/files/Small_Business_Statistical_Report-Final.pdf
[ii] Small Business Counts – Small Business in the Australian Economy, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman https://www.asbfeo.gov.au/sites/default/files/Small_Business_Statistical_Report-Final.pdf