Regulation red tape costs Australian businesses billions every year. For any business, the burden of compliance can be a real drain on productivity and stop innovation in its tracks.
This is particularly true for the two million plus small businesses in Australia, many of which don’t have the luxury of teams of special staff dedicated to compliance. But thanks to the ready availability of new and existing cloud-based technology, small- to medium-sized businesses are taking back control.
The regulation burden
These days, it seems like regulations impact on every area of a business’s operations. Most businesses have obligations around resourcing, including industrial relations, employment, workcover and OH&S. They also have financial obligations, including payroll, state taxes, national company taxes and GST. Also in the mix are privacy, intellectual property, data storage and electronic payment regulations.
Environmental, waste and energy compliance is on the rise, as well as regulations around infrastructure, planning, natural resources, transport, product and food safety, competition and fair trading.
There is no escaping the regulation burden. A survey conducted by the Australian Industry Group in 2014 found that the impact of managing red tape was 24 percent higher for small business than it was for medium or large businesses.
Real cost of regulation for small business
“For some small businesses, regulations can literally threaten to take over their business…..even just the thought of it,” said Ms Susan Milicevic, Principal of Aspire Consulting with a small to medium client base across Queensland and other states.
“Not only do small businesses have to deal with fixed costs associated with learning about regulation requirements, and establishing systems to ensure compliance,” said Ms Milicevic, “but without specialised staff to handle regulatory matters, owners are often diverted from actually running the business.”
Off road and into the cloud
“Fortunately the rise of new and existing, often cloud-based, technologies means more and more of our clients are opting to access smart technologies to help them deal with HR, payroll and tax issues in a timely manner, so that they can focus on operating and growing their business instead.”
“The challenge,” said Ms Milicevic, “is having the time to investigate the options and then manage the transition from your existing approach to something new. For some, it can seem better to let the regulations remain in control of the wheel, rather than risk taking your hands off altogether, while you switch drivers.”
“But once you realise the benefits, it’s hard to ignore. And given the current environment, help is readily available, but business owners just don’t know where to start.”
Biting the technology bullet
Biting the technology bullet and taking the leap has extraordinary productivity benefits. Last year PWC did a study for Google that showed that a staggering $33 million per year (roughly the cost of a small hospital or major road upgrade) could be delivered each year if businesses took advantage of the digital efficiencies available to them.
A 2014 study by the Australian Media and Communications Authority into small businesses and their use of technology found four factors influenced the adoption of technologies to increase productivity.
- Trustworthy (and easily digestible) information about new technologies
- Return on investment
- Familiarity, usability and fit with current systems
“This has certainly been my experience,” said Ms Milicevic, herself a Chartered Accountant. “No matter what the bells and whistles, if businesses are going to invest in the cost of new technology, potentially new processes and staff training, they need to know the benefits are worth it.”
“We show them what is available and how it can make their lives easier,” said Ms Milicevic, “but we also encourage them speak to their networks to hear how other businesses have benefitted, and what they learnt along the way.”
Grabbing the wheel
Now, more than ever, there are simple, accessible and incredibly effective technology options available to help you not only comply with regulations – but more efficiently run your business.
“One of the best advantages my clients find, is that suddenly they’re not driving blind,” said Ms Milicevic. “They have the data at their fingertips to more effectively run their business, and extra time to sit down and analyse it.”
Whatever the regulation, if red tape is driving your business, then you need to rethink your strategy.
Here are our top tips to send red tape to the back seat where it belongs, so you can take control of the wheel.
- Focus on the destination – don’t let compliance drive your business
- Stay on top of the rules – but remember productivity is the prize
- Take advantage of technology