Who wouldn’t like free money to help grow their business? After all, when money is tight and cash flow is king, a little help from the government can really take your business to the next level without you having to dip into your own pocket.
Small business in Australia forms the backbone of our economy, and with the recent Federal budget, Treasurer Joe Hockey admitted the road to recovery will come from small business owners getting the essential support and incentives they need to thrive and develop. Yet so many small business owners today are not aware of the pool of money available through government grants that they can access right now to help them fund the growth and development of new products and services.
Government agencies, from local to State and up to the Federal level, offer financial concessions to eligible small businesses. This support can be in the form of grants, rebates, subsidies and incentive schemes. While requirements vary, there is some generic information that you will need for most applications; plus having this information on hand will be useful to your business whether you win the grant or not.
Here are some tips to give you the best chance of accessing grant money:
1. Get your financial accounts in order
Having accurate, up-to-date financial information for you business is essential to impress the government department in assessing your application. Behind in your bookkeeping? Now’s the chance to employ a bookkeeper to get your business financials in order.
If you can’t produce the most recent financial results for your business to complete a grant application, then this sure sign that you need to get help and get your business in records order.
2. Prepare to pitch your business and ideas
Imagine you jump into an elevator with someone who wants to invest in your business. They have a pocket full of cash and are just looking for a worthy, innovative business owner who has a great idea or existing business but who needs the cash to commercialise it grow it into a global player. You’ve got 30 seconds to pitch your idea or business to them; otherwise, at the end of the ride, they will get out at the top floor, keeping the cash while you take the elevator back to the basement empty-handed.
Develop written pitches for your business: a 30-second pitch, a 1-minute pitch and a 5-minute pitch. Practice your pitch to family and friends as though you are standing in front of those who will assess your grant application. It’s also good practice for pitching to potential customers. Having your pitch ready to “roll off the tongue” to anyone in any situation shows you’re passionate and driven to succeed.
3. Ask others to critique your grant application
We all love talk up ourselves and our businesses, so get some of your business colleagues and peers to read and critique your application. Get them to pick holes in your business plan and assumptions. Maybe there are market forces you have not considered. Maybe you have ignored certain competitors.
Getting others to play devils advocate with your grant application will provide you with valuable business feedback that will also help you build a better business, even if the grant application is unsuccessful.
4. Hire professional help
Some government grants may be large enough for you to seriously consider engaging a specialty consultant who drafts and assists business owners in submitting and winning certain business grants. You may only get one shot at a large grant fund, so hiring an expert to draft and submit the application with your help maybe worthwhile.
Some grant consultants know how to structure and pitch the application in a certain way. They can also provide invaluable feedback from their experience on what makes a successful application get the tick of approval. Even their network of valuable contacts in certain government departments could be the difference between getting your grant application into the right hands or it ending up in the trash.
Here are some grant programs available to small businesses:
Research Connections: If you’re a small or medium sized business, Research Connections can help you work within the research sector. The program aims to help businesses grow by:
- Developing new ideas that have commercial value
- Identifying current knowledge gaps that could be hindering business growth
Eligible business owners will be matched with a facilitator who will assess the business for growth opportunities. Grant funding of up to $50,000 is available.
R&D Tax Incentive Program: If your business is in the Agrifood, Information & Communication Technology, Built Environment, or Manufacturing industries, you may be able to apply for the Governments R&D Tax Incentive Program. Generally a company that is liable to pay tax in Australia and is incorporated under Australian law is eligible to apply. Trusts are typically not eligible.
Practice Incentives Program (PIP): If you are running a medical practice or are a health professional, you can secure funding through the Government’s Practice Incentives Program (PIP). This program offers incentives to support your general practice activities. The incentives aim to:
- Encourage continuing improvements and quality care
- Enhance capacity
- Improve access and health outcomes for patients
Export Market Development Grants (EMDG): EMDG assistance is available to small and medium sized businesses that are developing an export market, including inbound tourism. Generally the grants reimburse export promotion expenses over $15,000, which may include the cost of an overseas representative, some marketing costs and registration of intellectual property.
These are just a sampling of the many opportunities available for small businesses owners to access government grants. There is a pool of money available across a wide range of industries just waiting for the right application to be considered and approved. You can also search the Government’s Grant Finder for even more opportunities in your industry or for financial assistance for specific activities like employee training.
Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. The Government at all levels wants to lend you a helping hand. The question is are you willing and ready to secure this funding and get a hand-up for your business future?
Make no mistakes: if you can’t be bothered to research and apply for every incentive your business is eligible for, how would you feel if that grant money ended up in the hands of your competitor?