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From the Commissioner

This month, I have seen an unusually diverse range of enquiries, requests for assistance and disputes come through my office. A common theme for disputes is the return of bond or bank guarantee at the end of a retail tenancy. This could suggest an increased number of small businesses are either closing or changing their premises. Interestingly, a few tenants have sought our assistance having changed their mind the day after, or very soon after, signing a new lease, and wishing to walk away without financial penalty. This month’s enquiry trends also indicate genuine challenges continue to be experienced with the complexity of some commercial lease agreements. We’ve also seen an increased volume of queries regarding increases to rent and outgoings levied.

I was grateful to the Queensland Law Society for publishing my article this month in Proctor online, which explains our process and what businesses can expect if they lodge a request for assistance through to mediation. I’ve spelt out a summary of our process below.

My team continues to work closely with small business tenants affected by the closure of the Toombul Shopping Centre following the February flood event. I am aware there remain roughly 30-40 small business tenants that have yet to access either of the landlord’s support payments, flood related grants, or get in contact with my team for other assistance. If you were a small business tenant at the Toombul centre at the time of the flood, or you know someone who was, I encourage you to make contact by phoning my office on 1300 312 344. There are supports and assistance available and I want to ensure all affected small businesses access everything on offer.

Another interesting trend in enquiries this month relates to the disruptive impact of roadworks and other construction works on small businesses. It is possible that adverse weather conditions and a broader shortage of workers could be prolonging the impact, which might explain the increased number of complaints regarding disruptive impact of roadworks. It is critical that all levels of government find ways to work with small business during construction to limit the impact of disruptions such as restricted access, reduced car parking, and construction noise. The Queensland government has developed a good practice engagement guide Works with Small Business which I am using to advocate and ensure this important issue is brought to the forefront of government policy and decision-making.

I know it is tough on pretty much everyone at the moment, with increased costs of doing business (electricity, fuel, freight), the difficulty with getting enough staff, and retailers in particular are reporting increased incidences of retail crime. Our Queensland Small Business Hardship Appeal in partnership with GIVIT has already successfully matched some small business requests with donations. Don’t forget to use it if you need it, and of course if you have something you could donate – for example business equipment in good working order that you no longer need – please get in touch and we’ll sort out what you can do.

And finally I wanted to an especially fabulous ‘small business thank-you’ message – spotted on the Boomerangz Thongs website during a recent meeting with them together with the Hon. Bruce Billson (Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman). We all know the wonderful economic and social ripple-effect when we buy locally and shop from small businesses, but did you know there are at least 22 individuals, fellow business owners and their families that benefit from every pair of Boomerangz Thongs sold? Check out their long ‘thank you’ note’ to read the full list of all the people’s livelihoods your purchase boosts. What a delightful reminder about why supporting small business is so important.

Maree Adshead
Queensland Small Business Commissioner

Mediation: when to go to QSBC and when to go to QCAT

QSBC can informally assist with any type of dispute involving a small business; however we can only provide mediation services for commercial lease disputes which fall under either of the below pieces of legislation:

  • retail tenancy disputes under the Retail Shop Lease Act 1994 (RSLA); or
  • other small business tenancy disputes under the Small Business Commissioner Act 2022 (SBCA)
    For retail tenancy disputes under the RSLA our dispute resolution service follows this process:

1. Seek informal dispute assistance via our online enquiry form which prompts the applicant to provide key information.

2. QSBC assigns a case manager who makes initial contact with the applicant by phone.

3. Application for mediation this is the most common entry point for retail tenancy disputes under the RSLA.

4. QSBC assigns a case manager who will make initial contact with each party by phone.

5. Mediation fee will be sought from each party to the dispute if the application is eligible ($175 per party).

6. A mediator is nominated once all parties have paid their mediation fee.

7. Mediation outcome if the matter is successfully resolved at the mediation and/or a mediation agreement is signed by the parties, the mediator will notify QSBC and that is the end of the process with us.

While the average time for a matter to progress through steps 1-7 through the QSBC varies depending on the complexity of the dispute, we are currently completing matters in approximately 41 days.

More information about resolving business disputes can be found here.

Managing workforce priorities through times of skill shortages

COVID-19 has changed the work and business environment and many businesses have been affected in several ways.

In today’s labour and skills market shortages, finding and retaining the right people, with the right skills, at the right time, has never been more critical. Jobs Queensland’s Workforce Planning Connect tools can help you prioritise your workforce priorities and guide you through the process of planning for the future of your business, which can deliver vital and positive outcomes including:

  • building your current workforce skills
  • reduced employee turnover to retain skills
  • attraction and retention of staff to key positions
  • improved productivity and job satisfaction
  • planning for new and emerging skills or roles, and
  • linking workforce priorities to financial and business planning objectives

Access Jobs Queensland’s free and easy to use Workforce Planning Connect tools and resources to help guide you through your workforce planning journey here.

Business Boost Grants

The next round of the Business Boost grants will open soon. Businesses wanting to take their business to the next level may be eligible to receive a grant payment of $15,000 (ex GST) upon completing your proposed project.

To help reduce the time and complexity involved in applying, there is now a new two-stage application process as follows:

Stage 1: businesses complete a simple online form to register your interest in this grant

Stage 2: through a random ballot process, businesses will be selected and invited to complete and submit a full application

Invited businesses will have two weeks to prepare and complete their application.

More information including guidelines, FAQs, and eligibility criteria are now available here.

eInvoicing and its benefits

Heard of eInvoicing and want to know how it could benefit your business? Making the switch to eInvoicing could mean many benefits:

  • saves time
  • reliable and secure
  • cost savings
  • faster payment
  • connect once, trade with many

Find out how you can start using eInvoicing in your business here.

Thriving Through Change Business Expo

If you’re a small business located on the Sunshine Coast you can register to attend the Thriving Through Change Business Expo on Tuesday 23 August from 3:00pm-7:30pm.

The expo will focus on business resilience and growth, while allowing attendees to listen, learn, connect and grow with a network of support on the Sunshine Coast.

What can you expect?

  • a business exhibition where you can connect with over 35+ local, state and federal government support agencies, plus all of the region’s Chambers of Commerce and thriving Industry Groups
  • a social media masterclass to help you understand and leverage social media and online sales
  • a business growth masterclass presented by Tara Jacobson
  • a networking event to connect you support agencies across the region to help you grow your support network

More information and to register your attendance can be found here.

QSBC business support information

We have curated our own (live) collection of handpicked information, support, services and assistance to help small businesses.

In this document you find information and advice addressing the following areas:

  • your support crew (key people and agencies to be aware of)
  • wellbeing (building your resilience)
  • grants, loans, and rebates
  • services (legal, tax, HR, disputes, financial support)
  • employment and hiring
  • business check up (ways to pay less for your business bills)

This document is now updated on the first of every month, so please bookmark the link and find the August edition online here.

Strengthening Business

Strengthening Business is a program designed to connect you with experts to help make your business stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for the future.

What will you get?

  • you’ll be paired with an independent facilitator
  • your facilitator will recommend ways to strengthen your business systems, operations and strategies
  • your facilitator will help you get back on your feet and identify opportunities to improve your business
  • your facilitator will provide you with a roadmap of their recommendations

​Who is this for?

  • businesses located within one of the flood affected local government areas impacted by the 2022 floods
  • you must have a current Australian business number (ABN)
  • your business can’t be a trust. Trustees may apply on behalf of trusts where the trustee is a legal business entity, and must be an incorporated entity. An individual is not able to apply on behalf of a trust.

You can submit your application to access this service through the online portal. You will however need to set up an account when you first log in. You can do so here.