What help and support is available for small business?

small business support Over the years, I’ve found that many people thinking of going into small business and even those already running a small business are quite often unaware of the government help and support that is available to them.   
I recently spoke with some of the folks at Business Victoria and asked them some questions about how they can help, in terms of making available either resources, small business grants or education. Here’s what they had to say …..
How can Business Victoria support people who are looking at starting up a small business in Victoria?
Business Victoria is the Victorian Government website that helps business grow by making compliance easier, solving problems and improving business management skills. We offer a range of services to help people who want to set up a successful business

Tools and templates -  planning is important to run a profitable small business. We have a business plan template  and a range of other supporting templates to go with it including a Financial statements template, Marketing plan template and many others
Workshops -  we provide workshopsspecifically for people starting a business. People can also brush up on some of the core skills needed for running a business - such as marketing, finances or getting online
Mentors - when people are first starting out in their own small business, getting expert advice can save them from making expensive mistakes.  The Small Business Mentoring Service is a low-cost way to get advice from a mentor who has the skills and knowledge you need.

What about people already running a small business, how can Business Victoria help?

It doesn’t matter how long someone’s been running a business, there are always problems that will crop up and even sometimes growth opportunities that you’re not sure how to deal with. Here are some of the resources that Business Victoria has available to help small business owner’s deal with the most common challenges of running a business …
Growing your business: the Grants and assistance finder has support for developing your business. It includes the Grow your business program which provides businesses with the opportunity to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for future growth. The marketingand onlinesections also have some great templates to help, including marketing and content plan template
Cash flow problems: most small businesses in Australia say chasing payments from customers is their biggest cash flow problem. We’ve put together a Debt recovery process and templates which includes Financial policies and procedures for your staff, email scripts and phone scripts
Dealing with employees:  your staff can make or break your business.  From finding the right staff to making sure they’re as productive as possible, we have tools and tips to help in our Staff management section.
What do you think is the biggest mistake to avoid in the start-up phase?
In the early stages, the cause of many small business failures can be traced back to a failure to adequately research what their customers want.
However, one example of where early market research was done well is that of Melbourne online start-up Tweaky, who won Best Start-up Idea at this year’s Start-up-Smart Business Victoria awards. They reached profitability just nine months after they went liv  e. 
'It sounds obvious, but find out what your market really wants. Engage your customers early and often, and ask for feedback,’ says Tweaky co-founder Ned Dwyer.  Business Victoria offers a simple guide for Do-It-Yourself market research.
For more tips from Ned and to learn more about the experience of other small business owners, visit Tips and case studies section. 
What about people from overseas who may be looking to start-up a small business here in Australia?
Victorian businesses are the most confident in Australian for the year ahead, according to a recent Sensis survey. (Naturally the people at Business Victoria want to encourage investment in their state) With the help of Invest Victoria, they say you can set up a business in as little as two days! Their services include finding sites and assisting and supporting with approvals, linking with local suppliers and providing you with a client manager in one of 16 international business offices.
Thanks to the staff at Business Victoria for their time in contributing to this post. Hope the links and resources prove useful to you.
Copyright 2013. Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development - a corporate training and coaching company based in Melbourne, Australia that delivers management training and leadership development services

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