Why small business needs to tune in to politics in the lead up to the election

As election day draws nearer, small business owners across the nation are waiting with bated breath. Their main sources of concern? The cost of energy, tax cuts for business, and climate change. As revealed in a new survey from Xero, this is the crux of what matters most to Australia’s small businesses. And the things that didn’t register nearly as high? Well, these point to an alarming disconnect between the small business community and the world of politics.

Charting the disconnect and questioning what counts

When questioned on their thoughts regarding the upcoming federal election, almost one in two small businesses said they don’t feel they’ve been paid enough attention during this year’s campaign. Indeed, Xero’s survey has revealed that a huge 75 percent are unable to name the federal small business minister (that’s Michaelia Cash), and 15 percent unable to name the current prime minister. While a further one in five small business owners revealed that they don’t know who the current opposition leader is.

These findings highlight a startling disengagement between policymakers and small businesses. Yet, as the engine room of the economy, it is crucial that small businesses have a say on the policies that directly affect them.

Empowering the small business community to drive change in policy

Despite the indifference a number of small business owners seemed to express towards the monikers of our political leaders, they are by no means apathetic to the fate of their wider community. Three key issues stood out in the survey as areas of concern this election campaign, with the cost of energy most pertinent for almost one in three, followed by tax cuts for business at 28 percent, and climate change at ten percent. While just one in ten are most concerned about the outcome of the election.  

This comes as no surprise. Australia’s two million small business owners are leaders in their communities, and typically work seven days a week. Naturally, this leaves very little time to spend on things outside of their business. Which is why paying attention to politics tends to be just another casualty as they struggle to find work life balance. After all, it’s pretty hard to watch the 7pm News when you’re keeping your store open until 6:30pm, then reconciling the day’s trading and paying bills as soon as the door closes (not to mention getting the kids ready for bed).

So, how are small business owners finding out about the policies that impact their livelihood in the first place? Overwhelmingly, they’re learning more from their accountant or bookkeeper than any other source, with the numbers coming in at 42 percent in comparison to 32 percent for government websites, and 24 percent for financial advisers.

This is only natural, as accountants and bookkeepers have a duty to be objective and keep their clients’ best interests at heart. They also have an obligation to remain open minded and keep themselves informed of the potential impacts of policy. This means having a crystal clear picture of their clients’ business and financial circumstances so that they can understand what any shifts will ultimately mean.

If we’re to see any change, it’s vital that small business owners empower themselves with increased political awareness. Which is why it’s brilliant to see that the vast knowledge of accountants and bookkeepers is being taken advantage of, and we encourage others to start the conversation with their trusted local advisors. With the election looming, it’s more important than ever that small businesses are aware of any potential changes and how they will affect their bottom lines. All so that we can ensure that a key driver of our economy continues to thrive.

Orginally published by Xero, written by Matthew Prouse.

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