Many Australians would love to be their own boss. But running a small business takes hard work. So, how do you to start and what does it take to be successful when times get tough?
There are many benefits to having a business: financial independence, flexible working hours and the possibly of building an asset that later can be sold at a profit or left to the children.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that there are currently more than 1.2 million sole-trader businesses in Australia, up 32,000 over the previous two years.
Many of these enterprises operate in construction, professional services, food retailing and online. Analysts say that growth in the small business sector is linked to the recent increase in Australia’s population and that many of the business operators are migrants. Mohamed Suleiman is one of them. He came to Australia from the small African nation of Burundi. His shop is in Sydney’s busy western suburb of Auburn.
“It’s a mixed business, small appliances, like domestic appliances, fridges and washing machines, and a few more kitchen-ware stuff, like kettles and sandwich pressers and all the other stuff for the kitchen. I made my dream here.”
A strong passion for what you are doing is one of the most important ingredients of success, says business strategist Juergen Schmechtel.
A good business is driven by enthusiasm.
“Don’t start a business because it looks like there is a lot of money in there because in the long run, you need to be enthusiastic every day and if it’s just for the money, that enthusiasm runs out at a certain point.”
Mohamed bought the business from a friend but before he could do that, he had to save up some money.
“The first real job I started in Australia here was a cleaning job but I found it was too hard for me. Then I decided to do a courier business. From there, I got a little bit money and then I decided to buy this business.”
Even without any start-up capital it’s possible to get into business, says Juergen Schmechtel. What’s needed is some get-up and go.
“Let’s say you want to be a painter, there is not much you need. You need a brush but you don’t even have to buy that. You could just go from door to door in your neighbourhood and say, I’m the new painter around here, is there anything I can paint for you? I give you a good price, the only downside is, I need half of the agreed amount upfront.”
With the money received, tools and paint can be bought and a new business venture is on its way. It’s easy to start a business in Australia. Most legal and banking formalities can be completed online but Mohamed Suleiman suggests getting professional help from an accountant.
“You need an account under your ABN number; also you need a company name which is your business name, so you can register your business. That’s how it is.”
Among the biggest challenges in running a business – a challenge that can decide over success or failure – is customer service and presentation.
“Customer service is very important which is hard in a business. So if it’s not good, they return the goods to you and say, give me my money back or I take you to Fair Trading. You make the business become better. So, if you’re no good, the business won’t be good and you go down. The second thing is, fix your shop, do everything, paint and then the shop looks nice and then the customers start coming.”
Just a few doors away from Mohamed Suleiman’s business in Auburn is Thea So’s ladies clothing shop, ‘New Look Fashion’. Thea is from Cambodia. Standing in front of her shop, she warns inexperienced new migrants from rushing into business.
“When you don’t have experience, customers are giving you really, really stress. You have to really, really work hard, be confident because it is not that easy.”
And the hours in a small business are very long, says Thea.
“Seven days per week. We cannot afford to take a holiday, we can’t. Have to work hard here all the time. You work for yourself, for your own wages, to be honest, yes.”
If a business does not do well, it’s important to take decisive action and stop trading quickly before the losses mount up.
Business strategist Juergen Schmechtel acknowledges that going into business is hard work and can end in failure. But he says that striking out by oneself and trying to build a fortune is part of the Australian way of life.
“It is a self-made-country. It’s up to you and you can make it to a millionaire or you can just get by but it’s up to you. The people around you will support you. It’s an amazing society here which loves people venturing something and with every venture, there come losses.”
He says there is no shame in failing but always an opportunity to start again.