Winning the lottery, powerball or lotto is at the top of most personal wish lists, but when it comes to business, where can you get a windfall, or at least ‘something for nothing’? It can be tough owning and running a small to medium enterprise, you don’t always have the financial resources required to grow and some struggle to cover operating costs on week-to-week basis. How often have you thought, ‘it would be nice to get some level of assistance for nothing’.
Good news, there are a range of grants, resources and awards programs available to assist your business, with little or no effort or expense required on your part. You just have to know where to look to tap into these handouts and hand-ups.
Putting your hand out
While crowdfunding has become a popular way to fundraise, there are other ways to source funds to grow your business. At www.business.gov.au, the Australian government provides information on government grants programs with details on eligibility criteria and how to apply. One currently available provides $2000 to businesses who do not pay payroll tax, for each new fulltime employee employed.
With the current focus on innovation and science, there are a number of programs to support businesses in the areas of research and development, employment and export trade, amongst others. Grants may take the form of a direct financial contribution or venture capital injection.
There are other opportunities available outside the government sector with commercial operators offering a service to provide lists of grants schemes, for a fee of course. But a cautionary warning – before you sign up to any paid services, check out their authenticity thoroughly. There have been cases reported to fair trading and consumer affairs of fraudulent companies in this sector. But there are also plenty of genuine, authentic operators who will assist you explore the opportunities.
Getting a freebie hand-up
Apart from financial hand-outs, there is also a plethora of free resources and assistance to support SMEs. Once again, www.business.gov.au is a great starting point to review what is available with business advisers and facilitators and access to expert technology advice across a range of areas, subject to eligibility. For exporters, head to www.austrade.gov.au to see what is on offer.
In NSW, www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au provides a wide range of resources and information to advise and assist. Some may even save you the cost of engaging expensive consultants and advisers. The site provides a number of fact sheets covering such topics as leasing premises, mediation and dealing with disputes and a very handy key resources fact sheet as a handy reference for information on specific assistance.
Templates for business plans and marketing plans can also be found on the government websites which can save you money in engaging professionals to prepare these documents for you.
Being awarded the opportunity
And the winner is……hearing your business announced as winner of an award is a fantastic reward for effort but the benefits of winning continue long after the hand-shakes. Awards programs are available on a local, state, national and international level and through most industry associations.
The Macarthur Regional Business Awards were recently awarded and congratulations to the winners and the finalists. Broadening your horizons, the Telstra Business Awards and Australian Business Awards recognize businesses on a national scale.
Yes, there is usually an entry fee involved and yes, you do have to complete detailed submissions, but the flow-on rewards to business from even achieving the finalist level can represent a significant boost to your bottom line and catapult your products and services into a much larger market.
Realising the benefits of winning major awards is Benchmark Estimating Software, a Sydney-based SME which was the winner of the Consensus Software Awards in 2016 and in 2017, Benchmark Estimating Software has been recognised as an a ABA100 winner for Software Innovation in The Australian Business Awards. Recognition which has added great momentum to their push into the UK and European markets. But recognition which is not without some effort as Claudia Hartl, Marketing Manager, Benchmark Estimating Software explains.
“The awards submissions are very involved and lengthy and do require time and effort to complete. But we commit our resources as we consider the reward for the investment is well worth the effort,” Claudia said. “We also engage a consultant to review our submissions to add that extra professional touch and ensure we have properly and adequately addressed the criteria.”
Claudia said that these awards have given the company additional accreditation, recognition and endorsement, especially as they expand into international markets. Another small (at the time of winning) Aussie company, Atlassian, won the same Consensus award in 2004 and look where they are now on the global scene!
Beyond the winner’s speech
After the applause dies, you deliver your winner’s speech, thank all and sundry and celebrate with your team – THEN the real work with your business awards begins. At least for the savvy, astute operator. It’s how you utilise the win that can make the real difference to your business.
Awards can be used effectively in marketing campaigns to showcase your products and services but from a company perspective, such recognition may also be a significant business tool in other areas. When seeking finance, some businesses consider an award gives additional credibility to their application in the eyes of the bank or financier. This aspect can also come into play if you are considering selling your business, taking on a new business partner or merging. Winning a business award may actually add real value to your business.
If you operate in a highly competitive field, winning an award may enhance your company image and reputation when attracting high level employees to join your business. Working for an award-winning business has the potential to enhance careers and is definitely worth including in your job ads. It may also assist with establishing or cementing your relationship with suppliers.
Both grants and awards involve completing application forms and preparing submissions and many get it wrong at this stage, cruelling their chances from start. It can appear an over whelming task, beyond your capabilities. In this issue, our editor, Lyndall Lee Arnold, as a professional writer who assists many clients to complete such submissions, has prepared some tips and hints to guide you through the process.