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Australia’s first small business commissioner urges SMEs to work smarter

Mark Brennan, Australia’s first federal small business commissioner, has stressed the importance entrepreneurs should place on sound management and cashflow, after the Federal Government announced his appointment.

Brennan was the first ever state-based small business commissioner, serving in the position for seven years in Victoria.

Federal Small Business Minister Brendan O’Connor told StartupSmart this morning that he had gone for an “experienced hand” in opting for Brennan over a number of other candidates.

“I believe Mark will be seen as a very significant leader in this field because of his history, and certainly bring together the other commissioners,” he said.

Brennan said that he was aiming to boost Australia’s small business community, even though he will act in a modified role to the states and without a dispute resolution element to it. When working for the Victorian Government, Brennan achieved an 80% success rate in solving disputes between businesses.

“That was an outstanding success,” he said. “And while I won’t have a specific dispute function, I will have a representative role.”

“There’s no doubt about work ethic, and you find people are prepared to work over 100 hours a week. But they wonder why their business isn’t going well, because they’re not working very smart.”

“Sometimes, they’ll often point the finger at government about red tape. But red tape can be outside of government as well…and they put it all together as being red tape.”

“Every participant in the business community needs to look at the way it conducts business.”

“I see the role as being an advocate for small business. And not just advocating to government, but to business about what they can do to improve the business environment.”

“If we see small businesses and big business working together, you’ll find the incidence of things like disputes will decrease.”

The appointment ends months of speculation over who will fill the new role. Brennan, who starts in January, said he will work with the state-based commissioners on federal issues.

The executive director of small business lobby group COSBOA, Peter Strong – who was also touted as a contender for the job – praised the appointment.

“Not only is this an historic day for the small business community, it is also an excellent choice of commissioner,” he said.

“Mr Brennan is a trailblazer as the first small business commissioner in Australia with his time as the Victorian small business commissioner and he is also a past winner of COSBOA’s Small Business Champion Award.”

“We seem to have bipartisan support for the appointment of small business commissioners and the only area of debate is what power and role the commissioners should be given. They all need real power as we do not want them to be hidden away in the bureaucracy but rather to be seen and heard and to cause trepidation among bureaucrats who forget that we are people.”

“We need action. We need to remove the protection afforded the big landlords, franchisors and retailers through poor competition policy and contract law and we need to get the workplace relations system to reflect the needs of small workplaces.”

“There are many more issues that I hope to discuss with Mr Brennan once he has taken up his role. This appointment doesn’t mean we let up on our fight for equality but it does hopefully mean we have another powerful ally.”