20 December 2021

Getting businesses through to the end of 2021 has been no small task for Canberra Business Chamber

| James Coleman
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'Closed' sign on shop window

The past two years throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on small businesses. Photo: Erik Mclean.

It was hardly business as usual this year, with COVID-19 smashing through the economy like a wrecking ball. Survival for small business has meant big changes, and such changes don’t come easy.

Struggling to find staff, working through restructurings, and functioning with a reduction in employees all presented challenges for employers and entrepreneurs who were trying to make ends meet throughout the course of 2021.

Organisations such as the Canberra Business Chamber that aim to assist local businesses on these and many other fronts have had to tinker with their offerings to accommodate for the tougher environment.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt says their efforts have been widely appreciated by those who have reached out to them, but the past year has necessitated additions to the organisation’s existing programs.

“Being an employer can be really challenging, especially at the moment,” he says. “So during the past 12 months, we looked at our current service offerings with a particular eye as to how we could support small businesses.”

Man speaking at Canberra Business Chamber National Export Awards

The Canberra Business Chamber’s National Export Awards earlier this year. Photo: Canberra Business Chamber.

Currently, a Canberra Business Chamber member can have instant access to expert help by picking up the telephone and calling its Employer Advice Line. A human resources or law expert will be on the other end and can talk employers through what they need to resolve an issue.

“Whatever their employment challenge may be, we’re also able to come to them and work on more complicated cases,” says Graham.

He says businesses may want anything from an expert eye cast over their policies and procedures, through to advice on restructuring and negotiating changes with staff.

“We all know that when it comes to finding staff and hiring staff, the past year has been a real challenge for local businesses so we’ve also launched Recruit Assist which helps small businesses particularly,” says Graham.

He says the Canberra Business Chamber is not so much trying to replace the traditional ways of finding staff who are up to the task, but is more focusing on “areas many businesses tend to struggle with”.

These include tips on how to advertise a role and cut through myriad of other job listings out there to ensure their listing stands out.

“The business might then be swamped with hundreds of applications and not know how to wade through those and find the right people so we also help with that whole process,” says Graham.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt. Photo: Canberra Business Chamber.

The program is aimed more at general, administrative corporate positions rather than “helping someone find a scientist or CEO”, says Graham.

Administration can be a real challenge for small businesses, although there is a premium version of the program with unlimited and personalised advice for those with a larger workforce.

All of these services fit under the umbrella of Employer Assist and the caveat is they are only available to members of the Canberra Business Chamber. However, Graham is confident the process of becoming a member is easy and cheap enough for all.

“We’re member-owned and not-for-profit, and we’re sure the services we provide are very competitive,” he says.

Canberra Business Chamber also has an online store where members and non-members can buy templates and legal documents for their business.

“For employers who might be looking for a document or a policy procedure or checklist, we’ve created an online store as a really easy way for businesses to get everything they need to be legally compliant,” says Graham.

He says that during the Christmas quarter and coming year, we can expect to see those in retail, hospitality, aviation, and other areas receive a welcome boost to business. However, plenty of others will continue to need help.

“The challenge for Canberra is we have very much been a ‘two-speed economy’ during the past 12 months,” says Graham. “We need to be mindful that there are always businesses that won’t necessarily benefit from the pent-up demand.”

For more information, visit Canberra Business Chamber.

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