Am I the only one who gives a damn about small business?!?!

Written on 23 November, 2010 by Larry Bloch
Categories CEO BlogTags governmentsmall business

It's been a while since I've had a rant published. What's the point of publishing magazines and websites if you can't have a rant from time to time? Without one, where's the passion, where's the belief, where's the credibility? And where is the author?

Today, I'm pissed off. I've been listening to all the lip service paid to small business by the various political parties and to be honest, it's mostly bullshit. All the major parties really care about is political pressure, and the problem with small business is that we don't know how to create that political pressure.

There's a million of us in Australia, with another million and a half family dependents and another two million employed dependents…so almost a quarter of all Australians as a constituency, and we have no voice. No party looking after us. No think tank, no effective lobbyists, no access to the corridors of power.

The ALP – in their eternal battle between labour and capital – treat us like capital. We're not – there are very few fat cat small business owners, avaricious in their practice, desperate to screw their workers and steal their entitlements. In fact, nowadays small business owners bear more resemblance to the downtrodden worker than downtrodden workers themselves. We work longer hours, with fewer holidays and when things get bad, it's our pay that gets cut first. Most small business owners will take a pay holiday before they fire an employee – if they have any to fire. We have no entitlements, no unfair dismissal protection, no overtime pay, no award conditions, none of the things Labor has fought for over the years (and won) for workers. So how about a little bit of real support for us, Labor? How about a real advocate for small business in cabinet for starters. And please, stop treating us like those capitalist pig captains of industry you love to hate and vilify. Take a look: your progressive, social justice utopia exists in many small businesses in Australia today. We work side by side with employees as peers, not in top floor glass and chrome corner offices.

And before the Coalition gets too smug, you're no better. You mob assume that because we're "business" you can lump us with the policy settings you get lobbied for by "big business". Sorry. Not good enough either. That's just taking us for granted. Or for mugs. Or both. Take a proper look. All those conservative, hard working, don't expect a handout, stoic, make something of yourself qualities you admire so much – that's us. So how about you do something for small business, given we represent what is good about business and individuality and standing on your own two feet…far more so than the suits you hobnob with at your big business fund raiders (I mistyped the last word there, but I think I'll leave it as is). Do the right thing by small business and there's a voting constituency in the multiple millions.

And the Reserve Bank. Don't get me started. Glenn Stevens and the Board deserve a shellacking. I don't know what a shellacking is, but they definitely deserve one. It sounds like being dipped in a big vat of varnish, which works for me. Glenn, you knew the banks would raise rates above the rate rise you put on. You must surely have known that small business were doing it tough and hoping for a good Christmas. If you didn't, then you deserve a double shellacking. A rate rise in the month before the retail season? When you know the banks would go further on top of that? That's just plain sticking your finger up at one million small business owners, their wives, their families, their employees. I know you've got to pull your levers and make sure the whole boat is balanced, but please, how about a little bit of timing? If that was a shot across the bows, you missed…we felt the thump amidships.

And back to Labor. You gutless bunch. You know we need a price on carbon and action on climate change and you blinked when push came to shove under Kevin. Small business owners are not just concerned with the bottom line as the big end of town is. We're doing this for our kids too – not just shareholders. We have a social conscience and are used to dealing with the rough and the smooth. The two speed economy? Most of your citizens are employed in the slower of the two speeds and when the heat was on, you ditched the tax that would help balance the two speeds. In protecting yourselves from the shock and awe of the big miners, you left us small business owners to wear the consequences. We've got the recent rate rises to show for it. Thanks heaps. At least you were on the right track…the conservatives just take it for granted we were against another "big new tax on everything".

They never even bothered to ask.

I haven't mentioned the Greens. Like many, I love where their hearts are and the sound of their song, but c'mon, we get the Looney's with the Tunes.

So small business, we've been screwed again. Nobody is looking after our interests. When policy settings are good for us, it's by accident. When they're bad for us, don't expect anyone who can make a difference to care…they don't. And the moral of the story? The moral is that there isn't one. The story is a lament. It's the way it is. Small business cannot organise and join unions and do the "unity is strength" thing. We’re too busy doing our thing … and the chance of success or even a return is slim. So we just take it. It's lucky we are problem solvers. So here's to you, Small Business Owner. In my eyes, you're the champions of Australia. I can't do much to make the big end of town give you the time of day, but I salute you, you heroes, you doers, you makers of something from nothing.