How small business can compete with major corporations

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Small businesses should not feel intimidated by their corporate competitors as they have many unique advantages that can help them gain a sizeable market share.

Small business owners should focus on specific areas, so they can go head-to-head with large companies with more resources.

Customer service
Small businesses have the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with their customers through the delivery of friendly and personal customer service. Businesses that provide superior customer service to their corporate competitors will build a loyal customer base and grow their business through word of mouth.

Tap into niche markets
Small business owners are directly involved with their customers, which means they have a greater insight into what their customer base values. Take advantage of this by innovating more quickly than corporations, whose decision-making processes are slower. You may provide a service that corporations cannot feasibly implement.

Build a strong staff
The expansive corporate chain of command is far more likely to have a weak link than a small business. Small businesses have greater quality control over the selection of their staff and the standards and expectations of performance. Build a competent team that outperforms your corporate competitors.

Employer SuperStream checklist

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Employers must make superannuation contributions on behalf of their employees. SuperStream is the ATO’s electronic and standardised solution that streamlines the super payment process.

Using SuperStream for employers means:

  • You can use one online channel to pay multiple funds
  • Less room for error during data entry, due to fewer steps
  • Transactions reach funds faster

Obligations
You must make contributions to a super fund through a SuperStream solution unless you are eligible for the following exemptions:

  • Personal contributions if you are self-employed or a sole trader and make after-tax contributions to a super fund for yourself
  • Contributions to your SMSF where you’re a related party employer. For example, if you are an employee of your family business and your super guarantee contributions go to your SMSF.

Step-by-step guide
Once you have decided that SuperStream is right for you, the following steps will help you stay compliant:

  • Choose an option: you can choose from a payroll system, your super fund’s online system, a super clearing house and a messaging portal
  • Collect information and update your records: refer to the ATO for an exhaustive list of the information you will need from your employees
  • Pay the SuperStream way: pay as soon as possible so you can get used to the system

Getting to know the ATO Business Portal

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The ATO has introduced the Business Portal to allow small business owners to manage their tax affairs online at their convenience.

Connect your ABN to your myGov account or a compatible AUSkey so you can access the business portal. The portal is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The portal can be used for the following services:

  • Registering for GST or PAYG withholding
  • Lodging, revising or viewing activity statements
  • Requesting refunds or transfers between accounts
  • Updating your business details
  • Tracking the progress of refunds or transfer requests
  • Communicating with us through a secure mailbox

Refer to the ATO for direct links that will step you through how to use these services successfully. If you still have trouble with technology it may be worth consulting a registered tax agent to help you fulfil the ATO’s compliance requirements.

Benefits of competitor website analysis

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Gaining an edge on your business rivals is vital to your commercial success. When you conduct competitor analysis do not forget to include their websites in this assessment otherwise you will miss out on a range of benefits.

Here are some reasons, why competitor website analysis should be on your to-do list.

Improve your online web strategy
By researching your competitor’s websites, you can get new ideas and avoid making the same mistakes as your rivals. Conduct some research on your direct and indirect competitors so you can assess the effectiveness of their marketing, website layout and social media strategy.

Get to know your customer base
Websites are often a place for customers to give reviews, make complaints or provide testimonials for businesses. You should view this as a direct channel to the needs and wants of your clientele. Analysis of the complaints and praise your competitors have earned can give you an insight into what your customer base values.

Increase your searchability
You may find that your competitors are using different SEO keywords that result in them beating you out on search engine recommendations. Keep this in mind when looking at their websites so you can make your business more accessible to potential customers.

Employer’s legal responsibilities regarding sexual harassment

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An employer can be held vicariously liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Implement a sexual harassment policy consistent with discrimination legislation to avoid legal ramifications.

Discrimination legislation
The Sex Discrimination Act is a Commonwealth statute that applies to all of Australia. The Act defines sexual harassment as unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual or consensual.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Staring or leering
  • Unwelcome touching
  • Intrusive questions or statements about one’s personal life
  • Requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates
  • Inappropriate advances on social networking sites

What you can do
Employers should take reasonable steps by drafting a sexual harassment policy. The courts will judge the policy’s efficacy should an employee bring a claim against you.

The policy should contain:

  • Adequate details defining sexual harassment
  • Be endorsed by the employer through workplace education and training on procedures
  • Outline the disciplinary courses of action should a breach occur

Staff bonding tips

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A tight-knit staff will work more effectively as a team and provide a positive impact on your workplace. Encourage your employees to bond with each other through a range of activities so you can reap the benefits of a friendly office.

Staff karaoke night
Take your Friday night staff drinks to the next level by booking a karaoke room. It might sound silly, but karaoke allows employees to let their professional guard down. This promotes a more personal relationship amongst staff that will benefit their teamwork.

Escape rooms
An after-work escape room can boost office teamwork and problem-solving skills. Escape rooms require a group of people to solve a series of riddles and puzzles to exit a room. Your staff can discover new talents, learn that it is ok to experiment and make mistakes in a consequence-free zone and bond with each other over a fun activity with a shared goal.

Sports activities
Whether it is a 5km fun run, a tough mudder course or a workplace basketball team, nothing brings a group of people together like sport. The key values of teamwork, cooperation and support evident in sport, will show themselves in the office in no time.

Credit card do’s and don’ts

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Credit cards are useful financial tools that can help you manage cash flow but can run you into debt if you are not careful. Before you swipe your first credit card consider the following do’s and don’ts, so you gain all the advantages without the headache of a tarnished credit rating.

Do’s
There are several actions you can take that will help you manage your credit card. Follow these rules:

  • Try to repay the whole amount owing by the due date to avoid interest mounting up
  • Switch up your payment methods with debit cards to keep your credit owing manageable
  • Be selective about the credit card you apply for
  • Arrange your money so you can reap credit card benefits like frequent flyer points by paying on your credit card and then transfer the money across to your credit account

Don’ts
Credit cards can accumulate debt with ramifications for your credit score and loan applications down the track. Avoid these standard blunders, so you do not end up regretting your credit card:

  • Do not pay the minimum repayment amount as you will incur interest which can become unmanageable if it compounds weekly or even daily
  • Do not have multiple credit cards if you are new to credit as managing accounts and deadline dates can be difficult
  • Do not max out your card

Mental health tips for small business owners

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Small business owners are constantly under stress and pressure, which is why it is important they look after their mental health.

The following tips will help you manage your mental health as a small business owner.

Have a reliable support network
Friends and family are vital to anyone’s functioning; however the unique challenges small business owners face means they may benefit from connecting with like-minded thinkers. Consider joining a small business owners groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. These networks are helpful as the members can relate to your problems on a deeper level. Both business groups and your nearest and dearest can provide a sympathetic ear, realistic solutions to your problems and tell you to get help.

Allocate personal time
When you are running a small business, it can feel like your life is consumed by it. An unhealthy work-life balance will harm your mental health and productivity. Schedule time off from work. Taking up a hobby or joining a sports team may be a great way to have structured breaks from your business.

Know the warning signs
Knowledge is key to prevention. Get educated on mental health and know the warning signs and symptoms. If you catch your problem early, you can avoid jeopardising your health and your business by taking a hiatus, relinquishing some responsibility or seeking help.

ATO warns of illegal early super release

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The ATO has issued a warning to the public regarding illegal early release of super schemes, which are subject to severe penalties.

There are strict rules around when you can access your super so your current decisions do not jeopardise your quality of life in retirement. The ATO has reminded the public you may only access your super early if you have experienced severe financial hardship or you have reached the preservation age and have stopped working.

How these schemes work
The promoters of these schemes:

  • Encourage you to transfer or rollover your super from your existing super fund to an SMSF to access your super before you are legally entitled to
  • Target people under financial pressure or those who do not understand super laws
  • Claim you can access your super and put the money towards anything you want which is not true
  • Charge high fees and commissions, presenting the risk of losing some or all of your super to them
  • May request your identification documents which can result in identity theft

Penalties:
Penalties apply to promoters and individuals who illegally access their super early. If you illegally obtain your super early, it is included in your assessable income even if you return the super to the fund later. If you are an SMSF trustee, you may be fined up to $420,000 and liable for jail terms of up to five years. Civil and criminal penalties apply to promoters.

ATO update: Tax deduction rules on travel to rental properties

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The ATO has enforced strict guidelines on tax deductions for rental property owner’s travel expenses.

As a rental property owner you are not able to claim deductions for travel expenses relating to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent. If you have already claimed a tax deduction for the cost of travel to and from your property in your 2018 return, you will need to request an amendment. The law change came into effect on 1 July 2017 and affects tax returns from 2017-18 onwards.

Exclusions
You may claim these travel expenses on your tax return if you are carrying on a rental property business or are an excluded entity.

An excluded entity is a:

  • Corporate tax entity
  • Superannuation plan that is not an SMSF
  • Public unit trust
  • Managed investment trust
  • A unit trust or a partnership, all of the members of which are entities of a type listed above