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04 October 2018

Got your back: looking out for small business

Australia is a nation of small businesses and family enterprises. It’s a dynamic and exciting sector that allows people with an entrepreneurial spirit to pursue their dreams.

Small business demands passion, dedication, and a lot of hard work when no one is looking, so the last thing you need is the additional stress of dealing with a disagreement with another business or a government agency. However, what a lot of small business owners don’t know is there is somewhere they can go for help with business disputes.

This week, hundreds of small businesses across the nation are receiving support from staff in my office.

Our Assistance Team – which is currently looking for case managers - helps resolve business disputes across a range of issues, include intellectual property, telecommunications, leasing agreements, advertising contracts and payment times.

We want to keep small businesses out of the courts, where let’s face it, the only real winners are the lawyers. It’s not worth your time or money to let a dispute lead you to court, and we have seen too many small businesses wind up in court and bled dry.

Each case is triaged by a dedicated case manager to determine if they can help to resolve the dispute. If they are unable to help, they can refer the business to the most appropriate agency that can help, or provide access to alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. This is a free service.

The case managers are often former small business owners. One of our case managers describes her role as ‘remarkably rewarding’.

“It can be incredibly lonely running a small business. Having an agency that supports, advocates and cares can really make a difference to these businesses – and these small businesses are real people. Who doesn’t love being able to help and make a difference to people!”

And the small business owners are grateful for the support:

"I want to thank you for considering my case and the support you offered during our call - just that one call has had a great impact. I have until then felt so small and unlikely to make an impression against such a large and powerful corporation, your call gave me renewed energy. The emotional strain of this whole situation has been immense, so the impact you have had just in this one step has very much been felt and appreciated. Thank you."

Since opening in March 2016, our Assistance Team has resolved more than 2,100 cases.

We want to help small businesses resolve a dispute as quickly as possible so they can get on with what they do best; running their business.

If you need help to resolve a dispute, visit www.asbfeo.gov.au/assistance or call the Assistance Information Line on 1300 650 460.

There is also a free online tool called Dispute Support available at www.asbfeo.gov.au/disputesupport which can help businesses find the right service to help them resolve their dispute.

If the role of a case manager sounds appealing to you, and you would like to make a difference to the small business community, the Assistance Team is recruiting.

If you are a good communicator with a small business background, who is great at solving problems, this might be the job for you.

For more information or to apply, visit www.asbfeo.gov.au/careers.