With 86% of the Bundaberg Region’s registered businesses having less than four employees, small businesses are essential to our region’s economy.

There is no shortage of ups and downs for business owners, especially in 2020 – the year no one expected to have – accessing help and support has never been more important. It is a role that has been filled for the past 30 years by the Bundaberg Enterprise Centre, which recently changed its name to Regional Business HQ.

Manager Marcus McCormick said the not-for-profit organisation said the change of name would allow them to strengthen their support of the region’s small businesses.

“Our services have expanded in geographic region, as well as in the range of services we offer. What we do now doesn’t really fit with what people perceive as the role of an enterprise centre,” Marcus said.

“It also means we can build our association as a centre for business, being flexible enough to shift and adapt what our service looks like, without it being just one thing. For example, we have our enterprise centre in Bundaberg which has our conference centre and incubator, then we have our co-working spaces in the Generator here in Bundaberg and in Gympie and then our business advisory services and business leap that exist right across the Bundaberg and Wide Bay Region. Then we can look at whatever else comes along.”

Bundaberg Regional HQ aims to support the establishment and growth of small business, which then creates employment and economic prosperity for the region.

“We want to create an environment in our region that is conducive to business, so they get the support they need when they start up and a bit of hand-holding so they take the right steps early on, so they don’t end up falling down the line,” Marcus said.

“We really want to help businesses accelerate the time from when they are going to establish to when they connect with the customer and start making money.”

The not for profit organisation provides free advisory services supported through federal government funding, providing support one-on-one or through workshops to 574 from January 2019 to June 2020.

Marcus said there was an illusion of business failures from what people see in the retail environment, looking at empty shop fronts, but retail was just one section of the small business community.

“Bundaberg has one of the greatest prospects of any region in Australia. It has got a really affordable lifestyle, housing is affordable and an amazing lifestyle – the region is paradise,” Marcus said.

“Socio-economic issues are able to be addressed over time and I think the prospects for economic growth are amazing. We are already seeing from 10 years ago to now a massive shift in our economy and some of the developments that are on the cards for the region. The future looks really good for Bundaberg and unfortunately it is not always easy to see that.”

Despite the Bundaberg Region being well-positioned for economic and business growth, the global pandemic has certainly made for challenging times in business, with more tough times ahead.

“We have been in crisis support mode and now we are looking at what recovery looks like, what are businesses needing now and what they will need in the coming months and years,” he said.

“Things like helping business understand how to manage their financials, particularly cash flow going forward, because there is going to be peaks and troughs, especially if we face another lockdown. So there will be a need to understand how to manage cash flow for that period.

“It is also about understanding the rights and wrongs and how to make good decisions when it comes to human resources and staffing. There are going to have to be some tough decisions made for some people and what we want to do is treat people fairly, but help businesses and employers understand how to do things the right way and help protect themselves as employers.

“The other thing that happened naturally is the ability for business to innovate and diversify products and access new markets. We are making efforts with a number of stakeholders to get some resourcing to the region to cover all three areas to help business.”

Marcus said the key takeaway was that business don’t have to do everything on their own.

“We don’t claim to have the answer for every challenge a business might face, but what we are quite good at doing is connecting people. A business can come in and we help assess what their need is and give them a plan to move forward. If they have some specialised need, our team is great at knowing everyone across the region and they can connect in and have a business to get in touch with, so they can get support from the people that are going to help them the most in their business.”