As a former public servant, I still wince a bit when people joke that one of the ‘great lies’ is ‘I’m from the Government – I’m here to help you.’ So I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I received from the my local council, the Tweed Shire Council,  a copy of a State Government document which indicated that government in this country is at last taking some action to help home based business owners.

According to this document, ‘Home-Based Businesses in New South Wales’, the Government of this state, which is the one with the most people and the largest economy in Australia, is evidently taking steps to help local government support and encourage the home based business sector.

Apparently there are more than 90,000 businesses in this state where most of the work is carried out at home and this involves close to 120,000 business operators. Overall, around one third of the total 250,000 businesses in the state operate from a home address.

Enclosed with the letter is a copy of a document produced collaboratively by the Federal, State and Territory governments, ‘Home-Based Business: Local Opportunities’. This document outlines the importance of home based businesses to the economy of local communities and includes case studies of successful businesses and examples of local councils which have moved to provide support for the sector. 

Although the documents came to me with only a ‘for your information’ slip attached, the reason they were sent to me would be that in recent months I’ve been talking with the Mayor, Warren Polglase, with senior officers of the local council and with Tom Senti, the very go-ahead CEO of the Tweed Economic Development Council about what can be done to encourage and support home based businesses in the council area, as a way of enhancing the local economy and attracting entrepreneurs to move to and set up business in the Shire. They have all been very positive about seeing what can be done.

To be fair, the local council people were already decidely on the case before I turned up. But in my experience with government over a number of years, it has been difficult, to put it mildly, to get government at any level to look seriously at supporting small business. And microbusinesses or home based business has not even been on the radar.

So from my point of view it’s a major step that all three levels of government, federal, state/territory and local, are now moving towards being engaged in common cause to support home based business, however that is to be best done. This tells me, as a former public servant, that home based business is finally on the radar of the politicians!

For one thing, that offers some hope that there may now be some serious attempt to lift at least part of the burden of the regulatory and administrative framework, the petty rules and the smothering red tape, from the shoulders of the home based business owner.

There are also signs of some practical steps to provide some support for home business owners in networking, building local, state-wide and even national support groups, and developing some more useful statistics on home based business than we have had to date. Well – let’s just say some statistics, because till now I’ve not been able to find any but the crudest of statistics about home based businesses in Australia.

The State government’s Small Business Website has some very good resources and other states have similar sites.

In a separate post I have talked about the excellent resources for small and home based businesses on the US Small Business Administration website.

The Department of State and Regional Development is staging a ‘Home-Based Business Week’ in May of this year, with a key theme of technology. Having crashed my hard disc the other day, the idea of a focus on technology for home based business seems very timely to me!

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