How to be Small Business Friendly

Being Small Business Friendly (SBF) is a 'whole of organisation' effort, not just for your economic development or customer service team.

To get started:

  • find out what other councils are doing to be small business friendly
  • read the SBF sample charter that outlines the promises and principles you will commit to as an organisation as you work to enhance the operating environment for small businesses
  • use our 5–step 'How to be Small Business Friendly' approach below for guidance on how to implement the charter commitments in your organisation
  • join the SBF program and work with others to share knowledge, experience and ideas to accelerate your improvements and impact across Queensland.

Start with a commitment

The SBF charter outlines a set of clear commitments central to the SBF program.

By signing the charter, you are demonstrating your organisation's clear intent and focus to improve your systems, processes and customer journey for small businesses.

Your commitment signals your intent to work together with small businesses to enhance their operating environment.

For many organisations, the charter brings a new awareness to the work they are already doing in supporting small businesses. It also shows where to focus improvement efforts across your organisation.

“Signing the Charter is not a certification or an endorsement of being small business friendly—it sparks the start of a renewed focus on positive outcomes to fuel small business growth.”

Maree Adshead
Queensland Small Business Commissioner

These commitments should not be viewed as a checklist to be completed, but as a series of promises and principles to guide improvements across your organisation.

The power of the charter is not the words on the page, but how you make it happen and embed it across your organisation.

5-step approach to being Small Business Friendly

Every organisation that joins the program is different, so there's no one-size-fits-all plan to make it happen. Organisation mission, size, location, maturity and operational complexity will be different so each member will need to create their own action plan on how they can be small business friendly.

To support your commitment, we have created a simple 5–step approach to get you started.

Use this 5–step program to maximise value across your organisation. It is based on 5 key principles that other SBF members have used to accelerate their success.

Five-step approach

The Small Business Friendly Charter sets out where you want to go, but first you need to know where you're starting from in your organisation.

Think about:

  • what is going well
  • what could you do differently
  • where you should focus your effort for the greatest impact.

At this early stage, it's important to identify any service or operational gaps to help focus your efforts.

This step involves your leadership team doing a high-level gap analysis to better understand your small business customers and check if your service offering is meeting their needs and delivering value.

Think and reflect honestly at a strategic level about these questions.

  • Who are our small business customers?
  • What are their problems and needs?
  • What does their customer journey look like?
  • What are our touchpoints with them?
  • Do the services we offer meet their needs?

Use the results of your high-level gap analysis to help get your team and stakeholders involved.

Signing the Small Business Friendly Charter can be seen as a bold decision, but not if you get shared buy-in throughout your organisation and from your small business community. It can't be only 1 person's job either – you need to gain the broadest support possible to make the greatest impact for your organisation and your small business community.

This step is about taking your charter beyond just words on a page and making it an active part of everything you do.

The customer journey is everyone's business. In your organisation, your people are either serving the customer, or they're serving someone who is.

By sharing the charter and your findings from the high-level gap analysis across your organisation, you begin to broaden ownership and receive commitment from stakeholders.

The primary activity in this step involves enhancing your internal communications to support the commitments you've made and the direction you wish to take. This important step helps your people understand what you are doing and why they are important to your organisation's goal.

'Who is your customer' working sessions

Existing SBF program members have successfully hosted 'Who is your customer?' working sessions to engage their entire organisation early in the process.

These sessions share the charter intent and your commitments, and get the whole team thinking about who their small business customers are, what they need from the organisation and what improvements they can make.

This process will help your team to become engaged in the process, and for champions to step forward from across various teams to be catalysts for customer-led improvement. These champions will help focus on your customers' needs and improve the delivery of services.

You might already be taking stock of your operation but other people in your organisation, your small business customers and your community may not know this.

Large organisations are complex, with many moving parts and it can be difficult to have a centralised view of existing customer improvements that will enable small businesses to succeed. That's why a stocktake can help.

In this step, you will bring together a team of champions from across your organisation to identify existing improvement work you are already doing in the context of your charter commitments.

This approach has 2 main benefits:

  1. It identifies the great improvements you're already working to deliver and you can promote what you're already delivering to your stakeholders.
  2. It helps your team identify the commitment areas that need further action, and helps you close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be.

Completing a stocktake will also help you avoid unrelated, tactical improvements and move towards an intentional, collaborative and coordinated plan.

At this stage, your team can sort the actions identified using an impact/effort matrix (i.e. a decision-making tool to manage time more efficiently).

This will help you to avoid an overly long list of actions and help you to plan your next steps and take action.

Some organisations may fail to maintain momentum after the initial activity because they don't have a shared plan of action and do not track their performance.

Having a long list of actions is fine, but without intentional prioritisation and programming, your organisation could be working on improvements that aren't valued by your small business customer.

To start this step:

  1. Gather the outcomes of your gap analysis and stocktake
  2. Brainstorm ideas with your cross-functional team of champions, small business customers and other stakeholders. This will help you to work together to identify what steps you can take to achieve your charter commitments.

This process will reveal a range of actions you can take while also increasing awareness of the activities already happening. Consult with your small business customers to ensure you're prioritising the right actions.

Your cross-functional team can then bring this together into an action plan that enables people across your organisation to understand what needs to be done and share in the journey. Your action plan will help to track your progress, and make it easier to showcase and celebrate your organisation's SBF achievements.

Every organisation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. To make it simpler, some SBF members have arranged their plans around their charter commitments or the Communities of Practice (COP) that you are encouraged to be actively engaged with as a SBF member.

Your action plan is not a static object but an active tool that is continually reviewed and refreshed as your organisation achieves its SBF goals.

When your organisation joins the SBF program, you join a collective who share in the same goal – to enhance the operating environment for small businesses by closing the gap between what small businesses need and what their organisations provide.

At the heart of being SBF is the creation of partnerships, continuous improvement and shared learning. Organisations that join the SBF program are encouraged to become an active part of the wider SBF family in a range of ways.

As your organisation implements actions to support your charter commitments, you will see the impact you're having on the lives and operations of your small business community. These outcomes should be celebrated and shared.

SBF Showcase

The SBF Showcase is where you can showcase the great work your organisation is doing by sharing with others in the SBF program and the wider community. It becomes a great reference point for others in the program to gain inspiration and ideas. It also helps to demonstrate your progress and efforts to your small businesses and your community.

Read the SBF showcase activities.

Communities of Practice

SBF Communities of Practice (COPs) are a great way to connect with and learn from others about key issues typically experienced when making changes or improvements in your organisation. COPs are active discussions groups for SBF participants to communicate with each other, share knowledge and experiences, discuss challenges and engage directly with subject matter experts.

SFB conference

The Small Business Friendly conference is an annual event with thought-provoking speakers, outstanding showcase presentations and networking opportunities for any organisation signed up to the SBF program.

The SBF program is a collaborative community and support model that's designed to enhance the operating environment for Queensland small businesses.