In my younger days I was pretty convinced that if you wanted to be wealthy you had to own a successful business. I'm not sure if I was influenced by friends or family but like many Australians I always wanted to start a business of my own.
I now realise that wealth can be created by anyone who consistently spends less than they earn and who invests their savings on a regular basis. However there is no doubt that running a small business can offer opportunities to build wealth, especially if you're prepared to work hard.
Recognising the valuable contribution small businesses make to the national economy, our commonwealth and state governments offer a raft of support to the small business sector.
If you're thinking about starting up your own business, it may be worth looking into the federal government's New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS). It's available to job seekers with an idea for a new business, and it provides financial support - the NEIS Allowance, for 52 weeks at a rate equal to Newstart Allowance, currently $474.90 per fortnight. A plus of the NEIS Allowance is that the amount you receive isn't affected by the income that the business generates.
Established businesses can take advantage of a wide range of federal and state government grants. These are available to support business expansion, research and development, innovation and exporting. There are too many grants to note here but you can find full details on the government's business portal - www.business.gov.au. Click on 'Grants and assistance finder' for the full list of grants.
There are also some very good support services that small businesses can tap into. One worth looking at is the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House run by Medicare Australia. It's open to businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and is designed to reduce the red tape and administration costs associated with making employer-paid super contributions.
Instead of making separate super payments to the multiple funds chosen by your employees, businesses simply make a single electronic payment to the Clearing House, and this is then distributed to each of the relevant super funds.
It's a free service, and I reckon it can help businesses save time and money while also meeting their mandatory super obligations. To get started you need to register your employees' super fund details and contribution amounts with the Clearing House. For more details visit www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/super.
While the government offers considerable support to small ventures, there are also plenty of pitfalls to avoid. These don't always involve difficult trading conditions or a tough economic environment.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently issued a warning about scams targeting unsuspecting small businesses. Apparently, crooks often pose as representatives of government departments and contact business owners offering tax free investment opportunities or other incentives in return for a small fee.
You can find further information on the latest scams threatening small business, plus a fact sheet, at www.accc.gov.au. The bottom line is that it pays to be sure you're dealing with a legitimate government authority if you're seeking business support. Phone calls or emails that arrive out of the blue should always be viewed with a healthy dose of caution.
Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.