Take a trip down memory lane as we review the biggest stories of 2017, with plenty of lessons to be relearnt for the new year to come.
The year began as most years do – fairly quietly. Business owners across the country, however, were using the downtime to plan for the 12 months to come – with a particular emphasis on how to manage their people.
Matters concerning unfair dismissal, bad ways of recruiting and onboarding new employees and what makes great employees leave were all on the cards.
However, the most popular story was related to superannuation and retirement goals, with a financial planner revealing the most common mistake business owners make in this area.
Strategising continued into February, although the focus shifted slightly away from people and more to that other all-important aspect of running a business: money. Readers were eager for news and advice on managing cash flow as we returned to normality after the summer holidays, as well as how to defuse damaging online reviews.
Mid-month also saw lovers come together to mark Valentine’s Day – one of the busiest days of the year for many SMEs including florists, couriers, card makers and restaurants. Yet My Business was curious to see how couples keep the spark alive when their partners are also in business with them, and explored the relationships of several couples who do just that.
With the silly season well and truly behind us, attention turned to the myriad of avenues to achieve business growth – or more accurately, ways to inadvertently hinder that growth: social media mistakes, the importance of ranking highly on Google and advice on how to lose sales and kill repeat business.
More seriously, though, was a story pertaining to relationship between a business owner and their bookkeeper, and the questions that should never remain unanswered between them.
April become something of a one-hit wonder, as the very abrupt decision by the federal government to abolish 457 temporary working visas caught everyone off guard.
Many business owners were left angry and confused by the move itself, as well as the lack of prior consultation, and uncertainty prevailed for several months until the government issued a revised list of eligible professions and details on what would happen to registered employers and existing 457 applicants.
The federal budget dominated headlines in May, with government handing out modest tax cuts for small businesses and a promise to extend that to businesses with turnover up to $50 million by the 2018-19 financial year.
Also of benefit to SMEs was another extension to the temporary $20,000 instant asset write-off, which is currently scheduled to expire on 30 June this year. However there have been repeated calls to make this measure permanent, so keep a close eye on this year’s budget to see if that does indeed eventuate.
June 2017 was awash with news and opinions relating to tax time, including those industries on the ATO’s audit hit list and bizarre deductions, as well as the revelation that an accountant had been jailed over a $2 million tax return fraud.
Yet it was the hefty increase in the minimum wage that left many business operators stunned – particularly given that experts had been forecasting a rise well below the 3.3 per cent handed down by the Fair Work Commission.
July saw tensions boil over on a number of policy matters, chiefly with the amended 457 eligibility list but also with the somewhat misleading $20,000 asset write-off, which turns out to actually be a $19,999.99 benefit.
Also in July, My Business began covering the monthly interest rate announcement from the RBA, with thousands of readers eager to get the jump on what was happening to their loans – both business and personal.
Competition law changes were unveiled in August in a bid to improve the competitive advantage and contract negotiation abilities of smaller businesses against their larger counterparts.
It was also revealed that among a string of other scandals at the Commonwealth Bank, more than $16 million in super entitlements had been withheld from some 36,000 current and former employees.
Yet it was the confirmation from global retail giant Amazon that it would be opening its doors on our shores which stole the headlines, and set retailers and logistics providers on a debate about how its launch would impact the local market. The company kept frustratingly quiet for several months up to its actual launch date, presumably in a bid to stir up consumer anticipation.
Somewhat surprisingly, September saw sex hit the headlines on more than one occasion.
A senior conservative politician in the US unwittingly gave a lesson in the importance of keeping social media accounts secure after being caught liking porn on one of his social media accounts (an action he denied responsibility for). Weeks later, a similar scandal engulfed Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, although he claimed the liking of a gay porn video on his Twitter account was a malicious hack.
Then came a ruling that a worker had been wrongfully dismissed for, at least in part, selling sex toys as a side hobby.
Also unexpected was a lesson in what Australia officially counts as legal tender, after Coles refused to take a wad of coins from a Victorian grandmother as payment for her groceries.
Dirty dealings appeared commonplace in October, with the country surprised to learn that hardware retailer Mitre 10 was being taken to court for alleged industrial espionage, and winemaker Penfolds was hit with claims about fake wine disappointing consumers – only for the claims themselves to be proved fake.
The good news for business owners though was the cuts to Sunday penalty rates announced earlier in the year were kept in place, after a prominent trade union took the matter to the Federal Court in a bid to have them quashed.
A sellout crowd of more than 600 SME owners and their employees packed The Westin hotel in Sydney in November for the annual Optus My Business Awards. There were plenty of laughs, tears and even an F-bomb or two as the winners of 29 awards were announced. Legal firm Source Legal claimed top honours on the night, crowned Business of the Year for 2017.
After months of speculation, Amazon finally unveiled its platform to the public this month, although the launch attracted a great deal of criticism from consumers.
Meanwhile business owners expressed shock and outrage at the Fair Work Commission after it ruled a mine worker sacked for using abusive and offensive language was unfairly terminated.
The year wrapped up with the unthinkable – one of the big four banks, which makes billions of dollars in profit each year, admitted that it had grown too big, and announced plans to slim down in a bid to deliver better results for its customers.
December also hosted the busiest day of the year, according to a finance management platform, whose research suggested 19 December is the busiest day of the year for processing business expenses.
- Opinion: Why do so many claim to represent small businesses?
By Adam Zuchetti
- Opinion: House prices not all doom and gloom
By Adam Zuchetti
- Analysis: How can SMEs realistically stay competitive?
By Adam Zuchetti