How SMEs can open communication with traditionally non-English speaking markets


International borders are more blurred than they’ve ever been. Technology, working alongside globalisation, has made it possible to hire from across the globe, sell to customers with different backgrounds, and build business relationships outside “traditional” marketplaces.

Running a small business and selling to non-English speaking markets can expand your potential customer base by the millions while saving on staff and translator costs too. The only snag being that selling to these customers is often hamstrung by one problem: the language barrier.

Having worked with overseas markets and non-English speakers throughout my career, I knew that the key to effective communication (and getting sales) was personalised, quality conversations in the speaker’s language. SMEs need to make their messages meaningful to their audiences, not just make them available – they need to be accessible. A vast, untapped market awaits SMEs around Australia, but they’re not yet using the technology to effectively communicate with such markets.

Don’t be afraid to take the leap into messaging to communicate with customers – they want easier ways to connect. Today’s technology can go a step further and provide real-time translation too, saving the need for clunky copy-and-pastes into an online translator. Now, the conversation just flows.

Australia has 4.9 million people speaking a language other than English at home; one fifth of our population. Without the proper tools at your disposal to communicate with them, that’s 20 per cent of the marketplace lost.

Customers want questions answered, and expect clear, concise communication. They need product support, expect top-tier service, and if they don’t receive it, will post a negative review on Google. It’s the same for non-English speakers; SMEs need to make effective communication more accessible to them.

It was understanding this that motivated creating the Jeeves.Plus messaging platform. It provides engagement, staff efficiencies, and cost savings better than phone and email-based customer support.

The system’s uptake allows SMEs to do business with the hearing impaired community, and globalise sales efforts through automatic translation in 109 different languages. It allows for multiple conversations at once, and eliminates the need for call-waiting queues.

With limited staff, managing incoming messages from all your social channels is frustratingly difficult. Jeeves.Plus allows companies to streamline inbound messaging through a single platform – with SMS, Facebook Messenger, Webchat, and Google Business Message requests appearing in one window. The platform’s templated responses allow communication to be even faster: customer details are automatically filled out as new information becomes available.

SMEs can expand their outreach through creating and sending thousands of messages to customers. People are open to, and engage with text messages far more than emails; our methodology achieves 98% open rates – unheard of in email communications. SMEs will find it very affordable and effective to send promotions, such as discount codes, directly to their customers’ mobiles.

Multilingual text-to-translator services and communications will better allow this new customer base to open up a dialogue with businesses and provide valuable input.

The technology now exists to open the doors to a huge market of new customers. It’s as simple as sending an SMS. Start speaking their language, and your customers will be impressed.

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Charter Hall tops up on long-lease offices in $415m spending spree


The Charter Hall property machine is powering up its long-wale REIT, spending $415.4 million on five properties and announcing an accelerated $250 million equity raising to fund the deals.

Charter Hall Long WALE REIT (CLW) has scooped up a 50 per cent interest in three office buildings and a life sciences building, and settled the full purchase of an Ampol-anchored petrol station in Redbank Plains, Queensland.

The ATO’s office in Albury.Credit:

The total purchase price for all the property is $415.4 million, reflecting a passing yield of 5.2 per cent, the group said.

The half share transaction includes a $150 million outlay on the Services Australia building in Tuggeranong, ACT, $115 million on the Australian Taxation Office in Melbourne’s eastern suburb of Box Hill, $79.5 million for the Red Cross building in Alexandria, NSW, and $42.5 million on the ATO office in Albury, also in NSW.

The REIT has also settled its 100 per cent interest for control of the Redbank servo for $25.4 million.

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The office properties are 75 per cent leased by income to the Commonwealth government and will increase the fund’s exposure to government tenants from 16 to 21 per cent.

CLW’s fund manager Avi Anger said the properties had long leases with strong covenants to essential government, life sciences and convenience retail services.

The property manager will partially fund the acquisitions and transaction costs through a fully underwritten, accelerated, non-renounceable, $250 million entitlement offer.

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Outsourcing in Australia in 2021


The post-pandemic Australian business landscape has shifted more rapidly than we ever could have imagined. The needs and desires of our clients have changed. In particular, businesses within the country, and abroad, have been reducing their overheads and tightening their belts in anticipation of fluctuating revenue and uncertainty regarding government restrictions.

At the same time, I’ve seen the global marketplace getting smaller, with an increasing need to seek role-players and skill providers on an international scale in order to compete and maximise your business’ efficiency.

A matter of margins

One of the fundamental benefits we continue to provide our clients is the ability to save labour costs. This has been made so much more critical during the recent pandemic. So many Australian businesses have had to scale back full-time staff and this can clearly present some significant operational challenges. Not only do the appropriate tasks need to be completed; they need to be completed to the right standard. Cost saving is often necessary, but shouldn’t come at the expense of quality.

I’ve also seen my industry adapt to offer as much contractual flexibility to clients as is possible considering the changing nature of things and the constant cost-pressures that many businesses face. Change is a constant, and we’ve all seen things change quickly recently. This, again, requires clear and consistent lines of communication between my team and our clients.

You have to compete to win

The world is smaller than ever before, and in many ways I believe the growth of the outsourcing industry reflects that. Australian companies now know that maximizing external suppliers is a necessity, not an option, if they want to be able to compete with the market leaders. The increase in businesses using outsourcing service providers, such as our team at hammerjack, demonstrates a confidence that the industry has the tools to execute in a way that many companies simply can’t achieve in-house.

A more global labour and skill market also presents it’s own unique challenges that we have helped address. Using a variety of different international suppliers requires watertight and rigid on-board structures in order to effectively integrate any outsourced resource into your company and workflow, so that you don’t miss a beat. Without such security lines of communication can often break down in-house, and businesses fail to make the most of their outsourced capital.

The time of tech

The outsourcing industry’s rapid evolution within Australia has come in lockstep with changing technology, as our partnership with Microsoft might demonstrate. There is a whole suite of areas to which this applies. Not only are our clients dealing with increasingly automated processes, resulting in the need for flexibility within their contracts and capital, but also we are constantly evolving the integration of tech into our offerings to simplify issues such as security, compliance and identity concerns.

I’ve seen the industry become transformed by new cyber-security technology, designed to protect confidential information and offer peace of mind to all of our clients. This has amplified the value-add that engaging with an outsourcing service provider can have, as it’s adding additional layers of protection for all of the respective parties.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in assisting companies maximise their capital, getting the most out of all of the available resources from around the world. Throughout a global pandemic, with ever changing technology and shifting regulations, I’ve seen businesses continue to thrive with a combination of creativity and savvy.

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Josh Frydenberg defends wages policy despite workers facing real pay cut | Wages growth


Josh Frydenberg has conceded inflation will outstrip wage growth this year – meaning workers face a real pay cut – but defended the government’s decision not to do more to boost wages.

The treasurer told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday the Coalition had “stayed true to our consistent position” when it “noted” – but did not accept – the aged care royal commission’s call to increase workers’ wages in the sector.

Frydenberg said the Coalition is “not seeking to cut spending after the next election”, suggesting that fiscal repair will be achieved through economic growth and not cuts to services.

Given the pace of the jobs recovery and generosity of the budget, Labor is now targeting wage stagnation as a possible weakness for the Coalition leading into the next election.

Tuesday’s budget forecasts wage growth of 1.5% in 2021-22, below inflation which is forecast to grow by 1.75%.

Frydenberg told Insiders that “inflation is above wages this year”, but argued inflation was high in contrast to 2020 when it was artificially lowered by temporary free childcare, lower rents and petrol prices.

After growth of 1.5%, wages are set to grow by 2.25%, 2.5% and 2.75%, which will be “above inflation” in the remaining years of the forward estimates, he said.

“But the key to driving increased real wages is actually to get a tighter labour market.

“That’s why you’ve seen in these budget papers that the unemployment rate comes below 5% by the end of next year.”

The Morrison government made a purely factual submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual minimum wage review and will also stay neutral in a landmark work value case brought by the Health Services Union to boost pay in aged care.

Asked about this failure to call for a minimum wage rise, Frydenberg replied the Coalition had “always been consistent with respect to leaving it to the FWC to make those decisions”.

Submissions advocating a pay rise are not binding and therefore do not impinge on the commission’s independence.

Frydenberg implied the government submission provided tacit support for a wage rise because it “pointed out the strengthening of the Australian economy”.

The submission also warned of “uncertainties” in the economic outlook and urged the commission “to take a cautious approach” taking into account the importance of creating jobs and “ensuring the viability” of small businesses.

The submission was interpreted by Australian unions as a bid to suppress minimum wage rises.

In the aged care work value case – in which 200,000 aged care workers are seeking a pay rise of 25%, or $5 per hour – the government has said it will only “provide information and data to the FWC as required”.

Frydenberg noted the case asking for a “significant boost” to pay in the aged care sector and said the government would “let that work its way through”.

Asked why it had not followed the royal commission recommendation to do more, Frydenberg noted it had “also recommended we should put a tax on all Australians” to pay for improvements in aged care.

Frydenberg said the government had accepted the “vast bulk” of recommendations, provided $17.7bn for aged care in the budget and 33,000 new training places to boost staffing in the sector.

In its interim report and again in the final report, the aged care royal commission found the sector suffers from severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.

“Workloads are heavy,” the interim report said. “Pay and conditions are poor, signalling that working in aged care is not a valued occupation.”

Anthony Albanese told reporters in Narangba that Frydenberg had “no plan” to deal with low wages and “no answers as to what cuts will be made after the next election”.

“Unless you deal with the issue of aged care workers’ pay then you won’t be able to attract the workforce that’s needed,” the Labor leader said.

Earlier, Frydenberg said the Coalition is “always striving to balance the books” but would not say when and how it would attempt to return to surplus. “We are not seeking to cut spending after the next election,” he said.

Frydenberg defended the fact the budget projects a decade of deficits by noting the net debt to GDP ratio “comes down each and every year”, due to growth of the economy outstripping growth in debt.

“The deficits have come down by two-thirds over [four years] and when you look at other countries with a AAA credit rating … our fiscal consolidation over the next six years is happening faster than those other countries.”

Frydenberg noted that half of new spending in the 2021-22 budget is temporary, including the $7.8bn one-year extension of the low and middle income tax offset.

Frydenberg defended the third stage of income tax cuts, which will benefit middle and high income earners by flattening tax brackets, so that income between $45,000 and $200,000 is taxed at the rate of 30%.

He said these tax cuts are “already legislated” and will create a “stronger and fairer” tax system.

Frydenberg argued without the third stage, someone earning $90,000 will be $1,120 worse off. He refused to acknowledge that low to middle income earners will be up to $1,080 worse off per year when the temporary offset expires, citing comparisons to the 2017-18 year to obscure the pending tax hike.

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Can open banking drive benefits for small businesses?


The Consumer Data Right (CDR), or open banking, was introduced in 2018. The rollout has been delayed at various stages and the uptake is slow-moving, leaving Australians waiting to experience the full potential that open banking has to offer.

The consumer benefits of open banking have always been clear, from driving more competition between providers to greater control over their data. However, with December 2020’s changes to the legislation, open banking is now set to positively impact the two million small to medium-sized businesses around the country.

Streamlining accounting

Accounting takes up precious resources that many SMEs cannot afford to waste. Despite innovations and high-tech software, accounting processes remain convoluted and manual, often resulting in late payments, poor cash-flow and a drain on resources.

This impact to cashflow plays a major role in business failure – 51 per cent of businesses fail as a result of inadequate cash flow, according to ASIC. And, while card payments and bank transfers currently make up a high proportion of invoice payments for SMEs, problems exist with both options. For card payments, high fees, risk of payment failure or fraud are just some of the issues. While bank transfers require manual processing, which can result in overdue invoices and blocked cashflow.

The data-rich capabilities of open banking will enable small businesses to access innovations that provide greater oversight into clients’ accounts patterns and their own. For example, automating integration of business banking data to accounting software or providing insight into the ideal day to take payments based on clients’ wage schedules. Meanwhile the speed offered by the New Payments Platform will ensure payments are received instantly, vastly improving cashflow.

Trusted payments

Payment verification and account authentication is another element of financial services that’s due for an upgrade. Payment fraud remains a huge concern for Australian businesses, of all sizes, with the Australian Payment Network stating that card fraud alone costs businesses $447.2 million in FY20.

Take, for example, a business that relies on recurring payments as their main source of income – a gym, perhaps. With current technologies, there is a risk, when taking payments, of being provided with falsified bank account information and, consequently, experiencing failed payments. Or perhaps the credit card they used expired: until those details are updated, the gym cannot get paid. It also increases the risk of customer attrition, if the customer simply abandons their membership.

With the free and secure flow of customer data being made available by the open banking regime, authentication and verification will become increasingly simpler and more efficient, lowering rates of failed payments and improving the costs of fraud for small businesses.

More competitive business lending options

Finally, the broader rollout of open banking is set to overhaul business lending. Fintech disruptors who have entered the market to compete with the Big Four have yet to make a real splash in Australia’s business banking sector. This may be partly to do with the fact that businesses are hesitating to switch financial services providers because of the costs and difficulties associated with switching. However, open banking presents the opportunity to greatly simplify the process with simple and seamless data enabled switching for accredited service providers, which will undoubtedly increase competition in the sector.

In fact, as of the 1st of November this year, businesses are set to reap the benefits of the expanded CDR regime that will require account providers to make business and other non-individual customer data available to accredited data recipients, opening the floodgates to better deals and more choices for Australian small businesses.



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ASX set to rise; Crown rejects $8.3b Blackstone bid



The ASX 200 is set to jump higher this morning after Wall Street finished the week with a bang. Iron ore and Bitcoin prices plummeted.

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Half a million small businesses still behind the digital wave


New research indicates that nearly half a million Australian SMEs are either not fully or just barely made the transition into the digital wave and about $10 billion would be needed by the Australian economy, to facilitate their transition.

According to the research by business management platform MYOB, 466,062 SMEs – approximately 20 per cent of the 2.29 million in the sector – do not have access to digital tools that would have helped them in critical areas of their business workflow, such as compliance and supplier management.

On the flip side, among the SMEs using digital tools, 40 per cent of businesses use digital cloud-based software for work in progress (WIP) management, 38 per cent for managing their people, 37 per cent for growth opportunities, such as marketing, and 26 per cent for connecting with their customers on social media.

MYOB also noted that support packages that bridge the digital gap for the one in five SMEs left behind will bring aobut a 1.8 per cent increase in the SME GDP contribution, or a $10.5 billion gain for the Australian economy and that tax system and cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) products serve as the perfect gateway for SME digitalisation.

“Our new research tells us 24 per cent of SMEs are worried new technology is too expensive and a further 24 per cent don’t have the time to set it up,” MYOB’s Chief Employee Experience Officer, Helen Lea, said. “Of the businesses who digitised during the pandemic, 39 per cent found themselves to be more productive and 34 per cent were more profitable. Eighty-five per cent said they were able to keep their business running thanks to digital tools.

“For the one in five SMEs at risk of being left behind, a tax incentive that is easy for businesses to engage with, that is pointed out to them by their accounting and bookkeeping advisors with whom they speak regularly, will remove a significant hurdle to digital adaptation,” Lea added. “Our research supports this: 27 per cent of respondents shared that an incentive, such as a tax deduction, would help them get started.”

MYOB pointed out that the SaaS model software is custom built for the SME way of working and that cloud-based SaaS products allow businesses to work however and wherever they like, with the subscription model allowing a business to grow their software use with their operations.

“We are recommending to Government that they consider a refundable rebate on new SaaS subscriptions for SMEs with 0-199 employees, with a tiered incentive structure to promote end-to-end digitisation of businesses,” Lea said. “This change alone we predict is worth $10.5bn to our economy in the short term. If you combine this with the annual saving of $23.5bn afforded by a mandatory introduction of B2B e-invoicing, adoption of which could also be motivated by this SaaS incentive, it’s a pretty compelling case for putting our trust in small businesses as Australia’s economy recovers and grows,” Lea concluded.

digital wave, data mining, AI, digital stimulus, smart business, digital reslience

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Linktree the latest tech company to block users for spreading misinformation


University of Queensland Associate Professor Stan Karanasios has researched the use of social media to spread misinformation, which he said was a growing concern.

“I think we’re in a period of a new world disorder in many ways when it comes to misinformation,” he said. “It’s really interesting that companies themselves are the ones who are taking the steps to shut down groups and because of this they control the conversation.”

Mr Karanasios said this regulation and policing of users by companies such as Linktree was happening because of the failings of broader policy regulation and users own inability to self police consumption of misinformation.

“We are in a strange position now where the organisations themselves are controlling the conversation,” he said. “While it may be black or white on something like Parler and violent protests, there could be areas where they control the conversation, which is not conducive to society. There is a very interesting debate to be had about who should be in charge of monitoring and controlling the conversation around important topics.”

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Unwrapping diversity and inclusion in business


As the daughter of Vietnamese Australians my parent’s cultural heritage, views and work ethics have influenced every aspect of my life. Growing up, my parents instilled in me the ability to value myself and appreciate my differences. For me, this is what diversity and inclusion is all about.

Today, diversity has the ability to positively impact every single workplace. A diverse workplace brings together people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, religions and sexes in an environment that celebrates their differences.

The concept of diversity and inclusion is relatively simple. Accept people who are different, invite them on your journey and include them – make everyone feel like part of the team. Being able to value diversity allows businesses to deliver and connect with a wider range of customers and it also engages them by allowing them to bring different ideas, suggestions and solutions to the workplace.

Right now, there are more than 7.5 million people living in Australia who were born overseas; and together, they speak over 300 different languages in their homes. As businesses, it is up to us to support our teams, and that includes the 21 per cent of the population who consider English to be their second language.

When workplaces adopt diversity strategies and engage in diversity planning, they are saying; we want to hear your voice, your opinion matters, and we value the ideas of everyone. In a diverse workplace there are no barriers to communication, every voice is heard and understood. 

Within my company alone, more than 40 per cent of our team were born in another country and over 65 per cent of our team speak a language other than English at home.

What brings us together and makes us a family? How do we communicate?

To be diverse and inclusive requires humanity, respect and compassion. For our team at Pakko, that means we work by our guiding principles of accepting and respecting each other. The key to unlocking this is through practices, policies and guidelines that are meaningful; they have to be relevant to your team and resonate with their backgrounds and the culture in your organisation.

A good diversity and inclusion plan should be tailored to meet the needs of your team. When you are developing or reviewing your existing Diversity and Inclusion plan ask yourself:

Do you know the cultural ethnicities of your organisation?
  • Understanding the backgrounds of your team is the first step to successful communication.
  • Ask your team about their cultural heritages.
  • Educate your entire organisation through cultural lunch and learn sessions.
Is your Diversity and Inclusion plan tailored to suit your organisation?
  • A generic plan isn’t always the best option.
  • Talk to your teams, ask them what they need.
  • Customise your Diversity and Inclusion guidelines according to feedback from your team.
How engaged is your team when it comes to your organisation?
  • The more engaged employees are, the more likely it is you have a successful diversity and inclusion strategy in place.
  • Employees who feel excluded are far less likely to be engaged.

In my experience, there really is no one size fits all approach when it comes to diversity.

For me, best approach is one that is open, honest and speaks to your teams in a way they appreciate and value.

Nina Nguyen, Founder, Pakko



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The Morrison government is big on spending, but small on vision | Greg Jericho


As I waded through the turgid words barely replicating prose that was the treasurer’s budget speech, my immediate thought was that I have no idea what this government is. It is big spending, but with little purpose. It talks about vision, and yet it can barely even see as far as the next election.

There, of course, was spin. Marketing is the foundation of the Morrison government.

My favourite was the treasurer announcing in his speech that “over 10 million low- and middle income earners will benefit from a new and additional tax cut”.

It will be the first tax cut no one notices because all it is doing is extending for one more year the low-and middle income tax offset (LMITO).

It’s a bit like your employer saying that continuing to pay you the same amount for another year is “an additional salary”.

It would seem the government is so in love with casual labour contracts that they are now extending them to how they do tax cuts.

Of course, not everyone has to worry about whether their tax cut will continue.

Those earning over $120,000 already were granted a permanent tax cut last year, and the stage 3 tax cuts which seek to flatten the income tax system and hand those earning $200,000 a 4.5% tax cut remain in place to begin in 2024-25.

It’s one of the reasons why there are many years of deficits to come and that, to be honest, no one cares – least of all this government which has long pretended to argue such things are evil.

But it’s why this budget despite being big spending had no real purpose other than to get to the next election. It felt like a tick-the-box budget, designed more in a media monitors office than the Treasury department.

Worried about women? We got you covered (if you think childcare is a women’s issue). Worried about aged care? Finally we are doing something. And hey, that vaccine? Don’t worry, another $1.8bn will be spent and we’ll slip in the assumption underlying all the forecasts that “a population-wide vaccination program is likely to be in place by the end of 2021”.

Likely.

Go to university or are a migrant thinking you might need benefits in the next four years? Errr … sorry, we’re pretty sure you’re not voting for the government so … too bad.

Worried about climate change? Yeah. Nah. You definitely are not voting for the government.

So even with all the big spending, the government still found time to be ideological, even if its ideology is mostly one of rewarding those who support them.

It was a budget that acknowledged that governments need to spend to keep the economy going and yet looks with hope for a time when it can reduce its spending – a time the government appears to think will be when the Reserve Bank still has interests rates at emergency levels.

As ever the Reserve Bank will be expected to the do the heavy economic lifting while the government gets to boast about how it is returning to surplus.

It’s a bit like lying on the couch all Saturday marvelling at how great it is to have finished work, while your partner is vacuuming and the washing the floors.

And moreover the government wants to cut the deficit (which removes demand from the economy) as hard and quickly as occurred during the 1990s when the economy was growing much faster.

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We have gone through a once in a century experience – a truly life-changing experience – and yet I don’t really detect any change at all from this government.

It has discovered that fiscal stimulus works and that debt is not as scary as they have long been saying. And yet my main impression is that it quickly wants us all to forget that and get back to pretending that what it had been doing before worked, and that things before were all fine.

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