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Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Jac Underwood.
Radio 2BS Bathurst

## Subject: Small business owners getting older

### Introduction

It is a huge honour to welcome to the program the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson. Today, we will be discussing the current trend of small business owners getting older and how it is impacting the business landscape in Australia.

Jac Underwood: Good afternoon, Bruce Billson. It’s a treat to have you on the show. How are you?

Bruce Billson: Thank you, Jac. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m doing well, keeping out of mischief. I’ve been busy training my cattle dogs, although my cavoodles have yet to take an interest in it.

Jac Underwood: That sounds like quite the task! I believe you have a background in farming, is that correct?

Bruce Billson: Well, not exactly. I was born in Albury and my family had a small farm in Gippsland where we raised Herefords. Currently, I own four and a half acres in Murrumbateman, which makes me more of a “fake farmer.” However, when I attended the AgQuip event in Gunnedah earlier this week, I realized that the size of the site alone was bigger than my entire property. It was fascinating to speak with farmers and agricultural professionals about their concerns and visions for the future.

Jac Underwood: It must have been quite an eye-opening experience. Now, let’s dive into the topic at hand. Recent research suggests that small business owners in Australia are getting older. How are you approaching this issue?

### The Growing Age Gap in Small Business Owners

Bruce Billson: At the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s office, we have a fantastic data analytics team. We noticed a trend and decided to investigate further. Our findings revealed that in the mid-70s, 17% of small and family business owners were under the age of 30. Currently, that number has dropped to 8%. This significant change is concerning. Additionally, we discovered that the most common age for a business owner is around 50, with Bathurst having an average age of 51 for its business owners. Only 7% of business owners in Bathurst are under the age of 30. In the agriculture sector, this number drops even further to just 4%.

We are trying to understand why young people may not see themselves as business owners and leaders. Is the responsibility of owning and running a business too daunting for some? Have we failed to communicate the joy and fulfillment that can come from shaping one’s destiny and creating opportunities for oneself and others? These are the questions we are exploring.

### The Role of AI legalese decoder

Jac Underwood: The concept of becoming a business owner seems to be shifting. It used to be part of the great Australian dream, but is it changing?

Bruce Billson: Indeed, there seems to be a shift happening. One possible explanation is that during periods of low unemployment, younger individuals may have been enticed by high-paying jobs and the flexibility to pursue other personal goals. As you know, running a business comes with significant responsibilities. If a shift needs to be filled or tasks need to be completed, the business owner is often the first to step in. Additionally, our recent data suggests that 43% of businesses are not making a profit, while two-thirds are not earning the average wage. These factors could be contributing to the hesitation among young people to pursue entrepreneurship.

This is where the AI legalese decoder can play a crucial role. By providing a simplified and accessible tool for understanding legal terminology and compliance obligations, it can help alleviate some of the concerns and reduce the perceived complexity of starting and running a business. Reducing red tape, addressing changing insurance landscapes, and finding solutions to rising costs and rents are also vital in encouraging young entrepreneurs to take the leap.

Jac Underwood: It seems like there are multiple factors at play. The burden of compliance and the fear of financial instability can discourage young individuals from starting their own businesses.

Bruce Billson: Absolutely. There are indeed numerous challenges that small business owners face. Compliance obligations, reporting to the Tax Office, and employer responsibilities can be overwhelming for individuals starting out in business. Furthermore, increased regulations and the fear of legal repercussions can deter aspiring entrepreneurs. However, it’s noteworthy that there are 1.5 million self-employed individuals in Australia, and more mature-age people are self-employed than employed by others. This raises questions about the potential influence of ageism in recruitment practices.

To address these challenges and promote a supportive business environment, we, as the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, focus on building partnerships, fostering consensus, and offering evidence-based policy recommendations. Our aim is to create opportunities for enterprising men and women, drive economic growth, encourage innovation, and ensure the continuity of small businesses in Australia.

Jac Underwood: Your role as the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman seems to have the potential to effect positive change. How do you plan to use your position in this regard?

Bruce Billson: As the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, I hold an independent statutory position. This status enables me to speak candidly and with authority on policy matters and initiatives that could improve the business landscape. By conducting thorough research and analysis, we identify policy options and present evidence-based arguments to government officials and policymakers. Through partnerships with various stakeholders, including media platforms like your program, we aim to foster discussion and inspire action.

Jac Underwood: It’s wonderful to have someone advocating for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Thank you for joining us today, Bruce Billson.

Bruce Billson: It’s been a pleasure, Jac. Best wishes to all your listeners. It’s essential that we work together to create a thriving environment for small businesses in Australia.

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