Community counts more than ever for micro business workers
Last year, some 2.4 million businesses had registered an Australian Business Number. We are curious to find out what the 2020 number will be. Some advocates are saying there will be more people starting businesses, whilst others are saying it is far too hard and complex, and that the largest employer group (small businesses) will in fact contract.
No matter which way you look at it, it’s a lot. Our total population is just 10 times that and, in the good old Aussie spirit of innovation and endeavour, most ABN holders (nearly 1.5 million) are hard-working sole traders. Micro businesses cover another 600,000 and at the apex we have the large companies, of which there are only 4000.
Australia can be proud of its small operators, many of whom still work from home, and facing thumping new challenges as the place of work in society redefines. But small business does not mean we are a ‘nation of shop keepers’ – far from it. We have great variety and diversity in how people trade and do business. The world has become the opportunity for many Australian businesses. Neither the tyranny of distance nor the size of a business is a limitation any more.
Much will depend on their markets. Job growth will come within logistics, technology, agriculture and health, says demographer Bernard Salt in the new white paper from RedBalloon for Business – Creating The ‘New’ Experience Of Work.
To get ahead post-2020, you’ll need to be adaptable and highly skilled Salt says. And avoid job-hunting in shops, travel or personal services; openings are down here big time.
Though don’t forget our work-from-homers. Artisans, artists and boutique operators have been working at home for aeons and for them too, now is a solid gold opportunity to rethink.
It’s unlikely you’ve ever given them much thought, but take glass blowers.
They’ve been around for centuries, springing up as communities in Syria and Palestine. They can do some funky stuff but much of their methods at cottage industry level are still preindustrial revolution says world-renowned glass artist Nick Mount.
Across Australia, these craftspeople are really only visible by what they bring to market. The rest of the time, like farmers, they’re hidden away, hard at work.
They’re an interesting lot though and not exempt from the challenges of the new office. It’s just that what they face is a little different.
“Artists are meant to be seen as solo operators, about thinking. But an artist has to do the whole thing. Source materials, develop hand skills, promote, R&D,” says Mount.
“It’s the same as a fish ’n’ chip shop owner or old solo garage owner. It falls apart because something is missed out in the chain.”
He’s asked sometimes what he does all day. Not in how much work do you have on, but how do you fill the time once a 30-minute masterpiece is polished off post OJ and croissants?
People believe what they want because that’s what they want to buy he says.
Mount reignited a communal work space in Adelaide in the early ‘90s for artists to help each other out; someone to stoke the fires while another blows the pipe. A precursor of the modern work space that has been a haven for many office-less workers during Covid.
It’s still going strong. There’s no water cooler – metaphorical or literal – but there is a common work space for glassblowers and it’s used by 30 people regularly, helping each other craft and deliver.
Crossover and fertilisation is constant – it’s brilliant, he says.
“When I had my own furnace, I was 24/7 at home and you have that great privilege of never having to leave home but the great burden of never having to leave work to go home.”
Blowers work in tight-knit teams, cheek to jowl, spit is shared in the blowpipes, as Covid unfriendly as it gets. The pandemic has not been kind – Melbourne blowers have turned toJobKeeper above their trade.
So, where they can in Australia, getting together is a godsend. And salvation comes with the people, the team.
No-one is more important than anyone else Mount says. You clean the floor, you fire the furnace, you blow. There’s a sense of a common goal and purpose.
“You are responsible for the other person’s income. It’s a really great thing to do.”
As a McKinsey survey shows, ultimately there is no one uniform experience. To flourish again, we must all learn and evolve.
Sure, Covid brings new challenges for glassblowers (artisans and business owners) – there’s no shying away from the fact that sharing your spit is uber-confronting at the best of times – but for this bunch, passion, people and (a shared) work place can prevail.
Pretty much like it did all those years ago. It is time for us to face forward, to take the good from the past, but not be constrained by the constructs of the ‘industrial age’.
Download the Experience of Work White paper for a view to the future.