SA businesses launch ‘buddy’ program to help SMEs scale up

In the wake of several prominent small business closures in Adelaide, a group of experienced advisory firms have launched a six-month program to help selected SMEs access professional advice and mentoring to aid growth.

Called ‘SA Business Buddy’, the program is the brainchild of Andrea Michaels, MD of NDA Law, Adam Griffiths from dmca business advisory and Stephanie Dumas from Pod Communications. The groupwill award a total of $15,000 ($5,000 each) in legal, business and marketing advice to three local businesses, including matched-mentoring over the course of six months to founders who need it.

The group will select three South Australian-owned SMEs or family businesses from a range of industries for the program. Businesses applying to participate in the program must have been in operation for at least 2 years, be 100% SA owned and have less than 50 staff. Participants will be able to access a customised package of legal, business and marketing services and tailored advice aimed at improving business strategies, management skills and structuring, as well as identifying new opportunities for growth. They will also be able to attend a range of SME-focused workshops and advisory sessions throughout the six-month period. Both Adelaide-based and regional businesses are encouraged to apply.

Entrepreneur and NDA Law Managing Director Andrea Michaels said she thought of the idea for the ‘SA Business Buddy’ program when she noticed how many local businesses faced hardships when trying to manage growth or scale up. She said discussions with clients showed they often felt the most valuable support came from other experienced professionals who had been there before.

“Although our hopes for the future are with big industries like defence and advanced manufacturing, SMEs are still the lifeblood of South Australia. I think the local business community can try to help some of these local operators.”

“SMEs can appear really busy until you hear they’ve called in the liquidators. It can come as a shock. We need to help them understand fundamental business drivers better. That means getting appropriate advice much sooner.”

Ms Michaels said targeted support programs for early-stage SMEs run in other states and overseas involved the chance to learn from other successful business owners through mentoring programs which harness local expertise.

“We want to be able take away the fear of talking to a business adviser or a lawyer so it’s more like professional mentoring. They might be facing a real crisis in the business, but chances are we’ve seen these problems before and can assist.

“Hopefully we’ll prove this program can make a difference, and I urge other business leaders to join us.”

Although South Australia has recorded higher levels of business confidence in some surveys, a national Westpac-Melbourne Institute SME Index (June 2018) showed higher expenses and costs were creating a more cautious outlook.

Adam Griffiths, a director from dmca advisory, says the reality for many small business owners was sometimes grim, citing a 2017 risk report from insolvency firm SV Partners showing companies in the food services, hospitality and accommodation sectors were particularly vulnerable.

“Many business owners are struggling to keep the doors open with rising electricity prices, high staff costs and disruptions caused by the popularity of Uber Eats, e-commerce, new technology and mobile services. That’s not helped by low wage growth which restricts consumer spending.

“You might be really great at what you do, but running a business is complicated and many will face a challenge at some point. Most founders are time poor and reluctant to seek professional advice in the early stages, when they should get help.”

Ms Michaels and Mr Griffiths believe more education and access to professional advisory services should be available to SMEs in sectors most at risk of business failure.

“Things might start out well but it’s only after the first or second year that things can get really challenging. Expansion is often seen as an opportunity for growth, but many business owners aren’t aware of the money required to fund it, or how to get investment,” Mr Griffiths said.

“You might be looking to hand the business to the next generation, your product volumes might need to increase, or you might have great revenue but poor profits. Cash flow can make or break a business, and access to credit isn’t getting any easier with banks tightening rules further restricting the ability of SMEs to borrow. The fact is it’s risky, and all that can be very difficult to manage without the right skills or advice.”

Applications for the SA Business Buddy program are now open by going to the following link:

The closing date is 5pm on Friday, November 30, 2018.


Media enquiries:
Stephanie Dumas
Pod Communications

Phone 0407 073 356