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Poor internet speed, outages, the lack of the NBN and no specified time for its arrival was highlighted as a significant hindrance to business. Poor internet speed, outages, the lack of the NBN and no specified time for its arrival was highlighted as a significant hindrance to business. Featured


Focus groups probe concerns

By Anthony Moss

THE latest Hills Shire Performance and Sentiment Index survey completed in May of this year pleasingly indicated a shift from a minus two in the previous survey to a positive 11.

This survey also included questions that enabled respondents to comment on specific issues.

The Index measures business conditions, business performance and future sentiment.

Scores for performance and sentiment were positive while the score for conditions was negative.

Following the survey, the Sydney Hills Business Chamber supported by the Hills Shire Council conducted a series of focus groups designed to deep dive into exploring the issues that resulted in that negative score.

Representatives from 27 companies participated in the focus group meetings, ranging from corporate with greater than 100 staff through to micro businesses.

Many sectors were represented including manufacturers, professional services, the construction industry and health.    
Multiple issues were explored in the groups however, there were four themes that emerged.

Firstly, the ‘cost of compliance’ was a key issue at all three levels of government. The burden of compliance related to more than just the cost impost on business.

Changing compliance requirements were also an issue, with a perceived lack of engagement with business and perhaps more importantly, the uncertainty that changes present and a lack of clarity about how to navigate to the most accurate source of information. 

Comments were made as follows: “it’s hard to get the necessary information - getting to the right person in Government departments;” and “advice given by authorities can often be vague and non-informative;” and “compliance issues relevant to large business are put onto small business.”

Secondly the challenge to business of inadequate infrastructure was passionately raised. Poor internet speed, outages, the lack of the NBN and no specified time for its arrival was highlighted as a significant hindrance to business in the region. Fast broadband is now essential for business to be transacted locally and globally.

Notwithstanding the investment in the Sydney Metro, the challenge of traffic congestion at key times, inadequate parking, and public transport is seen as a major cost of doing business in the Hills.

This impacts productivity, hampers client engagement, results in missed deliveries, causes stress and affects staff morale. Some businesses have had to adjust trading hours to combat the problem.

Another key theme was staffing – and the issues of costs, finding, hiring, motivating, training, and retaining.

A number of businesses raised the challenge of attracting talent with the right skills to work in the area, saying it sometimes required adjustment to benefits packaging.

The infrastructure challenges require business to develop creative responses and are seen to be adding additional costs.

Ideas to respond to this issue included firms being more flexible towards staff working from home, to the development of SMEs collaborating more openly in co-working spaces, and sharing services. It was highlighted that staff need to be able to get to work easily, but also to ‘live and play’ in the district.

The final theme was that of the accessibility of the right information. Attendees identified the frustration of having to engage on a voyage of discovery with several sources to access credible, accurate information - whether it related to local or state government regulation, training, government grants and education services, or general business advice.

Clearly there is an opportunity to assist businesses to navigate to the right information sources.        

What next? The Chamber and Hills Shire Council will be reviewing the feedback in detail and assembling a panel of experts to develop responses to the issues raised and identify ways that government and business groups can provide better services and information to businesses.

I would like to thank all those who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in the Chamber focus groups and for the support of the Hills Shire Council. I have to highlight one key comment from a focus group attendee: “Local governments all need to consistently seek local business’s input then put forward data - make undertaking PSI a rule for all Councils.”

For a copy of the complete report with all commentary please go to the Chamber website 


Follow the link to the PSI Index and then to the 2016 PSI Focus Group Results. 

Anthony Moss is Chairman of the Sydney Hills Business Chamber.




Michael Walls
0407 783 413

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