Management consulting brand Dawson Consulting, acquired in 2007 by the Logistic Bureau Group, has announced that it now has a new focus – the small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. “Here at Logistics Bureau, we’re continually approached by the SME sector to assist them with supply chain and logistics challenges, explained Rob O’Byrne, Founder and CEO, Logistics Bureau, and previous Managing Partner with Dawson Consulting. “But given that our primary service focus is more towards the ‘top end of town’, it was often difficult to pare back our services to be a better fit for SMEs, in terms of their specific needs around project scope, timeframe and budgets.” For this reason, he explained, the decision was made to re-focus Dawson Consulting. “The services under that brand are now solely focused on the needs of fast growing SMEs, a very important part of our economy,” said O’Byrne. “There are six core ‘packages’ aimed at helping SMEs with the most significant supply chain and logistics challenges that hamper their growth and profitability. “One of the core values of the Logistics Bureau Group is helping people, and this refocus for Dawson Consulting absolutely underpins that value, allowing us to help another tier of businesses.” Find out more on the Dawson Consulting website.
Opinion – Lisa McAuley Attending the inaugural Alibaba E-Commerce Expo in Melbourne helped shed light on the opportunities e-commerce platforms like Alibaba present for small and medium-sized Australian businesses. Already valued at over USD 16 trillion, online sales are one of the world’s fastest-growing retail channels. Selling online gives businesses access to a whole world of new customers without many of the challenges, risks and expenses that often come with establishing a physical presence in a new market. To harness this opportunity, it is imperative that small businesses invest upfront in developing and equipping themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed business decisions. Success in online exporting, as in all business, relies on careful planning, risk mitigation and dedication. Platforms like Alibaba offer new pathways to market in many ways, each of which may present new challenges for new-to-online manufacturers or retailers. For example, bricks-and-mortar commerce requires a focus on location, merchandise assortment and display, as well as the in-store experience. E-commerce, on the other hand, requires a focus on order fulfillment, logistics, the online customer experience and customer lifecycle management. Businesses must also ask themselves a number of new questions, such as: is growing a global business via online channels appropriate for my product or service, and what are the right platforms to consider? What tax or regulatory considerations need to be taken into account? What logistics and financing solutions will be required? How do I protect my intellectual property? Alibaba’s Melbourne conference was a perfect opportunity for aspirational buyers and sellers to explore the cross-border export opportunities provided by ecommerce platforms such as Alibaba. Through exposure to a network of reputable and experienced service partners and buyers, businesses were able to advance the knowledge and skills needed to successfully export to China. Alibaba is one of many established online marketplaces that Australian businesses can leverage to access the massive international consumer market, but there are also several tools available to Australian businesses who opt for more proprietary solutions to reach new consumers in overseas markets. Starting a new business or extending market reach overseas is never easy, but by working with platforms like Alibaba and their partners, companies have a new opportunity to grow. Of course, the Export Council of Australia is always here to help as well. We offer a range of services that can support you to successfully grow your online business, including our international business coaching service and various education programs. I would like to congratulate Maggie Zhou, Alibaba Group’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, for convening such a great event in Melbourne. The Alibaba platform is an excellent tool to assist Australian companies in accessing new opportunities, in particular small businesses interested in leveraging the global marketplace to fast-track their own growth. Lisa McAuley is the CEO of the Export Council of Australia.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has written to e-commerce company Amazon to ensure the company complies with Australia’s unfair contract terms legislation upon its arrival. Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the pending arrival of Amazon Marketplace in Australia represented an opportunity for many small businesses to compete online and extend their reach, though she took the opportunity to remind the company of its obligation to treat small businesses fairly in accordance with Australian law. “Some businesses are concerned about the threat of competition while others are excited to embrace the opportunity that Amazon offers,” said Carnell. “For consumers the Amazon Marketplace promises to expand choice and put downward pressure on prices. I’m interested to see how Australian small businesses can accelerate sales and broaden their customer base though the Amazon platform.” Carnell said analysis of the Amazon Marketplace contract terms in the US suggested they would have to be changed in Australia to comply with federal legislation. “From 12 November 2016, changes to the Australian Consumer Law protect small business from unfair terms in standard-form contracts,” she said. “A standard-form contract is one that has been prepared by one party and where the other party has little or no opportunity to negotiate the terms. An unfair term is one that causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations and causes detriment to a small business if it were applied or relied upon.” Carnell said in Amazon’s US terms and conditions, the company reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, terminate rights to use Amazon services, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at its sole discretion. “This may be considered unfair as action can be taken by one party, Amazon, but not the other party, the vendor, to terminate the contract,” she said. “I’ve requested that Amazon review the terms and conditions in use for standard-form contracts in its Australian operations to ensure they comply with the unfair contracts terms legislation.”
Through a new partnership with DHL eCommerce, a division of the international logistics company Deutsche Post DHL Group, courier service Sendle plans to offer international parcel delivery services for small businesses in Australia. The move will mean small businesses will be able to offer door-to-door delivery, with Sendle managing domestic pickups in Australia and DHL eCommerce providing access to over 220 countries and territories in its global network. “Delivery performance is a critical success factor for any e-commerce business and an extremely crucial part of the consumer’s shopping experience,” said Charles Brewer, CEO, DHL eCommerce. “Australian SMEs are winners in this partnership as we combine DHL’s global expertise and reach with Sendle’s deep knowledge of small businesses to create simple and affordable solutions for international parcel delivery.” James Chin Moody, CEO and Co-ounder, Sendle added, “From day one, our mission has been to unlock the power of big business delivery infrastructure for millions of small businesses. Our agreement with DHL eCommerce, a true world leader in logistics, is a major step forward in levelling the playing field in Australia. By doing so, we aim to help more small businesses expand globally and thrive in the Amazon age.” The partnership with DHL eCommerce comes as Sendle announces it has just passed one billion kilometres of carbon-neutral parcel delivery on behalf of tens of thousands of small businesses. Deutsche Post DHL Group recently announced its goal to reduce all logistics-related emissions to net zero by the year 2050. “With the partnership now signed, we expect Sendle’s international shipping service to be available to selected Sydney customers in time for Christmas deliveries and to rollout nationwide in 2018,” Chin Moody added. “Watch this space.” Sendle is inviting small businesses to register to be part of a pilot program.
Small business operators have raised concerns with the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, noting that Australia Post appears to be providing volume discounts to big customers sending large amounts of parcel mail. Carnell is currently considering options to level the playing field for small businesses. “Concerns have been raised with me by small business operators regarding their capacity to compete with big business when it comes to online sales,” she said. “One of the biggest barriers that small businesses face online is the cost of sending parcels.” In one example given, a music shop in regional South Australia was quoted $75 to send a small guitar to a post office in North Queensland, while a larger competitor was able to offer free postage. “I am examining options to level the playing field for small business to compete fairly with big business when it comes to sending goods within Australia,” Carnell added. “One option may be to establish a buying collective. “In many cases, the online presence of a small business enables a physical store to remain open in suburbs and regional towns where it might otherwise not be viable. “A physical store contributes to council rates, vibrancy and economic activity, which are all vital to the sustainability of local communities.”
The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has welcomed several initiatives outlined by Treasurer Tim Pallas in his third State Budget that will help freight operators under pressure from expanding road user charges and shrinking margins to realise productivity gains, and experience greater success. Chief among these, according to VTA CEO Peter Anderson are $556 million for improvements to Victoria’s regional road network, including $41 million to upgrade 17 bridges on freight routes to handle High-Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs); a $1.45 billion Regional Rail Revival package to upgrade rail networks in Gippsland, Central Victoria, the Surf Coast and the state’s south west; $700 million over four years to upgrade the M80 Ring Road; $556 million for improvements to Victoria’s regional road network, including $41 million to upgrade 17 bridges on freight routes to handle High-Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV’s); a $300 million commitment to connect the Mornington Peninsula Freeway with the Dingley Bypass via a new Mordialloc Bypass; a $100 million commitment to fund planning and pre-construction activities for the much-needed completion of the M80 Ring Road via the North East Link; and $58 million for vital maintenance on the West Gate Bridge. “All up, the Budget contains close to $2 billion for new construction and upgrades to Victoria’s road network, which is vital for the freight industry to move goods and keep the economy ticking over,” said Anderson. “Payroll tax relief for SMEs in regional Victoria will encourage significant investments in those businesses, and generate jobs and growth. “The $100 million investment in pre-construction and planning for the North East Link is welcome news, and comes after 18 months of concerted lobbying by the VTA and business and road user groups for a commitment to the connection with serious funding.” Anderson added that the Regional Rail Revival package outlined in the Budget is a vital part of a suite of initiatives either planned or under construction to reduce congestion on roads throughout the state, by offering alternatives to passenger vehicle use and freeing up the road network for freight movements. With the project contingent on federal funding, however, the VTA has encouraged the Victorian and Commonwealth governments to set aside their political differences and reach an urgent agreement on Victorian infrastructure funding, which continues to significantly lag behind other states. Road congestion and inadequate road and rail infrastructure remain the number one impediment to better productivity among freight operators. “The State Budget handed down today contains much for the industry to be encouraged about, and we thank the Government for listening to our concerns,” he said.
The Andrews Labor Government will introduce an Australian-first voluntary Fair Payment Code of Practice to help crack down on late payments and encourage all businesses to pay their small business suppliers on time. Based on a similar initiative in the UK, the Fair Payment Code of Practice will require businesses to voluntarily pledge to pay suppliers on time, communicate clearly with suppliers, resolve disputes quickly and adopt fair payment practices throughout their businesses. Under the Code, businesses will be required to pay small- and medium-sized business suppliers within 30 days of receiving a tax invoice and to not change the settlement period without a valid reason. The Code will come into effect on 1 July 2017 and will be administered by Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC), who will manage a new website where businesses can sign up and resolve any complaints that are raised. Evidence in Australia and overseas has shown that some larger businesses are implementing increasingly longer payment times, with 60 to 90 day terms becoming common practice and payment lags as long as 120 days being reported in some instances. Managing cash flow is consistently reported as the most important issue facing small businesses, with late payment of invoices negatively impacting small businesses trying to creating new jobs and expand. Late payment times cause a ripple effect throughout the economy, as they are transmitted throughout the supply chain, successively reducing cash flow for all businesses along the way. The new Code will be open for public consultation to give businesses the opportunity to have their say on the issue before 1 July 2017. “Victoria’s new voluntary Code will give big businesses the chance to help our economy and take a stand on this important issue which negatively impacts so many small businesses across our state and nationally,” said Philip Dalidakis, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade. “Victoria has always led the country in small business policies and initiatives – from establishing the first small business commission, to running Australia’s largest small business festival – and we need will continue to do everything we can to make sure our small businesses get the support they need to grow and create more jobs.” Victorian Small Business Commissioner, Judy O’Connell, added: “Managing cash flow is critical for the success of small businesses and late payments can cause major headaches, so this new code will play an important role in strengthening this crucial sector which makes such an important contribution to our economy.”
Small business parcel delivery service Sendle has teamed up with StarShipIT, a cloud based app created to automate and simplify the process of shipping orders, to give Australia’s e-commerce retailers access a simpler complete shipping solution, the duo say.
As of 30 March, StarShipIT’s customers running stores on e-commerce platforms such as Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, eBay and Etsy can opt to deliver through Sendle’s door-to-door delivery service, receiving a free upgrade to Sendle Premium, with national flat-rate pricing starting at $5.59. Setting up an account and rate card with a shipping provider could previously take weeks to months. The Sendle-StarShipIT integration will enable online retailers to start shipping from their e-commerce platforms instantly and there are no minimum order quantities. Unlike the post office which restricts maximum parcel weight to 22kg, Sendle delivers packages across the spectrum from 500g up to 25kg at an affordable national flat rate pricing and is 100 per cent carbon neutral. Small businesses using Sendle can save time by automating fulfilment through StarShipIT, which automatically imports orders from all selling channels. Users can also batch print labels, invoices and pick-up slips and book a parcel pick up through StarShipIT. Commenting on the partnership, Sendle CEO and Co-founder James Chin Moody said, “StarShipIT is a market leader in providing beautiful fulfilment solutions for eCommerce. Our integration gives Australia’s eCommerce community the ability to streamline the process from setup to shipping so they can focus on growing their business instead of sweating the small stuff.” Rebecca Percasky, COO of StarShipIT, said, “I’m excited for what this partnership will offer Australian small businesses. A Sendle-StarShipIT integration has the potential to truly revolutionise their eCommerce fulfilment from check-out to the point of delivery and beyond.”
Australian parcel courier and freight reseller Pack & Send has awarded the first Small Business Logistics Grant – worth $10,000 – to South Australia–based Fleurieu Gifts. The Small Business Logistics Grant has been established by pack & Send to recognise the important role that the small business sector plays in the Australian market. Entries were judged by a panel of industry experts, including Hannah Staples, co-founder of Peppermint Grove Australia; Kellie Rakich and Alexandra Lyons, co-founders of Ankalia Textiles; Michael Paul, CEO of Pack & Send; and David Scicluna, Pack & Send Franchisee of the Year 2016. Director, Charlene Maney, from the Fleurieu Peninsula, beat out seven entrepreneurs in an all-female final for the prize, and over 130 entrants from across Australia.
Fleurieu Gifts, based in South Australia, provides eco-friendly alternatives to cut flowers, sourced from the Fleurieu Peninsula. Since its inception in 2014, founder and director Charlene Maney has used the power of e-commerce and online marketing to bring in six figures of annual sales. A desire to spend more time with her family drove Charlene to swap her successful corporate job for more muddy ventures in 2014. “I was working long hours and commuting into the city for work and just wishing I could see more of my family. “In the end I decided to leave my corporate gig, combine my love of gardening and beautiful things, and create my online business – making mini-gardens.” Charlene receives a prize pack that includes $10,000 worth of parcel and freight services from Pack & Send, a three-month business mentorship with Hannah Staples, co-founder of Peppermint Grove Australia, and parcel courier and freighting advice from a Pack & Send account manager for a year. “Fleurieu Gifts is an incredible example of the enterprising spirit and high-calibre talent that exists within the small business community in Australia, and we are proud to play a part in turbo-charging the growth of her business,” said Michael Paul, Founder and CEO, Pack & Send “We wish her all the best in her endeavours. “We were also delighted to see the strong entrepreneurial spirit of women in Australia represented in an all-female line-up of finalists.”
New kid on the parcel delivery block Sendle has been offering Australia-wide flat rates to small businesses since 2014, though the delivery service has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Australia Post since soon after its inception. Australia Post has asserted that Sendle’s slogon – ‘post without the office’ – infringes upon their trademark over the word ‘post’. IP Australia is now making its determination and could take up to three months to make an adjudication. Logistics & Materials Handling sat down with James Chin Moody, CEO at Sendle, to find out why the company has the national postal service so spooked, and how he feels about competition in the sector. “Australia Post is going to be around for many years to come – but they are not used to friendly competition in this space,” Moody commented. “At Sendle, we think it makes industry better by improving service levels and bringing prices down – it’s great for everyone.” Moody noted that this is not the first time Australia Post has used its might to thwart a would-be competitor. Australia Post began legal action against Digital Post Australia upon its launch in 2012, purportedly due to the company’s name infringing on Australia’s trademark, but likely due to the newcomer’s offering of a digital postbox service similar to one soon to be introduced by Australia Post. The trademark battle made it to Federal Court where it was tossed out, a fact which gives Moody added confidence. “You can’t own the word ‘post’,” he added. When asked whether there was room for both Sendle and Australia Post in the country’s parcel delivery market, Moody pointed again to the benefits of competition. “It’s really healthier – choice is healthier for everyone,” he said. “Australia is poorer with one airline, one bank, one telco, etc. Choice helps friendly competition, prices come down and service levels improve.” The chances of collaboration between the two delivery companies in the future are slim, Moody shared – at least while Australia Post continues to use its traditional service style. “We believe we’re offering a better level of service,” he said. “What we’re learning in the age of the Internet, the age of technology, is that you can no longer be 80 per cent good to everybody, you have to be 100 per cent good to somebody. You can’t be 100 per cent good to 80 per cent of the market, but you can be 100 per cent good to 20 per cent of the market, and that’s what we’re trying to be.” The tools, partnerships and customer support Sendle develops, he shared, are designed to suit small business, and give a viable alternative to those having to line up at the post office. “Sometimes, when you’re really small, none of the big guys want to talk to you,” he said. “Small businesses spend up to 40 per cent of their time on admin and logistics. Let’s free up their time so they can do what matters – building their business.”