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State backs SME plan

THE Small Business Development Corporation has received $2 million for a business resilience program, designed to provide hands-on training, support and guidance to small business operators.

The BIZFit program is one of several state government-funded initiatives announced in the May budget to be rolled-out to boost performance in the small business sector, which is estimated to represent about 95 per cent of all companies.

BIZFit will include a two-day course coordinated through Curtin University of Technology's Centre for Entrepreneurship, with classes catering for up to 30 small business owners.

Curtin director, entrepreneurship and executive education, Richard Thorning, said the university's program would offer four modules covering planning and strategy, financial concepts, sales and marketing, as well as people and communication skills.

"The state government has invested $1 million a year for two years basically to lift the resilience, effectiveness, productivity and improve the fitness of small business in Western Australia," Mr Thorning said.

"The Small Business Development Corporation then chose to request the Centre for Entrepreneurship to provide content and deliver a workshop and mentor structure.

"A lot of these types of courses are geared to making a fast recovery for an organisation in a downturn, but these are proven lessons that have been learned in business over a long period of time."

SBDC chief executive Stephen Moir said the BIZFit program was expected to benefit 2,000 businesses during the next two years.

Under the program, business owners will first receive a 'local briefing' provided by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA that provides a snapshot of the economy in specific regions, such as the Pilbara and Mid West, relevant to their business, looking at forecasts and local issues, as well as the region's demographic background. The next step is a 'pulse check', where intensive business coaching is provided to business owners.

"The government has been looking into delivering programs and engineering responses that will see all businesses form exit strategies and succession planning and do what is needed to build resilience and prosper in any economic situation," Mr Moir said.

"This is a tripartite arrangement that will help deliver these outcomes and provide business owners with good fundamentals of running a successful business."

He said BIZFit participants could be offered scholarships to the successful 11-month growth program offered by Curtin University.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship was established in 1995 to provide business development programs for owner-managers of small to medium-sized businesses and is said to be the only facility of its kind in Australia. The Bentley-based unit has trained about 4,000 SME owners in WA through private sector consultants who run their own organisations, as well as Curtin Business School academics.

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