Embracing the digital revolution ‘will make a big difference’ for small firms

21 April 2022 By Lauren Croft
Pallavi Sinha

Post-budget, this principal lawyer argued that the small-business incentives announced by the Treasurer mean that boutique and SME firms will need to embrace technology and digital innovation moving forward.

Pallavi Sinha is the principal of Lawyers with Solutions in Sydney. Speaking recently on The Boutique Lawyer Show, she reflected on the recent budget announcements and the SME measures attached to them.

In terms of what stood out to her most, Ms Sinha said that whilst digital backing is extremely important, the legal industry has to “embrace the digital revolution”.

“So many areas of legal practice are moving online, whether it’s in the conveyancing area, in family law, and now they’re mentioning modernised registry systems in the areas of company corporate searches.

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“I also thought it was very good, in addition to what we’ve already discussed, to see them spending money on mental health, about $4.6 million, the New Access for Small Business Owners, Beyond Blue partnership. From what I understand and I’ve read, it would be free, accessible, and tailored to small-business owners, which is extremely important because small-business owners do face quite unique challenges,” she said.

“Often, they may have a very small amount of people, the employees that are in the practice, yet there’s a lot of pressure on a principal and the employees to get through a lot of work. During COVID and the pandemic when it was at its height, there was some staff that would be either sick or unable to be able to continue to be employed, so there were a lot of different pressures and unique pressures that small businesses experience. And having something, therefore, that’s tailored and free, I think is critical for small businesses to succeed.”

Furthermore, particularly for boutique firm owners, it’s more important than ever post-pandemic to have extra measures in place to ensure they’re able to stay on top of things and keep their heads above water.

“I empathise with a lot of small-business owners, there is so much to juggle. I started off very small when I started, because I’d worked, for example, with King & Wood Mallesons, I’d worked in the big corporate law firm, I’ve worked as a mediator. Then when I started migrating to a smaller practice, it was part-time, and then now it’s become full-time and there’s a lot to juggle when you’re first starting out,” Ms Sinha explained.

“When I first started out, you may end up being your receptionist, you may end up being your own typist. You might end up being the person who’s basically running most of the show until you can start expanding and taking on more employees. But then with taking on more employees, there are, of course, the additional pressures that that involves, in terms of paperwork and making sure that there’s good employee productivity and morale, and looking after your employees.”

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In addition, Ms Sinha said that the Small Business Debt Helpline program and the $8 million that went to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman were “good to hear about”.

“I think that’s an important area because there are a lot of things that are happening in the small-business space. I was at an event last night where the New South Wales Small Business Commissioner was there and the increase in mediation requests he’s been getting, and it is something that’s reported statistically as well,” she added.

“There can be all sorts of different sorts of disputes as well, so anything that is there to assist in resolution of disputes and being able to report things is extremely important as well.”

However, there were also a number of things missing for boutique and SME firms, according to Ms Sinha.

“I think that they’re definitely trying to bring in rewards and incentives to help businesses invest in skills and technology, but perhaps more emphasis on how to assist in the cash flow side. I mean, there have been significant cash flow incentives and payouts made to individuals, but helping businesses that are struggling. And of course, again, I do acknowledge during the COVID pandemic, there were a lot of different structures in place, but just looking at what are the structural, what are the systemic issues that are causing small business to either start up and then fail, or start up and struggle?

“Or even once they’ve been established for a while, what are their pressure points? What are their pain points? And perhaps providing, like they’ve mentioned about the mental health program being more tailored, programs that are a bit more tailored to the issues that small businesses raise as concerns. But I certainly think that they’ve tried to respond, particularly to a lot of established firms, which may not have embraced digital technologies as much,” she said.

“So, they’ve definitely tried to respond to pain points in that sense. I’ve seen statistics like there’s only about 60 per cent of organisations that have a program to migrate to a digital environment, so bringing in assistance in that regard is a good thing. But perhaps there may be other pain points that people need more assistance with as well.”

And in terms of the way smaller firms should be interpreting the budget, Ms Sinha said that the digital revolution is “extremely important” for boutiques and SMEs’ success.

“The government has already backed small businesses with the lowest tax rates in 50 years, so in terms of tax rates, they’re definitely helping businesses. They’re trying to, I think through this budget, recognise that we need to look at the present and future, and how we can therefore harness small businesses’ productivity,” she added.

“And yes, embracing that digital revolution, that will make a big difference, especially where there are firms which have hardly even had a formalised innovation function and now will be able to look at things that they might not have looked at in the past, because they are getting these tax breaks from it. There’s a lot of things.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Pallavi Sinha, click below:

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Embracing the digital revolution ‘will make a big difference’ for small firms
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