Training program lets small business grow - and take holiday

FRESH APPROACH: Crystal Clean’s Cass and Rich Duckett with NSW Small Business Commissioner Robyn Hobbs.
FRESH APPROACH: Crystal Clean’s Cass and Rich Duckett with NSW Small Business Commissioner Robyn Hobbs. Hamish Broome

TUNING up their business for growth allowed owners of Lismore's Crystal Clean, Cass and Rich Duckett, to take their first proper holiday in a decade.

The hard-working founders of the eco-friendly cleaning business had toiled for 10 years without taking on extra staff while raising two young children.

But thanks to a business coaching program, Small Biz Connect, which is subsidised by the NSW Government and provided locally by Nortec, they were able to change that.

The program offers training and advice in marketing, human resources and business development and provides small businesses with a clear growth plan.

Crystal Clean employed its first staff member within a few weeks of the first coaching session last year, and another staff member in March this year.

The business has since grown by an impressive 30%.

"We had a goal," Rich said.

"We had a family wedding in England."

"We wanted to employ people so the business could continue to run while we were in England."

NORTEC was able to give them a six-month safety net via wage subsidies, enabling them to properly train up the new staff members before fully covering their part-time wages.

The couple always found stepping back from the business was challenging.

"Before, we were too busy working in it to take the time to stand back and look at it objectively," Cass said.

"We almost had a fear of taking on more work.

"Once you have staff member on board, you don't have that fear, so you start putting your feelers out."

The Small Biz Connect sessions also helped them interview people and find the right staff - always a challenge as small business owners know.

"We interviewed about 15 people, but they (Nortec) didn't put any pressure on us," Rich said.

It's been a dramatic change for the business and having the holiday was an added bonus.

About Small Biz Connect

Small Biz Connect is a contemporary, comprehensive and high-quality support service for small businesses in NSW and is delivered by Nortec Small Business Support program in the Northern Rivers.

It has four mobile advisors operating from the border to the Clarence Valley, offering one on one support to small business operators that helps them to:

  • Understand their business's strengths, challenges and opportunities
  • Develop a simple action plan with measurable results
  • Grow quickly and manageably
  • Achieve economic sustainability
  • Connect with expert advisors, professionals and mentors with real business experience

Cost: The first two sessions are free, and thereafter only $165 for a package of three sessions.

More information:

Big issues for small businesses

NSW Small Business Commissioner Robyn Hobbs said during her tour of the Lismore region one of the top issues raised by business owners was penalty rates.

Ms Hobbs argued that inflexible penalty rates "impeded" the local economy and her office would be campaigning the Federal government for a reduction in the rates in 2015.

She also noticed on her trip the readiness of Lismore for a "big ticket" project to drive spending and investment across the board.

"They're the things that make a difference," Ms Hobbs said.

Ms Hobbs said the Small Biz Connect program had provided 43,000 hours of small business support this year and advised local businesses to get on board.

"Everyone needs a mentor in life. To have someone who is experienced and professional is very supportive."

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