WA Small Business Friendly Approvals Program

Western Australia’s Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) is an independent statutory authority established under the Small Business Development Corporation Act 1983 (WA). Its core objective is to provide advice and support to small businesses across Western Australia, and advocate on their behalf. 

SBDC has recently developed the Small Business Friendly Approvals Program. The Program aims to streamline the process of obtaining business licenses and trading permits in local councils. As part of the Program, SBDC partners with councils to identify potential reform initiatives to:

  • reduce the timeframe for granting an approval
  • improve business customers’ access to early information and guidance
  • improve customer service
  • introduce internal efficiencies within the local government

In 2019, the Program was successfully piloted in the cities of Canning and Stirling. In the pilot program, SBDC took a consultative design approach to developing reform ideas. Working sessions were facilitated with representatives from across council - including from planning, building customer service and economic development – and local small business representatives. Together, these groups mapped the customer journey of a small business engaging with the council to determine the key pain points and opportunities for improvement in processes. It was clear from the pilot program that many councils experience the same issues. Reform opportunities centred around cultural improvement, digitisation of services and data collection. 

A significant success factor of the Program has been its ability to bring together divergent groups of stakeholders to build reform ideas together. Hearing directly from small businesses has led council staff to see the real-life value of reforms.

The reforms are being successfully implemented through the leadership of the council mayors and CEOs, with support of the SBDC. Through the design process, team members from SBDC were embedded in local government. Through implementation, the SBDC continues to provide a supporting role and works with the council CEOs on tracking progress and outcomes.

A recent survey of the piloted program indicates there has been a tangible increase in local government awareness of the importance of small business to the economy. 

SBDC is now in the process of extending the pilot to 20 more local governments over 2021 and 2022. 

Prepared for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet by Nous Group.