The 6 Keys to Surviving in Small Business

If you’ve finally given up looking for that elusive answer and arrived at this blog by google searching Ten ways to survive as a small business owner, you have our sympathy. I’m guessing the search took you to huge number of hits, each one the definitive answer to your question, only to then discover that most focus on things that you have very little control over.

What makes it even more frustrating is that much of the conversation is around compliance and red tape, bureaucratic measures that seem to get more onerous every day. And that’s a fact.

19 years ago, just under 200,000 federal regulatory restrictions were imposed on Australian businesses and individuals. Since 2005, federal red tape has increased by 88%, a net increase of 173,856 regulatory restrictions growing at a rate two-thirds greater than overall national economic growth. And please note. We haven’t mentioned anything about state regulations.

In global economic competitiveness rankings, Australia has declined from 4th in the world to 19th. In roughly the same period (2004 – 2023), Australia has fallen from 6th for bureaucracy not hindering economic activity to 20th. And as for ranking 7th in 2004 for legislation supporting the creation of new firms, today it ranks 26th.

And there is very little you can do about it. You can worry yourself into bankruptcy trying to change the system. Or you can take on board the 6 keys to small business survival outlined in this blog and grow.

Let’s backtrack a moment. Of course, there are things we can do about the ridiculous amount of red tape all small business owners have to endure. We can make as much noise as possible to get governments to change. And we can assure you the Coffee Commune is getting louder in this regard. Our advocacy strategy is in place to push for a return to the days when every new piece of regulatory red tape proposed by government needed to be countered by the removal of two existing pieces of red tape. PLUS, there are other steps you can take to reduce the impact of red tape on your business.

Survival Key #1

Spend less time “in” and more time “on” your business.

Small business owners can take steps to minimise the risk of red tape, and the onerous amount of time spent dealing with it. That’s why the Coffee Commune is spending so much time and effort in identifying network partners who can help you move out of the cycle of rolling up your sleeves and working in the business, to being able to stand back and observe how to maximise your return.  Business acumen is an essential part of running a successful small business. And the only way you can gain those essential business skills is to listen and learn: to take a less active role in the day-to-day routine of your business and step back and learn the skills that will make you a thriving business. Here’s just two ways our partners, People Squared and Gillian Hirst can help.

Survival Key #2

Cultivating greater loyalty among current customers.

Loyalty and trust are the lifeblood of every powerful brand. Trust has to be earnt. Once you have your customer’s trust its very hard to break that bond unless you do something to break it. Consistent delivery of your promise or point of difference builds trust. In turn consistent delivery builds loyalty, which in turn creates referral. This is a never-ending cycle, once you get it right your customers become your best source of new business. Baladi’s in Yeronga, winners of the 2023 Brisbane Best Café Award know how to build trust. Follow this link to see why “serving up smiles” was their secret ingredient.

Survival Key #3

Reaching and attracting new customers.

The number of cafes in Queensland has surged past 5000. There are over 2500 (verify) cafes in the southeast corner alone. Competition is intense. Post covid the number of new cafes has outpaced the growth in customers. Paying customers have simply not returned in the same numbers that existed pre-Covid, and there are no guarantees they will return, given the increasing competition (not just from other cafes, but from the rapid expansion of home consumption.) It is more essential than ever that café owners (and other small business owners) take the time out from their hands-on role and learn the fundamentals of attracting new customers. As a starter, we’ve included Chapter 3 in 17 Rules of Game Changer Thinking by Allan Bonsall and Phillip Di Bella for some valuable insights into how to attract new customers. Or consider attending Chris Willems “On Camera workshop” as a practical way to engage with your customers.

Survival Key #4

Improving understanding of customers.

Bottom line: if you understand your customers better than your competitors do: if you know what your customers want, better than your competitors do: if you offer your customers something they want, that no-one else is providing, and deliver it better than anyone else can, you will have “bolted on” customers for life. Loyal customers, customers who trust you. But, beware. Let them down once, and they might forgive. Let them down twice and watch them scamper so fast to the competition you won’t know what hit you. A positive starting point is to check out the fabulous tool on the Brisbane City Council website – building Brisbane Community Profiles or book a spot at our Grow your customers – Accelerate your business Masterclass.

Survival Key #5

Improving your brand (image).

This key to survival is not a one-dimensional solution; we’re not just talking about your brand, although that is a critical factor in your future success. We’re also talking about the brand of the sector, in this case the hospitality sector, specifically cafes.

Unfortunately, the hospitality sector as a brand is not necessarily the highest regarded when it comes to attracting people to the hospitality workforce. Bank managers are not always enamoured by the industry, particularly when it comes to lending funds. Governments see the hospitality industry as an industry littered with risk leading to an overzealous government when it comes to implementing regulations and compliance. Consider how a couple of our partners can help you with your brand, and in the process build a more positive image for the industry. To learn more: The Podcast Boss and The Content Hive.

Survival Key #6

Improving revenue and owner earnings.

Here’s a couple of sobering statistics. Around 43% of small businesses fail to make a profit. 75% of small business owners take home less than the average wage. Now, let’s talk about starting a small business!

Those stats are real. Fortunately, there are a significant number of pros to becoming a small business owner. The flexibility can be life changing. Not having to listen to a boss is, for many, equally life changing. Yet the reality is, without a sound knowledge of the mechanics of running a business it is often difficult to make a dollar that justifies the hours you spend at work. Two of our partners have spent a lifetime helping others improve their revenue and earnings. To find out more: Restoke and Beyond Payments.

We urge you to cast a wide net as a small business.  Every tip, every piece of advice in the long run could be invaluable to your journey – to whether you survive, or whether you thrive.



Being partnered with the Coffee Commune was a logical extension of our business. It is a great opportunity to showcase our equipment range, however, we also see the immense value to the industry of being part of the Coffee Commune’s exceptional training facilities
Fabio Cordovado Director CWE
Labour laws are more and more complex and hard to understand; Through our membership with Coffee Commune, we have constant access to a HR/IR hotline. Quick and Easy.
Phil Johnson Founder and owner Chef
Ecco Bistro
Coffee Commune’s advice, support, and network, helped reduce the red tape, gave us direction, and saved us valuable time.
Sarah Buiso Restaurant Owner of Da Buiso
…if our clients grow, we grow. The Coffee Commune has been invaluable in helping us spread that message.
Vince Monardo Naked Syrups
We are passionate about collaborating with the coffee community to make a real difference for business owners. We look forward to continuing to work with The Coffee Commune.
Matt Allington Partner, Business Services
BDO (Australia)
…we’re passionate about helping businesses identify the things they can be doing to maximise performance.
Alessandro Calabrisello General Manager
Sanremo Coffee Machines Australia