BEC 20/21 Annual Update

BEC 20/21 Annual Update
Growing oranges under a clear blue sky

The BEC Business Advice 2020-21 Annual Update provides a summary of the key activities we have undertaken in the 2020-21 year.

The report makes public a range of statistics related to the BEC’s interactions with businesses across the regions of Riverina, Murray, Snowy Valleys and Far-West NSW. In addition, there are updates on various towns and projects that occurred over the past year.

You can read the report in its entirety below, or download a pdf copy.


  1. A message from the Managing Director
  2. 2020-21 Snapshot
  3. Women in Business
  4. Top Business Issues 2020-21
  5. Wagga Wagga Update
  6. Albury & Surrounds Update
  7. Manufacturers Accelerator
  8. Industries We’ve Supported
  9. Digital Business Update
  10. Our Response to Covid-19
  11. 2020-21 Events Shapshot
  12. Cyber Security Update
  13. Snowy Valleys Update
  14. Leeton Update
  15. Griffith Update
  16. Shop Fitzmaurice Precinct Project
  17. Media Enquiries

A Message from the Managing Director

by John Elgin, Managing Director

There has been a lot of lessons learned this year/18 months. That globally we are in this pandemic together, interdependent in many ways.

That Governments are run by people that make mistakes; Australia started ahead of the pack only to be left stranded by some poor choices that might have appeared good at the time. In many ways, this is like all the small businesses we have assisted over the last year. Would we make those same decisions again? How can you make more good decisions than bad? Perhaps getting occasional independent advice/mentoring, having your business modelled (using a spreadsheet) to really understand your business and test scenarios and making sure you keep up with current innovations? Guess what? We can help with all of that, and we are keen to see you prosper.

The BEC has had to adapt over the last year or more in many ways; double our team size to deal with C19 issues and now halve that number again as a result of funding reductions. We have a lot of things in the pipeline focussed on delivering services to you, having team members with specific skills to help you, delivering events to keep you abreast of changes or how to do things better, to opening locations where you can see us or meet others in the Riverina/Murray, to a clear focus on your digital literacy (the future in so many ways) and how to stay safe online.

The Regions are Rising – and this is a great time for our major inland towns and cities. Housing is exploding, trades have never been busier, smart technologies are having an increasing impact, middlemen are being cut out of the supply chain as producers of goods deal more directly with the end customer. That will continue and gather pace. You don’t need to be in New York to meet someone – you can do that on Zoom/Teams. You can be selling your goods whilst you sleep, major department stores have to change their sales strategies or be lost. Information is increasingly democratised, the news cycle is instant requiring people to be nimble and owning/managing your data is critical to understanding your business.

Yes, we hope we make more good decisions than bad ones this year or be nimble enough to pivot. So let us help you be ready.

Did you know?

One of the ways we try to help local businesses is by providing a free business listing on the myRiverina website.

This is beneficial if you don’t have your own business website, but even if you do it can provide another avenue for customers to find out about your business. We currently have over 260 businesses listed on the site from all across the Riverina, Murray, Snowy valleys and far-west areas of NSW. To date, the site has had over 8,300 unique visitors and 32,000 page views.

You can read more about the myRiverina website here.

2020-21 snapshot

A quick look at the year that was

20/21 started with the pandemic in full swing and like many, we had to change our services to fit the conditions.

Part of our response was to deliver more of our one-on-one advisory sessions using video, and also to replace our live events and workshops with online webinars. It wasn’t until Jan/Feb of 2021 where we were able to start re-introducing the in-person element.

  • 1,903 – Businesses we worked with over 20/21
  • Business Planning – The biggest business issue as reported by our clients over the year
  • 1,748 – Business owners (or their chosen employees) provided with 1-1 consultations
  • 4,718 – Hours of 1-1 consultations delivered

Only 6.2% of our clients reported the Covid-19 pandemic as their biggest business issue. The majority of responses related to planning, strategy and, online assets and marketing. Covid-19 was obviously a much bigger issue than reported, however, respondents didn’t seem to see it that way and instead considered their own response to Covid and their greater environment as the challenge they chose to concentrate on.

  • 6.2% – Percentage of clients who reported Covid-19 as their biggest business issue
  • 116 – Number of workshops, events and webinars delivered
  • 3,237 – Number of employers (or employee representatives) that attended a BEC event

Women in Business

By Ann Sutton, Business Advisor

There are some truly amazing women in business in Wagga Wagga and our outlying regional towns doing fabulous things and I have the honour to work with many of them, helping them on their business journeys!

I have worked with a lot of business owners from Temora and the district, so many of them truly inspiring. The BEC ran a business program in conjunction with the Shire Council and various leads stemmed from that. I was fortunate to work with a local pod of like-minded businesswomen for a while and have also attended several Temora business networking events. The Council Business Development officer now regularly refers businesses to me for assistance.

I regularly visit Cootamundra and facilitated a Small Business Month Event in October 2020 with a very inspiring local business owner as a guest speaker. I have also had involvement in various BEC business events covering social media, marketing, etc.

Recently I was invited to judge the Cootamundra Development Corporation Business Awards and was impressed by the diversity and standards of businesses entered.

Gundagai also has some great business people. I did a case study on Renee Lindley’s “Wren Store and Styling” and NSW Treasury decided to create a video on the story where Casey Wilson, our social media advisor, and I successfully worked with Renee in facets of business development.

I have also worked with the Business Development Officer at Coolamon Council staging a Small Business Month workshop with local identity owner

Juliet from Long Track Pantry presenting her very inspirational story to 30 local business owners. I regularly visit Coolamon, attend networking events and interact with various business owners.

Top Business Issues

What were the biggest business issues as reported by our clients in 20/21?

#1 – Business Planning

#2 – Starting a new business

#3 – Marketing

#4 – Access to finance

#5 – Digital Presence

It is interesting to note, after the year we had, that Covid-19 Disruption was noted as the main business issue for just 6.2% of our cohort. It is likely that this figure was much higher as potentially, many of the strategies undertaken by businesses this year, such as business planning or starting a new business, were, at least in a percentage of cases, a direct response to Covid.

Wagga Wagga update

By David Yeates, Area Manager

Like most large regional towns and Wagga is certainly up there, during tough economic times there is an element of having a large town bubble with a big enough economy that we tend to weather the economic downturns relatively well and during high growth periods we have advantages to make the most of the boom times.

Through COVID 19 Wagga business in the majority have traded though, especially with Job keeper and Job Seeker, BEC Business Advice has been highly involved in pivoting current and opening new business, the two industry exceptions are hospitality and travel where the impact of little to no visitors to the region has had the most effect and we all need to keep this in mind, maybe eat out one extra time a week or weekend away in the next town.

With the current lockdowns in Sydney, the next six months until vaccinations are up to a level the government feel comfortable with we need to live with these current challenges and use this time to plan for the other side of this pandemic, look for opportunities to upscale our businesses and prepare for new business openings.

Wagga is seeing some large infrastructure growth with the railway hub, Inland Railway, Snowy 2 Connect plus more to the value of $10 billion, even if your business is not directly supplying product or service the flow on will happen through natural economic flow through the local communities. If you think you have the product or services that would suit these projects, we can guide you through the process to submit your business for review.

If you would like to discuss future planning for your business, BEC Business Advice is here to help you through the process or if you would like to discuss your current challenges we are here to help you, we have local advisors in your area.

Albury & surrounds Update

By Kevin Bascomb, Business Advisor

The Covid19 pandemic had a significant impact over the course of the year on how we delivered our services, with our usual, and preferred, face to face interactions largely replaced by online video meetings and training sessions. While the loss of in-person visits had a downside, the absence of travelling to appointments across the region created more flexible opportunities for additional meetings.

A focus for the year was benchmarking business performance against a range of indicators such as gross margins, prices, overheads, and labour efficiencies. This was complemented by support in establishing or further developing the use of social and digital media through the Digital Business Solutions program. Through the two programs, we worked with established businesses across a range of industries such as professional services, allied health, independent supermarkets, and the automotive sector.

Interest in starting a business continued unabated, with a noticeable shift to start-ups in the NDIS sector and innovative start-ups in medical industry technology, agribusiness, construction, and the creative arts fields.

Given the impact of the pandemic on business staffing arrangements, we were fortunate to have the services of Work Better providing pro bono support to employers as they navigated their way through the border closures and other challenges.

A highlight of the year was NSW Business Women’s Week, coinciding with International Women’s Day, a chance for people across our region to come together to support one another, share information and celebrate women’s achievements.

We supported several hugely successful events, a lunch at the Albury Entertainment Centre with guest speaker Lucy Bloom organised by Business Women Albury Wodonga, and a series of four events in Jindera, Culcairn, Henty and Holbrook organised by Greater Hume Council. The Greater Hume activities have generated a commitment to maintaining the momentum for the long term benefit of businesswomen and businesses in the local area.

Manufacturers Accelerator

Are you part of the manufacturing sector?

Then you might be interested in our Manufacturing Accelerator, a forum exclusively for the manufacturing sector located across our region.

The programs aims are to:

  • Deliver contemporary information on Government-led economic stimulus for manufacturers
  • Share information on modern manufacturing strategies
  • Provide a vehicle for manufacturers across the region to meet and share ideas, knowledge, and business intelligence

More information: Chris Mckee (MBA), BEC Business Advisor


Top 5 industries by volume of clients from each industry classification

#1 – retail 18.6%

#2 – healthcare & social assistance 12.5%

#3 – arts & recreation services 11.9%

#4 – Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 10.5%

#5 – Accommodation and Food Services 8.6%

In total, we serviced clients from over 20 different industry classifications.

Other industries included

  • Administration and Support Services
  • Education and Training
  • Information Media and Telecommunication
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Construction
  • Financial and Insurance Services
  • Transport, Postal and Warehousing
  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale Trade
  • Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services
  • Tourism
  • Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services
  • Public Administration and Safety
  • Mining

Digital Business Update

By Michael Douglass, Digital Business Advisor/Head of ASBAS Digital Solutions program

For obvious reasons, 20-21 was a year that many would rather forget. That said there has been some good from this past year. Many businesses used the circumstances to reevaluate their business and make changes that not only helped them cope with the pandemic but would also help them further into the future.

Adding eCommerce and selling online as a new sales channel is a prime example of what many have done to help their business survive.

An example I really liked was the Thirsty Crow in Wagga Wagga. They introduced a raft of novel ideas to help them cope including building an eCommerce website, partnering with neighbouring businesses to cross-promote and cross-sell, utilised their unique voice and sense of humour to build a community of advocates on social media, and introduced the world to ‘Servo Bingo’ where local comedian Dane Simpson live-streamed a weekly bingo game based on the vehicles entering the servo across the road. This is a great example of how building a community around your business can lead to success in even the darkest of times (great beer doesn’t hurt either).

Our strategy during Covid was to increase the number of online educational events we offered, performed our 1-on-1 consultations via online videoconferencing, and delivered more education on topics that could help businesses during the pandemic. Ecommerce and social media topics were extremely popular.

It was also pleasing to add two more Digital Advisors to our roster, Casey Wilson and Colin Taggart, both of whom have great experience and knowledge, and went above and beyond in providing services to our clients. Our Marketing and Events Manager, Avril Douglass, also played a major role in our delivery of what was a very large event program.

Earlier this year the Federal Government announced it would be continuing the ASBAS Digital Solutions program, which means we will continue to deliver our digital services to you. To aid in this we have added Emily Doig to the Digital Advice team. Emily has great experience in eCommerce and online retail amongst other things and will be based in Albury.

Since starting with the BEC in 2018 I have been privileged to meet a lot of business owners as well as representatives from various organisations and the towns across our region. Serving on various Committees on request from the Narrandera Shire Council has been particularly rewarding.

In 2021-22 our goal is to improve on last year while continuing to focus on helping businesses across our region to survive and thrive through the clever use of digital and online technologies.

Our response to Covid-19

By David Yeates, Area Manager

Over the last 18 months, our team have hit the ground running supporting small businesses through the challenges of COVID 19 by offering advice on pivoting each business to not only get through this pandemic but also to look for opportunities to grow and in some cases starting new businesses.

We have been in a unique position as we have had our clients be very open on the challenges, ideas and doubts on how their business would get through this time and we have been grateful for the opportunity and the trust the Riverina Murray has put in us.

As we all know this race is turning into an ultra-marathon with hospitality and tourism bearing the brunt of the impact of lockdowns and restrictions, even though these industries have been leaders in innovation to keep the doors open.

As advisors, we have worked with businesses on rewriting business plans, financial advice, government grants, job keeper, Digital advice, looking for new opportunities and many other ways to support small businesses and we will continue to offer support and advice which is available free of charge through a number of government programs funded by the NSW and Federal government.

Over this time I have been asked what is the main advice I give during these challenging times and I reply with businesses need to know that they are not alone, ask for help, advice, talk to your local advisors such as BEC Business Advisor, accountant, Service NSW and apply for government funding, don’t assume you don’t qualify, I have seen many cases where business have been successful in applications for funding when they thought they did not meet the criteria.

If you need advice for your business we have a number of advisors across the Riverina and Murray to help you over the phone, Zoom meeting or on-site we are here to help and advise as we have done for the last 35 years.

2020-2021 Events Snapshot

Led by our Marketing & Events Manager Avril Douglass, we delivered events under both the NSW Government’s Business Connect program and the Australian Government’s Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions program.

  • 116 – The number of workshops, events and webinars we delivered over the year
  • 3,237 – The number of employers or employees that attended one of our events

Event Attendee Locations

Our main aim is to deliver services to businesses across the Murray, Riverina, Snowies and far-west regions of NSW, but that doesn’t stop business owners from other areas wanting to participate.

In addition to businesses in our own region, this year we also had businesses from as far afield as Sydney Inner City, Newcastle, Parramatta, Strathfield, Ryde, Eastern Suburbs, Fairfield, Blacktown, North Sydney, Orange, Wollongong, Sutherland Shire, Blue Mountains, Liverpool, Mt Druitt, Wollondilly, Bringelly, Canterbury, Campbelltown, Southern Highlands, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Tamworth, Richmond Valley, Warringah, Chatswood, Penrith, Merrylands, Shoalhaven, Tweed Valley, Auburn, Hornsby, South Coast, Lake Macquarie and Pennant Hills to name a few.

Enterprise Cyber Secure

By Deborah McAlister, Cybersecurity Business Advisor

Enterprise Cyber Secure helps educate SME’s about the risks associated with Cyber Security.

Our government incentivised program helps educate small businesses about the costly dangers of Cyber Crime on their business. Enterprise Cyber Security is a free resource centre providing experts, training, and advice in the area of Cyber Crime. The program kicked off in June 2020 offering FREE online webinars. The webinars are not technical based so anyone and everyone can learn how to stay safe online.

Quoting one of our expert presenters “In this webinar, we aim to get you started on your cybersecurity journey with pragmatic advice explained in plain language – we promise there is no need to bring your IT expert along.” That is true for all the webinars offered. The same webinar is offered twice every month.

We have a website that you can visit Enterprise Cyber Secure, that has information on everything Cyber secure. A log-in page on this website that takes you to all our previously held webinar recordings. This is updated each time we offer a new webinar. It is worth signing up for.

On average we are holding 6 webinars a month. Some will be the same webinar on two different dates & times to suit everyone. Once you register for a webinar we will send you the recording so worth registering to the webinar and you get first access to the recording.

See you soon at one of our Cyber Secure webinars.

This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources through the Cyber Security Business Connect and Protect Program.”

Snowy Valleys Update

By Kevin Bascomb, BEC Business Advisor

The past 18 months have been a roller coaster for businesses and local communities. First, there was the drought, followed by the 2019 summer bushfires that

destroyed homes, farms and livelihoods. Extensive pine plantations, once the engine room of economic activity in the Snowy Valleys, were wiped out in a matter of days. Towns were evacuated as the fires circled, with residents returning to a blackened landscape and, sadly, some lost their homes and businesses. Piling on the misery was the pandemic that arrived just as communities were coming to grips with the extent of the disaster and the long road to recovery.

The bushfires on the NSW South Coast abated earlier than in the Snowy Valleys, so three Business Advisors were redeployed there to assist businesses in accessing financial and other support services and to support them in addressing priorities and charting a way forward. This experience was soon enough applied in support of local businesses, where we worked from the various pop-up Recovery Centres staged throughout the Snowy Valleys until late March. The work has been ongoing, assisting businesses with grant and loan applications, working with them to review and develop new business plans, and ‘route to market’ activities, including website and social media development.

Sadly, some businesses have closed permanently. For the remainder, there is a mix of long-term recovery and stories of remarkable success. Around eight new businesses were created following stunning support for the Tumbarumba-Rosewood Rail Trail, the first in NSW, that opened in April 2020. Businesses such as Munday’s Catering, Ride Tumba and Tumba Bikes & Blooms are all enjoying early success as more people travel (and pedal) closer to home.

While the region continues to emerge from its annus horribilis, the green shoots are proof of the local community’s ingenuity in finding new ways to emerge stronger, more resilient and more connected than before.

Leeton update

By Krystal Maytom, Business advisor

It has been an interesting yet rewarding year in the Leeton region – whilst it hasn’t been without its challenges there has been a resurgence in shopping locally and locals rediscovering what is available to them in their local region.

Over the last 12 months, I have worked closely with both the Leeton and Narrandera Business Community as well as servicing some of the smaller towns and villages within the region. Locally, businesses showed great creativity in order to change up their business model and continue their operations with covid restrictions in place.

The BEC were able to support the business community with regular one on one consultations, workshops and webinars that were well supported by our client base.

Local Leeton business The Hungry Fox Co showed great innovation during the covid lockdowns by offering online cooking classes for children, this included a drop off service of all the fresh ingredients as well as a link to live video instructions. Not only was this a fun initiative it was also a fantastic way of keeping the community connected.

Many of our clients have had to diversify their business and look at online platforms in order to remain competitive and to ensure survival during unprecedented times.

The 20/21 period has proved that business owners are resilient and adaptable and as a community it is imperative we show their support in order to ensure their success well into the future so that 20/21 becomes a distant memory that they can say they survived.

Griffith update

By Martin O’Donnell, Business Advisor

The Griffith Office opened in July 2020 and has been well received by local business groups, Griffith City Council and the surrounding councils as well as many businesses in the Western Riverina region.

We have been able to assist a diverse array of businesses from new starts to well-established enterprises. Our focus has included operations in the agricultural, hospitality, tourism and accommodation sectors as well as educators, manufacturers and those in the retail sector.

Griffith and the Western Riverina is an exciting region with many entrepreneurial families who are motivated to succeed in their selected industries.

The BEC has been able to assist many of these operators to develop plans or bring their ideas to fruition. We look forward to offering our services in the coming year.

Shop Fitzmaurice Precinct project

By Ann Sutton, Business Advisor

Over the past twelve months, I have spent time with various business owners in Fitzmaurice Street, advising and generally touching base with a lot of them on a regular basis.

Covid understandably delivered challenges but a forward-thinking group of Fitzmaurice Street retailers took the initiative to co-ordinate opening times to allow customers to shop in all their stores at certain times on certain days. This bonding led to the creation of a new dynamic marketing business group called “Shop Fitzmaurice”.

In their early stages, I organised a networking event for approximately 10 of them and contacted a connection at the Daily Advertiser and told him their story. He subsequently ran a couple of stories in the paper, with great photos. Before Christmas, I organised another networking event, attended by the same retailers and could see that the newly formed group was gathering traction.

The Fitzmaurice Street end of town is now really starting to be noticed and the popularity has seen a dramatic increase in demand for retail and business spaces.

Boutique businesses want to be “seen” at that end of town! Wagga Wagga City Council is supporting the Group with initiatives in the pipeline to improve the ambience and presentation of the precinct.

Media enquiries

For all media enquiries please contact: Avril Douglass, Marketing & Events Manager

E: [email protected]

You can download a pdf version of this report here.

One thought on “BEC 20/21 Annual Update

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.