Statistics - How can small business access, digest and use the ABS data?

| Tuesday June 23

Small Biz Matters – a half hour program each week where you can work ON your business rather than IN it.
with Alexi Boyd, broadcaster, advocate and small business owner.
Date: 23 June 2020

As small business owners we are often reminded to learn who our ideal client is and research this with gusto until we have a perfect image in our minds as to who they are and what makes them tick. We normally gather this info from anecdotal experiences and conversations with other business owners or mentors. 

But what about the ideal location, B2B details, demographic, political persuasion, customs and habits, and social media use? This would be great info to help with your marketing strategy but where can you find it?

Luckily there’s a government department who are real boffins when it comes to collecting, analysing and delivering this sort of data right into your lap.

Its there for the taking and today we welcome John Shepherd the General Manager, Industry Statistics Division at ABS to explain how and why we should tap into this goldmine of data.

Welcome back to the show John.

Topics we’ll be covering:

The ABS has been doing a lot of new and interesting things recently.

  • What sort of changes has the ABS made in response to COVID-19?

Here John will highlight some changes (ie Rapid surveys, modifying work programs)

  • What is the ABS hoping to achieve with these changes? (eg collecting data from small businesses owners, getting a pulse on Australia to understand how they are being affected)

Here John will highlight some key findings from the COVID19 surveys, general impacts on small businesses and how the info has been helping decision making

The ABS collect data from a range of businesses. Can you run through the processes with how it’s done with small businesses?

John will be highlighting and running through the following:

  • How ABS collects data (ie: Sending out letters with login codes, what it looks like)
  • Letting businesses know how they can find out if the letter is legitimate
  • Detailing why it is important for small businesses to complete surveys – this includes touching on sampling, provider burden
  • Answering the questions “Do I have to do this?”

What insights does ABS data provide about small businesses?

This is where John can highlight some findings that ABS data highlights from various surveys including:

What sort of data and statistics are available for small businesses to use?

Here John can go over high-level info that ABS collects and how small businesses can use it, which will include things like:

  • High level overview of what data ABS collects – ie demographic, business
  • Give “high level” examples of how businesses use data – CPI for to adjust for inflation etc
  • Overview of where small businesses can find more info – ie on website (including points of interest), social media
  • Then go into detail about HOW small businesses can use the data through “data story examples”

To find out more go to their website: 

Our Guest: John Shepherd

John Shepherd is the General Manager leading the Industry Statistics Division. The Industry Statistics Division is responsible for developing, compiling, analysing and disseminating statistical information across a range of sectors including Agriculture, Environment, Building and Construction, Transport, Tourism, Financial Institutions, Innovation and Technology. The Division also produces Main Economic Indicators including Private New Capital Expenditure, Retail Trade, Business Indicators, Building Approvals, Job Vacancies, New Motor Vehicle Sales and Housing and Lending Finance. The Division includes the Statistical Infrastructure and International Branch, encompassing the International Relations & Regional Statistical Development section, the Business Register Unit and the Statistical Standards and Infrastructure section. The Division is focussed on working with its partners to provide a strong information base for policy development and evaluation. John joined the ABS in June 2019 after a lengthy career at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

At the ATO, John held a number of senior roles in his 28 years, including leading significant change programs and projects focused on improving the client experience. John’s most recent role was leading the implementation of the Single Touch Payroll (STP) initiative, enabling employers to report their tax and superannuation information for their employees at the same time as they paid staff. STP aims to streamline business reporting to government and support better tax and super experiences for all employees. John also played an active role in superannuation reform, including leading the implementation of SuperStream and a number of other superannuation reform initiatives including online superannuation account consolidation.

John is a passionate Movember ambassador and fundraiser for men’s health initiatives.

John holds a Masters of Taxation from the University of NSW and is based in Canberra.