Forward Thinking Design’s Managing Director; Vanessa Cullen, was interviewed for a recent article in the Sun Herald.


Read the article below:

How to Climb to the Next RungAuthor: Keeli Cambourne
Date: 07/11/2010
Many courses are available for entrepreneurs to take their businesses beyond expectations, writes Keeli Cambourne.VANESSA CULLEN had already established a successful business. But she knew she needed some guidance to take her commercial fit-out and design enterprise, Forward Thinking Design, to the next level.

Cullen had used small-business training modules offered by NSW State and Regional Development to start Forward Thinking Design when she was in her early 20s. She attended free business seminars and established vital contacts at the courses.

“My business was well-entrenched as a sole trader and I had some contractors already but I wanted to take the business to the next level,” Cullen says.

She went to Industry and Investment NSW to find a business mentor under the department’s Young Entrepreneurs Stepping Up program. “It helped me learn more about writing systems and processes about having staff on board, so rather than me having to do all the day-to-day office work, I was able to write it all down so other people could understand it,” Cullen says.

She has since become a mentor and says it allows her to keep learning about other aspects of business, through exchanging ideas with others.

“I learn to reflect on my own business practices, as well as those of the people I am mentoring,” Cullen says. “The Industry and Investment business speakers are business owners themselves and have the experience to help small businesses grow.

“A lot of other business programs take a more academic approach but it is good to be able to talk to people with a practical knowledge. They can see what you are doing in your own unique business and engage with you on that level.”

Industry and Investment NSW supports several mentoring programs across the state for business owners in the growth stage.

The programs incorporate specific business workshops and mentoring, providing peer-to-peer and one-on-one business assistance. They incorporate four streams: young entrepreneurs (18-30 years); women in business; small business; and advanced business mentoring (for companies with more than $1 million in turnover).

“Our focus has been on mentoring programs and these provide everything from basic business skills as well as 10 hours of mentoring,” says the media manager for Industry and Investment NSW, Alan Valvasori.

“They can be used by people starting out in business to experienced business people and range from upskilling in certain areas to how to start or grow a business.”

Many training options are available to small-business owners now, which cover everything from accounts to marketing to new technologies and can range from work-specific certificates to diplomas, courses, workshops and seminars.

The Department of State and Regional Development has established a network of 110 business enterprise centres (BECs) throughout the state. BECs are equipped to support the needs of small and micro businesses throughout their development. They offer training in financial management, record keeping, business activity statements, marketing, business planning, customer service and promotions.

TAFE NSW also runs small business courses, from general accounting to marketing and business administration, which range from a certificate of attainment through to diploma-level qualifications.

Its small business management course (certificate IV) is designed specifically for people who intend to go into small business as an owner or manager, as well as those who are already in that position. It provides the skills and knowledge required to manage a business, as well as planning, promotion, finances, operations and the workforce of a small business.

Registered training organisations can also provide business owners with short courses to boost their business knowledge. Many of these can be done online or via distance education so they don’t interrupt the running of any enterprise.

Accredited online training provides nationally recognised training at certificate II, certificate III, certificate IV and diploma level. Its Small Business Start-up short course runs for 110 hours and provides skills and knowledge in identifying and implementing business legal requirements, complying with legislation and codes, negotiating contracts, insurance, taxation, developing a business plan and strategies to minimise risk.

It provides a statement of attainment for part of the industry qualification in certificate IV in small business management.

The certificate II in small business is a 20-week course that requires 12 hours a week to complete.

The course provides skills on how to work in a business environment, communication, workplace innovation and maintaining workplace information.

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