Finding the right phone plan for your small business


It's a new calendar year and, for many Australians, possibly a new business venture.

There are plenty of boxes to tick before you can start trading, such as finalising your business planning, settling on a trading structure, getting an ABN, finding a location and organising your communications and telephony needs.

According to Kenny McGilvary, communications manager at WhistleOut, the mobile telephone is the lifeblood of many small businesses.

how to find the right phone plan for your small business

"Whether you're a road-warrior-based small business where you have to stay in contact with people or are doing deals over the phone or using Zoom or Skype, if you don't have a strong phone and internet set-up you can't compete."

When it comes to choosing a suitable mobile phone service, having the right contract is critical.

"You don't want to be caught in a 36-month contract with expensive exit fees if what you really need is flexibility," advises Bec Walters, head of small business, commercial, at TPG Telecom. "Remember, month-to-month plans are available in the market if that's what suits your business best."

What to look for 

When starting a new business, a mobile plan tailored for personal use might be sufficient. "It depends on the size of the business," says McGilvary. "For a sole operator, a personal mobile plan will be fine.

"Vodafone, for example, has specific business plans where you get some perks like an account manager if you have over 10 SIM [cards]. But if you're a sole trader or only have two or three people, you can get good value from personal plans."

Walters agrees a personal mobile plan will be adequate in many cases. "Business plans are not necessarily more expensive but are definitely tailored for business." These inclusions may comprise data sharing between employees, tech fund credits on devices, data allowances and international calling.

Walters advises SME owners to look for mobile providers that offer additional discounts for tenure, volume of services and roaming. "Consider asking if your provider rewards loyalty," she suggests.

Landline versus VoIP 

Small businesses can consider using a landline or VoIP (voice over IP) if their team is primarily office based and has a receptionist who manages the phones.

"Landlines or VoIP are especially useful when you want to use calling features that, for example, ensure you don't miss a call by using call forward or call hunting," says Walters.

Also, 13 or 1800 or 1300 numbers can be helpful. These work well for SMEs that want to enable their customers to call for free or split the costs between the business and the customer. Each of these types has its benefits and costs.

"A mobile number may be enough if you don't expect to receive too many calls from customers and are able to answer most of your calls," says Walters.

Home wireless broadband 

This can be a valuable fixed-line alternative when your business frequently uses less data or shares files. But Walters warns that for those businesses that consume plenty of data or are heavily reliant on connectivity, it is usually better to get business-grade connectivity.

On the issue of data use, whether you're sending many files or have an online business, the type of internet bandwidth and speeds from your internet provider will impact the productivity of your SME.

"If you consume a lot of data and need speed, make sure you get a plan that has a high data allowance and the best speeds available for your premises," says Walters.

To compare business NBN plans, check out the comparison website

Adapt your telco needs 

If your business strategy includes expansion, these goals can be factored into your telco planning. "You can expand as you grow. However, you do need to make sure you are enabling yourself for productivity and efficiency, but that doesn't need to be expensive and complex," says Walters.

"For example, if you know you're going to be uploading files and really need to make sure you're constantly online, business NBN may be perfectly suitable. As you grow and have more data and/or security needs, you can reconsider what connectivity will suit you best."

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Anthony O'Brien is a small business and personal finance writer with 20-plus years' experience in the communication industry. He has a Master of Arts from Macquarie University, and has written for Money since 2001.