GETTING small businesses excited about getting back to work is something close to the heart of Paul Maher, owner of Loxley on Bellbird Hill.
"We've been absolutely smashed by bushfires, the drought and hot winds," said Mr Maher - a sentiment to which many Hawkesbury businesses can attest.
Mr Maher is encouraging small business-owners to work together to get back to work and - in the present climate - he reminded others of three important rules that had worked well for him in business over the past 40 years.
These are: work with your community; work with other businesses; and work with local, state and federal governments.
"It doesn't matter what brand they've got on them, you've got to work with them," said Mr Maher.
"I was pretty down with mental stress and I met with the NSW finance minister and it helped me get my energy back."
Mr Maher is involved in two awards programs for small businesses this year: the Hawkesbury Local Business Awards; and the Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence (WSABE), which turns 30 this year, and for which Mr Maher will be an ambassador.
"It was a privilege to be asked to be ambassador for WSABE. These types of business awards are where you start to put your feet in the water as a small business," Mr Maher said.
"With COVID and the toll it's having on mental health, awards programs are a great idea to help people get excited to be back at work."
Mr Maher has owned Loxley on Bellbird Hill for over 20 years and in that time has built it up to be one of the Hawkesbury's most successful event locations, particularly for weddings.
The boutique accommodation and restaurant on site is also a major drawcard for customers.
Mr Maher recalled when last summer's bushfire was threatening his business, and he worked with another venue in Richmond to move a customer's wedding reception down there and share the proceeds.
"I said we've got the food and staff, we need to hire a room off you and you can have the bar proceeds," Mr Maher said.
"Working with other businesses is so important. Don't compete with them - help them and they'll help you."