As an advocate for small businesses in Australia and New Zealand, MYOB regularly asks SME owners what they are thinking and feeling about the economic landscape, government policies and generally what they want for the year ahead. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy so their mindset and well-being has a huge impact on the success of the Australian economy.
Our Business Monitor regularly taps into SME pain points and year on year, SMEs feel the burden with attracting new customers, cashflow flexibility, late payments from big businesses and competitive activity. With this in mind, we approached businesses to discover what was on their Christmas wish-list. Here’s what they told us:
1. Customers who pay on time
We know that businesses in this part of the world are struggling under the weight of late payments, with payment terms some of the highest in the world.
What’s worse, the epidemic is forcing many people to go to the wall.
Our SME Snapshot in October found that 77% of businesses felt some sort of pressure from late payments.
In addition, September’s report found that seven in 10 SMEs wrote off money owing to them. MYOB has advocated for a legislative framework to deal with the issue, but there are various tools available for SMEs to manage timely payments.
2. Less time spent dealing with tax compliance
Imagine you’re an SME passionate about providing quality service to your customers, but your ability to do that is hampered having to sit at a computer screen for hours on end wondering what numbers in a spreadsheet actually mean.
It has the ability to suck all of an SME owners’ passion from the business.
That’s why we think accountants and bookkeepers rock – they’re the secret sauce of an SME.
Not only do accountants and bookkeepers save business owners time, but by being so close to the numbers they have extraordinary insight into the health of a business.
Of course, having great software which allows bookkeeper, accountant and SME owners to work in harmony is a huge piece of the puzzle.
It’s why we’re continually excited by cloud computing. Cloud accounting provides much more accurate information on SME finances so operators can make better and more informed decisions about their business. It also allows for better collaboration with accountants and financial advisors in a more valuable and meaningful way. Our research shows that nearly half of SMEs turn to their accountants when the going gets tough. Using cloud accounting improves accuracy and relationships with key stakeholders of the business.
3. The ability to find skilled staff
“You can’t find good help anymore” is a phrase which has been uttered since time immemorial, and unfortunately it’s still the case.
While there is a higher proportion of people in Australia with a tertiary qualification than ever before, often these qualifications are irrelevant to their chosen field.
From an Australian Bureau of Statistics release on the issue:
“Whilst the proportion of working-aged people with non-school qualifications has increased, workers may be employed in fields that have little relevance to their qualifications.”
This is translating to the SME sector, where many employers have a tough time finding those with qualifications or experience directly applicable to their business.
Often this means hiring people with broader backgrounds. That’s not a bad thing but it means more time needs to be dedicated to things such as staff training.
4. Greater staff retention
We live in a Tinder world.
There’s no escaping it – people have itchy feet and an almost endless curiosity.
The days of staying with the same company for years on end have almost completely disappeared.
It probably doesn’t help that more and more positions are going part-time and casual.
More broadly though, people want to explore different things and develop different skills.
It means SME employers need to find ways to challenge and develop the talent they have, while also making them feel appreciated and part of the team.
5. Another business
Did you know that one in six SME owners want to create another business?
25% of Australian SME owners already own more than business – which demonstrates that Australia is a great place to start multiple businesses.
In our latest SME Snapshot, we found that 64% of SME owners were optimistic about the future.
“It’s encouraging to see so many small and medium business owners looking for ways to expand their offering,” said Reed.
“When the SME community grows, our economy is bolstered, our communities become better facilitated and innovation prospers.”
Those who wanted to start a business said creating new revenue streams and greater financial security were the chief reasons for starting a new business.
6. New customers
One of the things that comes up again and again when we talk to SMEs is that they’re worried by the ability to court new customers.
Is this a sign that SMEs in Australia are hitting plateau?
We know that people are spending more money with SMEs than ever before, but increasingly people are asking what they can do to attract the next wave of business.
Expect ‘prospect marketing’ to be a big thing next year as SMEs try to figure out how to attract new customers through savvy marketing.
7. More sleep
About the author
Tim Reed became Chief Executive Officer of Australasia’s largest business management software provider in 2008, after gaining deep operational insights over five years in management roles including Managing Director, MYOB Australia and Group Product Executive.