Thursday, 09 March 2017 23:41

SMEs more positive about technology as concerns over tech costs diminish


Small and medium businesses say attracting new customers, as well as managing cashflows and late payments, are the greatest pressures they face this year. But, concerns about seeing technology as a painpoint have lessened among many.

The MYOB biannual Business Monitor just published revealed a downward trend for SMEs who previously saw technology as a painpoint, with the cost of online technologies viewed as a painpoint by nearly one fifth of SMEs (19%) in February 2015 – but now dropping to 16%.

The survey covered more than 1000 businesses, with many SME owners found to have had the most difficult time in their businesses between October 2010 and August 2013, while the end of 2016 showed a more positive outlook.

Upgrading hardware or other equipment has also fallen from 16% to 15% between February 2015 and today, along with upgrading IT software, systems or processes (14% to 13%).

“It’s great to see that small business owners are seeing technology as a benefit rather than a pain-point, even if it’s a slow transition,” said Tim Reed, chief executive of MYOB.

“Traditionally, small businesses have been slower with technology uptake, so we’re pleased to see that more accessible, simple and cost-effective technology is changing the attitude around technology adoption.”

But, in contrast to the top concerns about attracting new customers, managing cashflows and late payments, other concerns are at an all-time low, including upgrading IT software, interest rates, tax obligations and fuel prices when reviewed in the context of the past seven years of data.

Reed said he believes that the results are indicative of a resilient and flexible sector.

“We aren’t talking about small, incremental changes here. The Business Monitor results show us that SMEs go through a plethora of issues year-on-year.

“In August 2013, nearly half of SMEs (46%) told us that fuel prices were causing either quite a lot to or an extreme amount of business pressure, yet today less than a quarter (23%) feel this way.

“With such great ebbs and flows to the economic world around us, it’s our small and medium business owners who have always beared the brunt of this change. It shows that the sector is extremely resilient to this, which is really uplifting to see, from the group that is accountable for employing roughly 45% of the private sector.”

But, Reed says that while business owners have demonstrated their resilience through the changing economic and political climate of the past seven years, a few issues continue to present “pain points moving into 2017”.

Pain points around attracting new customers jumped from 24% to 27% this quarter, which Reed says highlighted the pressure on owners to be growing their business.

And, this issue was more prevalent for Western Australian operators (45%), small businesses (44%) and operators who reported a revenue fall in the previous 12 months (43%).

Reed says more than a quarter of SMEs (26%) identified their struggle with cashflow, and a “staggering jump” from 19% to 26% of SMEs said that late payments from customers were putting them under undue pressure, up seven points from the last quarter. The report found that these issues are having the biggest impact on franchisors and the construction and trades businesses.

“The RBA tells us that on average, an invoice will take 45 days to be paid. For a small business owner, who is managing professional and personal bills while also trying to invest in their business, this is too long – and part of the reason why we are pushing for a prompt payment,” Reed said.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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