SMEs delay key business decisions until after Federal Election

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New Westpac research reveals 50% of Australian small businesses are worried or uncertain about the impact election policies will have on their operations.

In Westpac’s Small Business Report Election Edition 2019, small and medium-sized businesses have indicated they are choosing to delay critical business decisions such as staffing and investment until after the federal election. This could potentially impact jobs growth and investment with an estimated 40% of new jobs in the economy created by small businesses each year.

In Queensland, research indicates weaker business conditions, at 58 per cent compared to the national average of 62 per cent.

In Westpac’s Small Business Report, Queensland small business owners reported their policy priorities for the Federal Government to introduce:

  • Reduce red tape and regulation (23%)
  • Increase grants (13%)
  • Decrease energy costs (13%)
  • Prioritise investing in drought relief (13%), reducing personal tax (13%), investing in infrastructure (11%) as well as health and hospitals (11%).

Commenting on the report, Scott Parry General Manager, SME Banking & Connect Now Queensland said:

“Though there is a lot of financial support for small business available, our research revealed small businesses in Queensland struggle the most when it comes to navigating the waters of government grants. Instead of it being placed in the “too-hard basket,” we’d like to see more support provided to small businesses so they better understand how to access government assistance.

“We know small business owners are time poor and are often wearing many hats; however our customers are telling us they are spending more time dealing with red tape and paperwork than actually doing their job. Which is why it wasn’t surprising the Westpac Report showed reducing unnecessary red tape and regulation was deemed most important policy that government could address to help Queensland small businesses.

“Our customers tell us they would also like to see a broad review of compliance, with many commenting that aspects of it are outdated, stifling innovation and productivity. At Westpac, we’re invested in helping our customers get heard. We hope this research will help government understand the burdens identified by small businesses, because when small business thrives, Queensland thrives,” Mr Parry said.

Small Business Advice for 2019

  • Access grants: Significant support for small business is available via grants – both government and corporate. Despite this, only 17 per cent of small businesses survey respondents have received a government grant. Check out business.gov.au/assistance/search to better understand what grants are available and how to apply. Westpac also has a number of grants available, including our Businesses of Tomorrow program, which is recognising the businesses shaping Australia’s future, and Westpac Foundation’s Social Scale-up Grants for social enterprises that are creating employment pathways for vulnerable Australians.
  • Working with government: Government expenditure constitutes around 25 per cent of GDP; it is also one of Australia’s largest employers. Working with government can be a good way to grow your business, whether it is through a contract or integrating yourself into their procurement supply chain. With a Federal Election looming, now is also a great time to have your views heard. Contact your local MP about your views, needs and pain points.
  • Diversify: For better or worse, uncertainty is the new norm. However, there are always opportunities to grow, such as diversifying your operations to access new customers and new sources of revenue to future-proof your business. Consider how your product offering can be differentiated in the market to generate more profits by meeting the increasing needs of new customers, such as the environmentally or community conscious consumer.
  • Have a strategy for innovation in your business plan: Start with understanding your current innovation performance, then consider collaborating with your stakeholders to generate new ideas to help increase efficiencies and reduce costs. Learn from resources like Westpac’s Davidson Institute free Innovation Toolkit which helps all Australian businesses follow a simple process to capitalise on opportunities in a changing world.
  • Have a community mindset: Consumers are increasingly becoming more community conscious, so it’s no surprise that Australia’s most profitable small businesses are more community minded and engage in social actions. Consider how this change in customer behaviour can benefit your business and get involved with the community through volunteering, buying local inputs or sourcing materials ethically.

RELATED: Confidence among Queensland businesses at four-year low

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