The Bankwest Business Challenges Survey found that 80% of SMEs are finding it tougher with the biggest challenge cited as the general economic environment (72%).
Bankwest Business Chief Executive Ian Corfield said, “We are starting to see a shift in the concerns of SMEs across Australia. No longer are small businesses as preoccupied with their day-to-day financial issues but instead their attention is shifting to macro-economic matters like the state of the economy and the current exchange rate.”
The latest report in the Bankwest Financial Indicator Series has found that over a third (35%) of businesses view the strength of the Australian Dollar as a challenge for their business, whilst a fifth (20%) of SMEs see it as an opportunity.
“The strength of the Australian Dollar is encouraging consumers to spend their money offshore and the pressures from the current cost of living are making consumers cautious which is having a direct impact on local businesses,”
Compared to a year ago, 57% of Australian SMEs have had more challenges in retaining customers and 65% of businesses are struggling to attract new customers.
Businesses are also finding it tougher to retain employees (38%) and attract new talent (42%) compared to this time last year.
“Many SMEs have said attracting and retaining employees is harder than a year ago which is a result of the labour market still being quite tight despite the recent slowdown in economic conditions,”
Whilst there are a number of factors contributing to the current tough business environment, over a third (36%) of SMEs see developments in technology as an opportunity for their business.
“It can be difficult for SMEs to stay on top of changing consumer demands and progresses in technology can help small business owners to become increasingly mobile and also expand their customer base.
“However, developments in technology can also increase consumer expectations and it is not always easy for SMEs to stay ahead of the game.”
The Bankwest Business Challenges Survey also found that 64% of SMEs have an nline presence and over the past year, 44% of small businesses have increased their presence online.
A significant number of SMEs across the country are also positioning themselves for growth with 21% seeing more investment potential for their business than 12 months ago. The Bankwest Business Challenges Survey also found that 41% of SMEs across Australia see more opportunities for their business compared to a year ago.
A quarter (24%) of SMEs across the country indicated that exposure to fast growing overseas markets, like China and India, present an opportunity for their business with 22% identifying more growth potential from these markets compared to 12 months ago.
Western Australia has the largest number of SMEs (47%) that are expecting more opportunities for their business compared to a year ago, whilst the smallest proportion is in Queensland (34%).
“Whilst SMEs have told us that they are facing more challenges compared to a year ago, the fact that almost half also see more opportunities indicates that whilst the current environment is tougher, it also presents a number of prospects for small business,” Mr Corfield said.
• 39% of businesses view growth trends in their industry as an opportunity.
• 54% of SMEs view government regulations as a challenge for their business, while 17% see regulations presenting opportunities.
• 24% of businesses see growth opportunities for their business related to the current strength in the mining sector.
• 46% of businesses say the current level of interest rates presents more challenges for their business than 12 months ago.
• 63% of businesses say that utility prices currently present challenges for them.
• 41% of businesses view changes in technology as a challenge for their business, while 36% view technology as an opportunity.
• 86% of businesses in NSW see more challenges facing their business than a year ago, the highest proportion of any state.
• 47% of businesses in WA see more opportunities for their business than a year ago, the most of any state.
The Bankwest Business Challenges Survey sampled 800 businesses nationally during July and August 2011. The Survey was undertaken for Bankwest by CoreData Brand Management.
Bankwest provides personal as well as large, medium and small business banking solutions for more than one million retail and business customers across Australia. Bankwest customers enjoy access to an extensive network of stores and business centres, direct and third party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour telephone and internet banking. Bankwest can also help you with business loans, rural finance and options for your agribusiness needs.
For more information contact:
Bankwest National Media Manager
0467 717 209
Bankwest Media Manager
0467 736 662