Australia’s 2.3 million small businesses are being encouraged to celebrate their resilience after new survey data revealed an exceptionally difficult operating climate in 2023.
Despite 40 per cent of Australian small business owners surveyed during November 2023 indicating a decline in profits during the past 6-12 months and almost half (48 per cent) citing cashflow and profitability as their ongoing top concern, the Australian small business sector continues to play a vital economic role; accounting for one-third of the nation’s GDP and employing two out of every five people in the private sector, according to data published January 2024.
The November 2023 independent survey commissioned by Precedent Productions – a small business in its own right which presents the Australian Small Business Champion Awards – also suggests that as many as 57 per cent of small business owners have a second job or additional ventures, with 43 per cent opting for a side hustle primarily for financial reasons.
The survey also unveils that 64 per cent of Australian small business owners today cite large and medium businesses as their most pressing competition.
Spanning hundreds of small business owners from every Australian state, the survey findings patently bring to light the sector’s enduring struggle with the current cost of living crisis.
“From high inflation and steep increases in operating costs, to challenges associated with staff hire, productivity and the overall ongoing high cost of living, there’s no disputing that Australian small businesses are currently doing it very tough – potentially, tougher than ever before,” says Steve Loe, Managing Director of Precedent Productions for more than four decades and Founder of the Australian Small Business Champion Awards.
“Now more than ever is the time to shine a spotlight on Australia’s small business operators to praise their resilience and their invaluable economic, social and cultural contributions to the nation,” adds Mr Loe.
As the 15 February deadline draws near for FREE submissions into the 2024 Australian Small Business Champion Awards, small business operators from all parts of the country are encouraged to share their challenges and triumphs via online entry at businesschampions.com.au.
This year marks the 26th consecutive year of the Awards, which specifically highlight the best of Australia’s small businesses in the retail, services and manufacturing industries. Featuring more than 100 categories, the Awards are judged by an independent panel with experience in small business.
“Even in the face of the current challenging economic conditions, so many Australian small businesses persist in backing charities and worthwhile community initiatives. This support is particularly commendable during the current climate and forms a key part of the Australian Small Business Champion Awards’ judging criteria,” explains Mr Loe.
Other findings of the independent survey conducted during November 2023 include:
65 per cent of Australian small business owners are concerned for the future of their small business.
Almost three quarters (71 per cent) believe Australian small businesses pay too much tax and are subject to too much regulation.
61 per cent feel they do not get enough government support to take adequate action on matters such as climate change, cyber security, innovation, and local manufacturing.
45 per cent feel that it is now harder to meet customer-related outputs or delivery deadlines than pre-Covid.
22 per cent of small business owners have implemented Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their operations, with a further 39 per cent seriously considering it.
In addition to its flagship Australian Small Business Champion Awards, Precedent Productions has been presenting a multitude of state and national award programmes for more than 40 years and therefore, Steve Loe and his team are generally well-acquainted with the sentiments of the nation’s business community.
“It is often rightly said that small business is the backbone of the national economy, and I believe this has never rung truer. The economic challenges of 2023 have spilled over into at least the start of 2024 and too many it seems are hanging on by a thread. It is truly a privilege to help shine a deserved spotlight on these Aussie troopers.
“From regional and rural areas to the suburbs and capital cities, small business operators from all parts of the country are encouraged to enter the Awards – free of charge – as we strive to acknowledge the people behind the small businesses that help to shape their local communities and our nation as a whole,” adds Mr Loe.
Steve Loe’s top tips for small business operators on how to navigate through what is likely to be at least a tough start to 2024 include:
Be financially cautious and as savvy as possible – especially in pricing, cost of goods and services, or fixed operating costs. Inflation is all but guaranteed to remain a sticking point in 2024. While ‘shopping around’ for the best deals in energy, rent, insurance and the like can be time-consuming, the reality is that these expenses are highly-likely to further increase in 2024 – impacting your bottom-line and the spending behaviours of your customers who are essentially contending with the same cost of living pressures. Astute management of resources is vital for small businesses today.
Keep your customers top of mind and effectively promote your points of difference – as people are likely to remain considerate in their spending, ensure you are adequately targeting potential and loyal customers via the right channels and messaging that is in accordance with their values, perceptions, and needs. Stand out from your competitors – including big businesses – by honing-in on the unique selling points of your offering and consistently providing quality customer service.
Understand how new regulation will practically impact your business – 2024 will see increased regulation absorbed by the small business sector so it is vital that business owners are adequately prepared for changes to the Fair Work Act, skilled migration policy, the removal of the small business exemption to the Privacy Act, and proposed budget changes to the instant asset write-off.
Consider the advantages of AI and your cybersecurity requirements – identify which AI or software vendors can benefit aspects of your business as AI continues its rise. Importantly, also expect ongoing cybersecurity-related pressure because if you’re a business that holds peoples’ data, you are a target – no matter the size of your business.
Social and environmental consciousness – is still important to people, even within challenging economic conditions. Find ways to give back to the communities in which your business operates because it truly helps with building your brand identity and even staff morale. Support of the environment and local community initiatives is a constant feature of Australian Small Business Champion winners.
Finalists of the 2024 Australian Small Business Champion Awards will be announced during March; and winners will be revealed during April.
For more information and to submit a free entry form before the 15 February deadline, visit: businesschampions.com.au.