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SME woes: work-life balance, fuel costs, competition, spending

SME woes: work-life balance, fuel costs, competition, spending

The state of the economy has SME owners in overtime

The state of the Australian economy is keeping small to medium enterprises (SME) owners in overtime, with 32 per cent of Australian organisations positioning work-life balance as a leading challenge, according to Bibby Financial Services.

Bibby Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) managing director, Mark Cleaver, said SME leaders are concerned about the decline of the national economy over the coming year, and therefore the potential impact of being away from work.

“Unlike manager of large organisations, SMEs can have fewer resources to contend with and operate in an intensely competitive environment,” he said.

Bibby’s July 2014 Sentiment Survey (bi-annual) of 800 SMEs indicates that time management is the next biggest challenge for 31 per cent, followed by high fuel costs (30 per cent), increased competition (27 per cent), and reduced consumer spending (26 per cent).

The Survey also indicates that fewer SMEs are expecting strong sales growth in the next 12 months, with 37 per cent expecting a strong or moderate increase, down from 47 per cent in February. There has also been an increase in the proportion of SMEs which expect sales to remain flat, up to 35 per cent in July from 29 per cent in February.

Bibby said that to improve cash flow over the next 12 months, 22 per cent of SMEs intend to stop trading with customers which consistently pay late, while a further 21 per cent aim to spend more time chasing invoices.

Cleaver said that developing a firm business foundation and structure should be a priority.

"SMEs need to make sure the accounts are under control, bad debtors are under control, cash flow is strong and risk-management procedures are in place,” he said. “This provides a stable platform from which to execute further time-saving innovations such as automation.”

“When the basics are in place, then owners can take time out to examine the key aspects of life: work, family, friends, spirituality and health; decide how much time they want to spend on each and create a schedule that supports this, making sure they build downtime into the schedule.”

Read more: NSW government aims to smoothe the way for SME success

To assist with getting business in order, the Survey shows that 49 per cent of the participating SMEs will use an accountant or financial advisor in the coming year.

Bibby also recommends: outsourcing, becoming more digital, filtering emails and calls, not overlooking, maintaining accounts, using time-tracking tools, prioritising, playing to strengths, living close to work, setting boundaries, finding a business coach, and helping staff achieve a work-life balance.

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