CreditorWatch’s customer sentiment survey polled 280 SME business owners between July and August 2021, asking them to report on the biggest challenges they faced last financial year, and how they’re feeling about the road ahead.
Uncertainty in the face of lockdowns, border closures and a decrease in tourism all due to COVID restrictions were the biggest issues to business stability.
“Managing uncertainty” was reported to be the biggest issue facing 50% of SMEs last financial year, and that number appears to be only increasing.
Uncertain economic/market conditions were cited as the biggest worry in the 2021–22 financial year for 58% of respondents.
Concerns over supply chains, which have also been significantly hindered by international trade and logistics disruptions brought on by the pandemic, were significant for 32% of businesses last year — a figure that remained unchanged when they looked ahead.
When asked where the government could better support businesses, an overwhelming number of respondents said that lower tax rates would see them through the restrictions and support their economic recovery.
Of the respondents, who were able to choose multiple answers, 53% said lowering company tax rates would be the best way the government could support businesses, while 43% cited opening the borders and 37% said reducing red tape.
Patrick Coghlan, the CEO of CreditorWatch, spoke to how the current economic challenges were stymying business growth in Australia.
“Business owners are finding it extremely difficult to develop and execute growth strategies when they’re confronted by so much uncertainty in their everyday operating environments,” he said.
“Hiring, purchasing of stock and investment in technology and other assets have all been thrown into disarray. Businesses desperately need goalposts to aim at, even if they’re 12 months away.”
He noted, however, that even under difficult circumstances, businesses were still trying to make plans for the future.
Forty-four per cent said they intended to invest in staffing in the coming months, including recruitment drives and training programs, while 40% said they were looking to increase their investment in tech.
“Once Australia gets through these lockdown periods, the economic and financial bounce-back will be large and swift,” Mr Coghlan predicted.
“It’s a very challenging environment without an end game, but there will be one and those businesses surviving are preparing for that ‘end day’.”