Skilled staff top New Year’s business wish list
Finding skilled staff is the No 1 challenge for businesses as they gear up to ride sustained economic tailwinds to success in 2015, according to ANZ’s quarterly Business Micro Scope survey of small firms. 
Small business confidence recovered in December to its third highest level in 15 years after two successive quarterly falls, with owners citing a skills shortage as their biggest obstacle. 
Wellington reinforced its status as the confidence capital, extending its national lead with a surge to the highest level seen in any region since comparable data was first collected in 2007. Auckland, which accounts for 35 percent of national GDP, rose to second place for the first time since March 2012 as other regions came off recent highs. 
Fred Ohlsson, ANZ’s managing director Retail & Business Banking, said: “With recession now four years ago, the economy is well beyond ‘recovery’. Each passing day of sustained growth brings more confidence to reinvest and take on staff.
“However, a lack of skilled staff threatens to hold firms back from reaching their full potential. Migration and training will be key to ensuring businesses can access the skills they need to deliver on the opportunities presented by ongoing economic tailwinds.
“Record confidence in Wellington, along with its strengths in creative and smart industries, mean it could be poised to be the ‘movie star’ economy of 2015. Rising optimism in Auckland also bodes well for the upturn. Sentiment improved across the services, construction, manufacturing and retail sectors, though falling dairy prices have had an impact on agriculture.” 
Highlights from the Dec 2014 ANZ Business Micro Scope survey of small firms: 
[Net percentages reflect the balance of sentiment – i.e. positive minus negative responses]
  • Small business confidence recovered (up 4 points to +24%) after falls in the previous two quarters and is now at its third highest level in 15 years.
  • Wellington extended its lead as the most upbeat region (up 6 points to +36%, a record for any region since the data series began in 2007). Auckland (up 6 points to +24%) moved into second place while other regions have come off recent highs.
  • Services (up 8 points to +30%) remains the most upbeat sector, with sentiment at its strongest since comparable data was first collected in 2007, followed by Manufacturing (up 2 points to a new high of +25%) and Construction (also up 2 points to +25%).
  • Retail posted a strong gain (up 7 points to +19%), while falling dairy prices weighed on Agriculture, the only sector to fall (down 2 points to +5%).
  • Lack of skilled staff (cited by one in five) overtook Regulation as the biggest problem facing small businesses. Low turnover was the third most identified challenge.
  • Those expecting interest rate rises in the coming year plummeted from +66% to +27%.