Survey highlights growth expectations and skills gaps
Monday, 19 November 2012
Small business owners are hands-on, expecting growth and aware of their development needs according to a new survey of BNZ small business customers.
The nationwide survey “BNZ Spotlight on SMEs”* highlights small and medium business (SME) owner sentiment and outlook, employment intentions and the realities of owning and running a SME business in New Zealand.
The key findings include:
• 70% are looking to grow their business, either now or in the future.
• 61% are working harder than a year ago.
• SME owners rate themselves most highly in relationship and communication skills.
• Marketing, finance/cash flow and money management are the major challenges for SME owners.
• Most owners are “hands on”, only 5% have managers.
• Owners rate themselves 6.4 out of 10 for overall skills.
• One in four intends to hire in the next 12 months.
“While businesses are growing or looking to grow, many are not confident that they have the marketing and finance skills in-house to sustain growth over the long-term,” says BNZ Executive and Director of Retail Banking, Andy Symons. “New Zealand’s economy needs success in our small and medium businesses. With a need to bring GDP per capita up in line with OECD levels, service organisations such as BNZ must form strong, long-term partnerships with SME businesses to ensure they have the tools and support that will allow them to achieve their full potential.”
The study found that just over a third (36%) of respondents nationally report their business is growing and a further 34% say their business is stable, but looking to grow in the future.
Strong themes of hard work, service ethic, quality workmanship and doing right by customers were evident in growing businesses or those with the intention to grow.
In keeping with growth intentions, a quarter of businesses surveyed said they would be hiring additional employees in the next 12 months. Expectations of Christchurch business owners were even higher, with one in three planning to increase staff numbers.
Owners’ assessment of their strongest areas showed that relationship skills were the most highly developed. When asked to rate themselves across a range of nine competencies, owners scored their customer relationship skills highest at 8.1 out of 10, followed by communication skills at 7.8 out of 10 and leadership at 7.5 out of 10. Business owners were least confident of their finance/accounting skills and marketing skills, both with a 6.1 out of 10 rating.
Business owners also appear to be very hands on. Ninety-five percent of business owners didn’t have a manager working for them. Only 30% of those would consider hiring a manager, and almost half of that group said it would be hard to give up day to day control, meaning that business owners look unlikely to improve work life balance any time soon.
Symons says that the range of skills required to run a small business is wide and it’s unrealistic for business owners and managers to expect to be good at everything.
“When you are a small business owner you have to be all things, to all people. I know from my own experiences owning and running businesses that SME operators love what they do and are passionate about their businesses.
“But, given the chance, business owners are most interested in building business development, business planning and marketing skills. If we drill down a little further, owners of small businesses report they are more likely to consider up-skilling their marketing and finance/accounting skills, and owners of medium sized businesses, their people management skills.”
Small business ownership remains a time consuming and hands on venture, with respondents saying they work actively, and it appears increasingly harder, in their business. Sixty one percent said they felt they were working harder than a year ago.
Respondents were fairly positive about the ability of employees to adapt to changing times. Of those with employees, 79 percent say their team has the right mix of skills and experience adapt to changing times and economic conditions.
Getting on top of money management stood out as the major challenge of running a small or medium business.
“Business owners rated themselves quite low on money management. It’s one thing to make sales, but it’s also just as important to get the money in. Good cashflow and working capital management and having the right financial discipline and structure can make all the difference, and be liberating,” concludes Symons.
*nationwide online survey of 861 BNZ small business (<$1m turnover) and medium sized business customers (>$1 million <$5 million turnover). Fieldwork conducted between November 1 – 7.