Date posted: 20/05/2022 5 min read

Technology, supply chain pressures and staff shortages front of mind for Aussie SMBs

On election day, small business owners want more government support with staffing, new tech and product delivery a concern.

In Brief

  • Ahead of the election, a recent survey reveals what’s on the mind of those in small business.
  • What each political party is doing to support small business is a priority for 40% of owners.
  • Staff shortages, supply chain issues and keeping up with technology is also a concern.

Australian small businesses’ major concerns in the lead up to the federal election are technology, supply chain pressures and staff shortages, according to a survey by cloud accounting platform Xero.

Some 40% of small business owners say they will be considering a political party’s policies for supporting small businesses this election, also important are policies on sustainability, accountability and tax reform, the nationwide survey of more than 500 small businesses found.

“Small businesses are central to our communities and the success of our economy. As we come to a significant, democratic decision for the nation, it’s important their needs are taken into account,” says Joseph Lyons, Xero managing director, Australia and Asia.

“These survey results reveal a clear opportunity to help small businesses take advantage of technology to carry them into the future.”

Policies need to support small business

Both major parties have announced initiatives to help small businesses.

Labor is promising to ensure they are paid within 30 days, reduce the cost of financial transactions and make unfair contract terms illegal. The Coalition is promising to support the creation of more Australian small businesses and help them access finance.

“There are significant economic challenges which impact small businesses differently to the broader business landscape. These challenges will require an industry-government collaboration and possibly structural reform, talk of which has been notably missing from the campaign,” Lyons says.

“There has been little differentiation between economic and small business pressures, including matters like interest rates, employee shortages and consumer confidence."

Keeping abreast of technology

Close to four-fifths of businesses say they have concerns about technology and 40% say they don’t feel prepared to move to technologies such as einvoicing.

“There's an opportunity to help more Australian small businesses see the benefits of harnessing technology,” says Lyons. A third of respondents believe a cash rebate or grant to spend on technology would help them make use of more digital tools – such as einvoicing – in their businesses.

“There needs to be support beyond this available too, however, as upskilling is critical to help small business owners digitise their services and internal processes,” says Lyons. “We hope to see small business digitisation prioritised by the federal government following the election and it has been promising to see initiatives from both parties.”

Finding the right people

One-fifth of businesses said they were concerned about staff shortages.

As activity returns to normal levels for many small businesses, staff shortages are making it hard to keep up with demand and can result in lost revenue if they have to reduce operating hours or can’t serve customers, Lyons says.

“There is some relief with the government opening international borders; however, small businesses in the interim can focus on supporting their existing staff, particularly as many are working extra hours and bolstering their employee value proposition to attract staff,” he says.

Deliver what you promise

Just as the COVID pandemic has exacerbated staff shortages, it has also led to the supply chain disruptions and nearly a quarter of small businesses nominated this as a major concern ahead of the election.

“Small businesses learned to adapt and be flexible, but so too have customers. As supply chains continue to face upheaval, it’s important small businesses are transparent with customers on available resources, delivery times and manage expectations to alleviate pressures,” Lyons says.

The survey reveals that Anthony Albanese is “the most interesting political leader” to small business owners, with one-fifth of respondents claiming they would hire him!

Regardless of the election outcome, many small business owners appear to believe that it won’t be the major factor in their business performance. Some 43.6 % of respondents believe the government is only somewhat important to the success of their business.

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