Smart Businesses Getting “Downturn-Ready”

Usage of Australia’s Business Enterprise Centres has spiked in the last few months, as Small Business owners and operators began seeking advice amid early signs of a slowing economy due to the global credit crisis.

Following a qualitative survey of Business Enterprise Centre managers, BEC Australia reports there was an average 47 per cent jump in the number of businesses seeking advice and support from the networks business advisors in the latter half of 2008, compared to the first half.

“This is a significant jump and it shows small business people are watching economic indicators closely and doing what they can to be downturn-ready,” says Peter Murray, national chairman of BEC Australia, the country’s peak body for small business advice.

“Doom and gloom talk can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, so it is heartening to hear about the proactive steps many small businesses are taking,” he says.

According to the survey, the most common issue impacting small business is the downturn in mining. BEC Managers are noting that the flow-on effects are real and immediate.

However, there is very strong consensus that consumer sentiment itself also poses a major threat to small business, and much of the blame for this is being placed on “relentless” media coverage of the “downturn”.

“The danger to small business is a slowdown in economic activity caused by a loss of confidence fuelled by pervasive pessimism, plus the reduced availability of bank finance,” notes Peter Murray.

On the bright side, BEC managers believe 67 per cent of small businesses in their regions are positioned to survive the economic downturn, despite their fears that only 29 per cent of small businesses have put special planning into place or have sought support and specific professional input to assist them through this challenging period.

Business Enterprise Centres are at the coal face, often the first port of call for business owners seeking advice. The most common enquiries received by BEC Business Advisors are, in descending order of prevalence:

  • Marketing
  • Financial Management
  • Specific Cash Flow Advice
  • Help Seeking Grants and Other Funding Sources
  • Strategies to deal with the Economic Slowdown

The survey has also captured twelve important pieces of advice BEC Advisors are sharing with clients, which are (in no particular order):

  • Examine business fundamentals
  • Review marketing
  • Explore online channels
  • Develop Customer Relationships and Service
  • Implement Specific Cash Flow Strategies
  • Stay positive
  • Take part in learning events and workshops
  • Review staffing levels but maintain skilled staff
  • Use government support to replace/upgrade assets
  • Maintain relationships with banks and lenders
  • Be prepared for opportunities that will arise in this new environment
  • Analyse advertising spend

ENDS

CONTACT: Peter Murray, national chairman, BEC Australia …. 0402 722 788

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