Australian small businesses hungry for advice post-GFC

Australia’s peak body for small business advice has surveyed its managers from 132 Business Enterprise Centres (BEC) nationwide and found that demand for advice and support is on the rise, says Business Enterprise Centres Australia.

The BEC survey found demand for advice and training rose an average of 9 percent in calendar year 2009, and that more small and micro businesses are engaged in planning to deal with GFC-related threats and opportunities than 12 months ago, up 7 percentage points from 29 to 36.

“These findings are encouraging from a national point of view because Australia is dependent upon its small business sector to drive the economy,” says BECA chair, Peter Murray.

“This pulse check reflects what is happening at the coal face because it is based on the observations of BEC managers, who live and work in many and varied regions around Australia.

“It’s encouraging to see a ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ attitude still thrives in this sector, despite the battery of challenges endured in the past 12 months,” he says.

The BEC survey found the top three areas of advice being sought by small and micro business owners were marketing, financial management (with a particular focus on cash flow), and general business planning.

Of the issues confronting small business operators in our regions, the survey found that 11 dominated the reporting, namely:

1.         Mining – positive affect in mining regions, negative effect due to labour drain from other regions

2.         Drought and water issues, and poor agricultural yields

3.         GFC has resulted in discretionary spending fluctuations (especially services sector)

4.         Operational costs; fuel, freight, and loss of some suppliers with knock-on effects

5.         Deregulation of trading hours in some regions

6.         Government red tape and green tape, including confusion around Fair Work laws

7.         Scarcity and cost of commercial property

8.         High unemployment, NEIS swamped until July 2010, and skill shortages

9.         Restricted access to finance

10.       Costly communications

11.       One positive influence was development surrounding major projects and infrastructure, which provided a positive stimulus in some regions

“The important insights for me are that our small business sector is continuing to apply itself to the challenges of doing business in this ever-changing environment and that many are placing their trust in the grass-roots network of business advisors available through Business Enterprise Centres,” says Peter.

ENDS

CONTACT: Peter Murray, national chairman, BEC Australia on 0400 899 368 or chair@becaustralia.org.au

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