Help with cash flow and admin tops Christmas wish list for small business owners

In the lead up to Christmas, Australian small business owners are compromising their personal wellbeing to deal with business pressures such as cash flow, compliance and regulation, according to the new Westpac Small Business Report in collaboration with Deloitte.

Almost three in five (58 per cent) of small business owners said they expect to miss out on sleep due to work demands during the Christmas period, 63 per cent won’t have a chance to relax and wind down over the holiday season, and 58 per cent will miss out on spending time with family and friends. Furthermore, four in ten business owners will receive payments from debtors later over the Christmas period, and will spend eight hours per week, on average, chasing outstanding invoices to alleviate cash flow pressures.

The research also found female small business owners are more likely than their male counterparts to make personal sacrifices for their business, with 34 per cent of women willing to sacrifice their salary to pay staff, compared to 27 per cent of men.

Ganesh Chandrasekkar, general manager of SME Banking at Westpac said: “We know that many small businesses are doing it tough and making significant sacrifices to keep their business running over Christmas. This is a timely reminder for all of us when we’re Christmas shopping to shop local and give back to the small business community because what they do is so vital to our economy.

“In addition to sacrificing their wellbeing, small businesses are spending up to one working day every week chasing invoices. Cash flow is the life blood of any business and being able to manage it is extremely important, especially in the lead up to a busy period like Christmas. Westpac is here to help reduce a significant amount of time for businesses so they can have a more productive and relaxing Christmas, with our invoicing solution, Biz Invoice.”

Biz Invoice is the first integrated invoicing payment solution from a major Australian bank. It allows businesses to conveniently create and send secure and customised invoices direct from Westpac Live online banking at any time. Through Biz Invoice businesses can have better visibility of their cash flow position, send reminders when invoices are overdue and receive payment notifications.

In addition, Westpac has signed the Australian Supplier Payment Code to help address cash flow challenges faced by small businesses by committing to pay all suppliers on time and work with them to improve invoicing and payments practices.

“Our goal is to provide the capability for business owners to leverage quicker payment terms and quicker access to funds. Biz Invoice positions us well ahead of the federal government’s roll out of e-Invoicing next year which will standardise electronic invoices to help reduce admin costs and boost productivity for small businesses,” Chandrasekkar said.

Another burden for small business owners is paperwork, with many dedicating up to 12 hours each week with compliance and regulatory tasks. This quickly adds up; Deloitte Access Economics estimates the cost of regulation to Australian businesses is $100 billion annually.

Despite the challenges, Chandrasekkar said the report highlights that over one third of businesses feel positive about the Christmas season, and the most profitable businesses are driving revenue growth through improvements and introducing new products and services.

“We found the businesses that experienced growth in sales, profitability and productivity were those that are ‘innovation active’. They tend to put effort into significantly improving their operations or offering new goods and services, and considering the big picture rather than the day to day of running a business,” he added.

The report suggests small business revenue growth has remained consistent over the year, which has been primarily driven by businesses expanding their domestic customer base (58 per cent). When looking across sectors, manufacturing is the stand out, with strong income growth (80 per cent), export growth (65 per cent) and customer base expansion (71 per cent), compared to this time last year.

As 2019 approaches, Chandrasekkar said despite some headwinds the outlook for small businesses remains positive.

“GDP growth is expected to slow back to 2.7 per cent next year and we expect businesses to feel some additional uncertainty due to the Federal election, a soft housing market and lacklustre consumer demand. Despite these pressures, employment growth is expected to remain quite strong, with continuing above-average investment in private and public infrastructure, competitive assistance from a lower AUD is expected to continue along with rising exports and solid population growth. These are positive signs to help boost the confidence in small businesses so they can help drive our nation forward.”