Cash-strapped, time-poor SME owners looking for funding alternatives


Whatever industry they are in, Australia’s small-business owners are looking for funding and finance solutions that specifically work for their business.

A snapshot of Australia’s resilient small business community shows that while there are abundant success stories, many SME owners can be described as cash-strapped, time-poor and ambivalent about whether technology has been a time saver or a time sink within their business.

This snapshot comes from Scottish Pacific’s recent SME Growth Index, which polled more than 1200 owners and senior managers across a range of industries in every state of Australia.

As someone who started a business myself I know the contribution SME owners make to the Australian economy, and how hard they work. Just how hard has been clarified in our latest SME Growth Index. It shows that in the second half of 2016 a 50-plus hour week is standard for most SME owners (88.8% of them, in fact).

Less than 1% of respondents indicated that they are spending under 40 hours each week in their business. Almost half (43.7%) are working 60 to 80 hours a week on or in their business. That equates to 12 hours a day, six days a week – or a staggering 16-hour day if they stick to a standard five-day week. And spare a thought for the more than one in 10 (12.8%) who say they are putting in 80-plus hours each week.

That’s a hard slog for any worker, let alone for owners and leaders who also have responsibility for employing and managing people and innovating to grow their businesses.

Almost half of SME respondents (44.6%) believe mobile and digital technology has had a negative impact on their work-life balance. Only 15.7% of SMEs believe it has led to better work hours or flexible working conditions.

All these statistics suggest that it will become increasingly important to the national economy for business owners to free up time and focus on the key elements needed for their enterprises to thrive and grow.

One of those key elements is working capital and cashflow. Almost three-quarters (72.7%) of SME owners and managers named cashflow as the issue keeping them awake at night.

Whatever industry they are in, Australia’s small-business owners are looking for funding and finance solutions that work specifically for their business.

Given this concern, it is perhaps no surprise that we see a steady increase (30% up from our first Index in September 2014) in SMEs who are looking to borrow from specialist non-bank lenders offering different conditions and paths to growth that don’t tie up the family home in the equation.

Getting the funding and the work-life balance right within each SME business will lead to much better personal and business outcomes for a sector that is so important to the national economy.

Peter Langham, CEO, Scottish Pacific