The fifth edition of the bi-annual Scottish Pacific SME Growth Index in association with East & Partners have just been released for September 2016. This latest edition polled the owners and leaders of 1200 Australian small and medium enterprises on a range of themes from confidence, investment, work/life balance, growth constraints, technology and usage of non-bank lending.

The results paint an altogether fragile situation for SMEs. Confidence is down, cash flow as always is a key concern, owners are working harder than previous surveys for the same results and plans to innovate and introduce new products and services are not being acted upon.

SMEs are of course the engine room of economic growth, and although the economy continues to grow at a rate which is the envy of OECD countries, the conditions facing SMEs are clearly far from ideal suggesting there may be significant ‘locked up’ growth potential.

To download your copy of the full research report please click here.

Key Findings:

Business confidence dips – Round Five of the Scottish Pacific SME Growth Index reveals the largest round-on-round and year-on-year percentage changes since reporting began in September 2014. 48.4 percent of SMEs forecast growth in revenue, compared with 59.6 percent this time last year. 24.2 percent forecast negative growth, compared with 16.8 percent last year.

Issues keeping SMEs up at night – the top three concerns were cash flow (72.5 percent), not having enough time to get things done (55.2 percent) and customer or supplier issues (39 percent). 17.3 percent were worried about disruption of their business model, and 13.3 percent cited staff issues.

SME owners putting in long hours – A 50+ hour week is standard for most SMEs (88.8 percent). Almost half of SME owners and senior managers (43.7 percent) are spending 60 to 80 hours a week working on their business, which equates to 12+ hour days, six days a week.

Double edged sword of technology – Almost half of SMEs (44.6 percent) believe mobile and digital technology has had a negative impact on their work/life balance. Only 15.7 percent of small businesses believe it has led to better work hours or flexible working conditions.

New products and services plans on hold – Almost half (48.9 percent) of SMEs report no plans to introduce new products and services during the second half of 2016, up from 33.7 percent a year ago. This may have been influenced by uncertainty following the Federal Election.

Interest in non-bank lending increasing – Since Sept 2014 there has been a steady increase in SMEs looking to borrow from specialist non-bank lenders. This has become more marked in the past year: 19.6 percent plan to fund their growth using a specialist non-bank lender, a 30 percent increase from the figure of 15.1 percent in Sept 2015.

Entrepreneurs still positive – Australians are still keen to start their own business, despite barriers and tough conditions. The Index shows one in 10 SMEs are in start-up phase, a consistent figure since data was first collected in September 2014.

Download the Full Results of the Scottish Pacific Growth Index

To download your copy of the full research report please click here.