The Voice of Australian Business Survey reveals that just 26 per cent of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) used external consultants in their decision making and less than half have used an accountant or financial advisor in the past 12 months to review their banking relationships.

How do we know this? The Bentleys Network has been conducting a long term research project that follows and explores the mindset, needs, expectations and concerns of the SME business environment.

Launched in 2014, The Voice of Australian Business survey is one of the most in-depth surveys of SMEs in Australia.

“The survey is not just about collecting facts and figures, it’s about giving SMEs an opportunity to tell us about the real operational challenges of running their enterprises”, said Mark Chapman, Chief Executive Officer, The Bentleys Network.

“The survey is conducted approximately every six month and has started to reveal key trends and data about the SME environment. One of the key complaints of SMEs is that they feel that they do not have a ‘voice’ yet they produce over 90% of Australian GDP and they employ over 69% of the workforce”, he added.

The fourth and most recent Voice of Australian Business survey was released in July but was conducted in April 2016 prior to the Budget and also the General Election.

“Despite a recent rise in Business Confidence identified in third Voice survey, business confidence has fallen dramatically over the last 6 months. This is possibly due to the budget and the leadership changes in the government”, Mr Chapman said.

“But the concern is that while medium sized business remains the most confident size, the small and micro end of the market has shown a consistent lack of confidence over the past two years. However, small businesses in non-metro areas are showing longevity and micro businesses (1-4 employees) are showing more interest in the overseas markets that their small counterparts” he added.

However, it is Digital Disruption that creates the most interesting statistics. Respondents indicate that the pace of change is happening too fast for them to keep up and the lack of social interaction that occurs through virtual meetings has become a challenge in itself.

Nearly 25% of business surveyed saw digital disruption as an opportunity whilst 29% saw it as a threat. Yet there was general acknowledgement (60% of those surveyed) that technology benefited business in most areas; but only 17% indicated that they had introduced automated procedures and 53% indicated that they had not introduced any new technology at all, despite admitting that it may benefit their business. Of the 43% who had introduced some degree of new technology an average of 68% admitted that the business had benefited from the investment.

Another area of concern for SME businesses was the lack of perceived benefit in entering offshore markets. Many SME admitted to not knowing how to operate in offshore markets. Only 64 percent were aware of the China – Australia Free Trade Agreement and just 40 percent were familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Clearly the government needs to do more work if we are to promote our export economy.

“For Bentleys such data is a ‘touch point’. We are able to use such statistics in discussion with clients and indicate what other SMEs are doing in response to the challenges they face’ Mr Chapman said.

The fifth Voice of Australian Business survey will be conducted in September and October and will look at some of the challenges that SMEs face with the NBN. For more information on The Voice of Australian Business please contact Bentleys at – ceo@bentleysnetwork.com

About Bentleys

The Bentleys Network is a national association of independent accounting firms in Australia. They’ve assisted many legal practices navigate the complex ecosystems of taxation and technology. To learn more visit: www.bentleys.com.au

This is not advice. You should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also changes in legislation may occur quickly. We therefore recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. The article is issued as a helpful guide and should be regarded as confidential and not made available to any person without prior approval. This article is written by Bentleys NSW Pty Ltd. A member of The Bentleys Network, an association of independent accounting firms in Australia. The member firms of The Bentleys Network are affiliated only and not in partnership.