Has running a business become harder? Entrepreneurs and business owners appear to be split on the question as new data reveals attitudes about being your own boss have shifted in recent years.
The survey, published by registrar GoDaddy on Wednesday, surveyed 500 Australian SME owners, and a further 4,005 overseas, to get a snapshot of small business sentiment.
Asked whether running a business is harder now than three-five years ago, opinions were almost split down the middle. A total 51% said “yes”, while only 8% said “earning potential” was the best thing about being a business owner.
Business owners SmartCompany contacted on Wednesday morning offered a similarly split perspective, detailing why they think running a business has become easier or more difficult.
Raeleen Kaesehagen, owner of online activities platform Mudputty, says its become much easier to start a business in recent years, but that means more competitors.
“The barriers to entry though new technology, information on setting up business, greater access to capital — all means the advantage a business had years ago where it was difficult for others to enter the market is removed,” Kaesehagen tells SmartCompany.
Kaesehagen also says broader shifts in society have affected small businesses, including the noise typical of modern, internet-enabled lifestyles.
“With thousands of messages a day, people always feel busy and overwhelmed, and in the scattered advertising landscape, it is harder to engage your target audience and have them pay attention,” she says.
“It’s easier than ever to reach a target market if you listen to influencer likes and social media post statistics.
“What’s not happening is the attention and conversion. Just because a post is flashed in front of someone, does not mean it grabbed their attention and had them action it.”
Judy Sahay, director of Crowd Media Group, doesn’t think running a business has become harder, but does say the landscape has “changed considerably” and firms need to pivot in order to keep up.
“If you’re a product-based business and you haven’t embraced the digital landscape to drive more traffic and build stronger engagement with your audience, then you’re missing out,” she tells SmartCompany.
“I feel these type of businesses will find it challenging.”
But Sahay says there’s “never been a better time to run a business”.
“You can create a product, market it on Instagram or Facebook for free, and reach an audience within a few seconds — which you weren’t able to do a decade ago,” she says.
“The rise of automation and technology has given businesses the ability to streamline their processes and systems in a way to reduce overheads and increase overall profits.”
Interestingly, the GoDaddy survey revealed pretty critical attitudes about government, finding 35% believe policymakers not only fail to understand the needs of SME owners, but also make it more difficult to run a small business in Australia.
Just 14% of respondents said policymakers make Australia a good place to run a business.
Andrew Wynd, owner of Balwyn Sports Physiotherapy in Melbourne, says its “much harder” to run a business now than three-five years ago, saying governments are out of step with business owners.
“Neither of the two major parties understand,” Wynd tells SmartCompany.
Wynd singled out payroll tax in Victoria as a key gripe. The payroll tax threshold in Victoria is well below other states, which means more businesses are captured by the scheme.
“It’s a major disincentive from our side as we try to transition to a larger company,” he says.
Wynd also says there’s a growing mismatch between workers and his customers. Workers, he says, increasingly want flexible working conditions and are less enthused about working in the evenings, which is when his customers prefer to book appointments.
“We’ve got a mismatch between demand and available staff,” he says.
Almost half (42%) of respondents to the GoDaddy survey said they’re finding it more difficult to identify talented workers, while 44% said they believe most workers will work remotely in the coming years, underlining the demand for flexibility.
“The workforce today wants flexibility and they don’t necessarily, in our experience, want to work full-time hours,” Wynd says.
Julie Sweet is also in the service industry as owner of clinical psychotherapy practice Seaway Counselling in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Sweet tells SmartCompany running a business has become more difficult for a variety of reasons, including technology, competition.
“I have the pleasure of knowing many entrepreneurs both personally and professionally who repeatedly tell me, however, regardless of any perceived or real deficits, they would not choose to be anywhere else, other than in their own business,” Sweet says.
Sweet’s advice for business owners who might be doing it tough is to connect with others.
“Business owners can learn a lot from the people they surround themselves with and that can extend to partners, peers and their collective broader networks,” Sweet says.
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