“Married to the business, not my wife”: Why SMEs are struggling as Christmas closes in

Burger Love Christmas

Steve Agi (pictured right) says he'd have more time to spend with family if there was less red tape. Source: Supplied.

As Australia winds down and prepares to spend time with family over Christmas, business owners like Steve Agi are preparing for the busiest month of the year.

As the owner of Victorian-based burger business Burger Love, Agi is preparing for a high-stakes December in the hopes of entering 2019 on a strong note, but everything comes with a cost.

“I’ve got a wife and three kids and I’m practically married to the business, not my wife,” Agi tells SmartCompany.

“As a business owner generally in Australia, with the amount of expectation and regulation, no business owner looks after themselves anytime, but Christmas is just a little bit worse.”

“I don’t think you find a balance, you never do, it’s just one of those things,” he says.

A staggering 63% of business owners told Westpac in a survey released today they won’t get a chance to wind down or relax over the coming holiday period, raising new concern about the wellbeing of Australian entrepreneurs.

More than half (58%) of the 500 small business owners surveyed said they will miss out on spending time with family and friends over Christmas, while the same amount also admitted they’ll forgo sleep to work.

Yellow Octopus founder Derek Sheen says it’s “almost impossible” to juggle work-life balance during the silly season — every day is a work day in the lead up to the big day.

“As a business owner, you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines, so family and friends will, unfortunately, have to take a back seat,” he tells SmartCompany.

Online retailer Yellow Octopus, which has grown 73.3% in the last three years and is now a $3 million business, does 65% of its annual sales during the six to seven weeks before Christmas.

This year though, Sheen himself will enjoy a break, taking some holiday time until the New Year.

Red tape reality

Agi estimates he’s worked about 100 hours a week on his business, which operates across five stores in Melbourne, saying the burden of red tape is the more regrettable time sink in his day.

“I don’t think the government, financial institutions and regulators understand,” he says. “There should be more support.”

According to Westpac’s survey, conducted in partnership with Deloitte Access Economics, small businesses say they spend about 12 labour hours each week complying with regulation, costing an estimated $100 billion each year.

Agi says if he spent less time dealing with compliance, he’d have more time to spend with his family.

Digital dealings

Cashflow is king for small business, as they say, and Burger Love is no different. Christmas will be an important opportunity to capitalise on increased demand for convenience and speed in dining.

Agi explains he’s developed a new ‘drive-by dining’ concept where customers order from a mobile application and have their orders delivered to their cars.

“It’s the future of drive-thru,” Agi says.

Burger Love has seen a 60% increase in people using their mobiles to order recently, leaving Agi optimistic digital integration will be an important growth channel for his business.

He’s not alone either. According to Westpac’s survey, almost every business is using some form of digital tool, while 50% of sales for businesses less than three years old are coming from digital sources.

NOW READ: “It has been three years of hell”: Research shows business owners struggle to define work-life balance

NOW READ: Flexible work for everyone: The evolution to a new normal


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3 years ago

Frankly business owners are 2nd or 3rd class citizens.

We take all the risks and get hammered.

Our governments dont give a stuff about us as human beings, and we are just a resource to be used and abused. Stuff our families.

Agi in the article talks about the red tape. Please how much in the last 5-10 years have your accounting fee’s gone up to as all the onus from the likes of the ATO have been put on our accountants and their staff be it internal or external.

Has the ATO, even though you have less than $4million annual turnover put you on a monthly PAYG and GST in the last 2 years, instead of quarterly. They want the money from SME’s but do they spend it well? Are we getting value in return.

I would love 100,00+ SME’s hammering the federal and state governments. We need change and efficiency and massive waste reduction.

The waste has to stop. Victorian just voted in government who agreed to pay a <3 month labourer $143K a year on their projects. The experienced labourer gets $167K, a traffic controller $171K. Years from now with the usual cost blow outs and overruns, there is no way the Andrews government will not have a debt balloon. A 9 year senior doctor in the NSW health dept gets 140K as a comparison. Why bother getting trained, when a state government colludes with a union and an industry at the cost of everyone else, paying these mega bucks

The above was all reported in the mainstream media last year on the above and we juts let it slide, thats a poor reflection on us. Do a search.

A retiring person from Fairwork in the last year said Employers should be "treated like human beings", as we are not being treated like that at present.

I would love other SME's to stop being quiet and really get proactive on helping push change.

The people we vote into government are there to do our collective bidding, so why are they not controlling the machinery behind government?.

Our employee's in private industry have had little pay rises.

I know many looking to SME's to pay our bills to them tell us they are so tight right now.

People want money at 45 days EOM, like they used to at 90 EOM and are really hassling now. So all is not good out there.

Government employee's have been creating inflation with 3% pay raises on average over the last 5 years. Government departments raises fee's at the CPI or greater as we are just dope to rip off, and do nothing innovative to contain costs.They create inflation.

Time for some big changes. I would love to hear from other SME's and what you think.

The health of SME's affects our employee's and the economy. Plus our families and our employee's families lives.

3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy55

I am in 100% agreement.

We need more than 50,000 SME’s commenting and pushing all levels of government.

This has prompted me to hassle my local member about an issue. I am tired of working long hours and being taken for a ride.

Lets push hard all the way to my state ( NSW) and then to the Federal election.