Small business owners’ stress levels on the rise: Report

More than half of Australia’s small business owners are more stressed now than 12 months ago, according to a new survey, with concerns particularly acute in the professional services and manufacturing sectors.


The Bibby Small Business Barometer, by debtor finance provider Bibby Financial Services, is based on the responses of 202 small businesses, excluding the retail sector.


According to the barometer, 52% of those surveyed felt more stressed now than 12 months ago, while only 17% reported less stress.


“The uncertain economic outlook is creating increased anxiety among proprietors of small- and medium-sized enterprises,” Bibby managing director Greg Charlwood says.


“[This uncertainty] is responsible for most of the worries that business owners identified.”


The survey reveals the largest single source of stress is managing cashflow, with 49% of respondents nominating cashflow as their greatest concern, followed by staff issues.


“We found staffing was more likely to be a source of stress for companies with annual turnover of $1 million or more (51%) than with those earning under $1 million (39%),” Charlwood says.


Three issues vied for third place with regard to business owners’ greatest concerns: difficult market conditions, red tape and a lack of time to enjoy family life.


Meanwhile, the study reveals those operating in the manufacturing and professional service sectors have undergone the greatest surge in stress levels in the past 12 months.


The findings come on the back of a separate report by the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which surveyed approximately 300 businesses.


According to the report, only 21% of respondents expect the state’s economy to be stronger in 12 months.


VECCI small business council chair David Richardson says manufacturers and tourism operators have been hit particularly hard by the Australian dollar, hence the weak economic outlook.


Despite the stress small businesses are under, half of the proprietors surveyed by Bibby say their businesses are growing. A further 29% are faring just as well now as 12 months ago, while 21% are contracting.


“Small business proprietors are optimistic and 71% are confident about the prospects over the coming 12 months,” Charlwood says.


Almost two-thirds expect strong to moderate sales growth over the coming 12 months.


In contrast, only 10% are pessimistic and expect a decline. Those operating in wholesale, trade and transport are among the more pessimistic sectors.


“Proprietors’ optimism about the future prevails despite their biggest headache – cashflow – worsening for many of them,” Charlwood says.


“The main reason for this is that the payments situation has degenerated; 47% now wait longer to be paid for the goods and services they have sold than they waited at this time last year. Only 8% enjoy more prompt payment.”


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