OMC Connect director Russell Bullen says it is increasingly difficult to create the time to work on the business as opposed to in the business.
OMC Connect director Russell Bullen says it is increasingly difficult to create the time to work on the business as opposed to in the business. Cade Mooney

Growing pains for small businesses

SMALL businesses are missing out on growth opportunities because they are too tied down in everyday business processes, according to Commonwealth Bank research.

More than three-quarters (77%) of small businesses surveyed said they would like to spend more time looking for business growth opportunities.

But just over half said they were tied down conducting inventory management/stocktaking (52%) and staff management (51%) with almost two-in-five spending most of their time on day-to-day business banking (39%).

According to Matt Comyn, the bank's business banking general manager, while these activities were important functions of running a business, it was also necessary to understand how this could impact broader plans.

“For many small business owners there is little question over the importance of processes like cash-flow management, which is considered the lifeblood of a business,” Mr Comyn said.

“It's therefore no surprise that businesses are spending more of their time in these areas, however, the survey has highlighted that day-to-day activities are taking up a large proportion of their overall resource.

“This means that there is little remaining time to focus on growth plans.”

Russell Bullen is the director of OMC, an online marketing and communications company based at the Innovation Centre.

In OMC's almost-three-year life staff numbers have grown from two to seven and clients include local SMEs and local government as well as retail chains and businesses in the UK, USA and New Zealand.

“As a business owner and being exposed to other small business operations, it is increasingly difficult to create the time to work on the business as opposed to in the business,” he said.

“We are fortunate enough to be part of the Business Development Framework offered here at the Innovation Centre which provides us with the accountability of our business.

“Accessing an experienced and trusted business mentor allows us to create the time to spend on the business and drive growth.”

Mr Bullen said some changes had been implemented as his business grew.

“Being more aware of how your business can better operate through planning and considered execution allows us to make changes that align with the core values of our business.

“Restructuring tasks is an ongoing effort, however, when there is a plan it does make you think about how you spend your time. If you can't manage it, you can't measure it!

“As for cost, can you measure it in money or blood, sweat and tears?

“As a small business owner, if there is value in the outcome then the cost should be proportionate.

“The question is, what would be the cost if you didn't take the time to work on the business?

“Now we've got a plan, we've got the right support, we've got the right team.

"Things are looking good.”

Also based at the Innovation Centre is Kath Massey.

Her Massey Online Management helps 21 holiday parks manage and monitor their online presence, whether marketing and bookings or websites and Trip Advisor listings.

She started as a home-based business and took the big step of shifting to the Business Incubator late last year.

“Part of my rent is two hours a month with a business development manager, Nigel Hall,” she said.

“It was a big decision to move in because I had so few overheads at home and I can do what I do from anywhere.

“But the two hours I spend with Nigel will make the difference between me just working for myself and actually growing a successful business.”

With Mr Hall's input, Ms Massey devised a five-year business plan that includes a target of 120 clients and 12 full-time staff.

“You never have time to look at your proper business structure and all I was doing was the work,” she said.

“Nigel said I needed help, but I didn't want to outlay that expense.

"But I realised if I don't do that, I won't get the returns.

“Now I have a part-time person responsible for administration and accounts, so I can get my invoices out on time and any cash flow problems are avoided.”

Ms Massey advised businesses who felt burdened by the small picture tasks to engage a good mentor and outsource tasks without worrying about the cost.

“If you don't pay for that now, it will cost you more later.

“And access a program like they run at Innovation Centre.

"It really is priceless.”


MORE BETTER BUSINESS SURVEY FINDINGS

  • 41% said they would like to streamline their business processes.
  • 41% said they were looking for ways to make their business banking more efficient.
  • 21% listed bringing in sales and new customers as their number one business activity.
  • The survey was commissioned last month and questioned 469 SMEs from across the country, with an annual turnover of less than $10 million.


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