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Summer’s bright but there are clouds on the horizon

Summer’s bright but there are clouds on the horizon

Confidence is high among our business owners as they come to the end of the summer rested and ready to tackle the significant challenges ahead.

Our Summer Pulse Check – full results here – told us that business owners were rested and recharged but there is growing unease over rising input prices, port disruptions and employment issues.

Confidence is extremely high but there’s no illusion concerning what’s ahead. Results showed a rise in problems associated with working capital, including more late payers, input price rises and disrupted supply chains.

Delays at the port are a major cause of stress along with employment issues and lack of sales but business owners remain buoyant, with plans and ideas ready to take them forward.

Businesses have steeled themselves to constantly expect the unexpected, adapting and changing their business operations to manage the shifting sands of COVID19 alert level changes.

We were a little surprised that confidence remains so high as people were responding to the Pulse Check as Auckland went to Alert Level Three but having survived 2020 and with the vaccination programme about to start perhaps the confidence of Kiwi business owners comes from knowing they are resilient and can adapt to most challenges that come their way.

Confidence boosters included skilled Kiwis coming home as the struggle to fill jobs continues and high on the wish list are more customers and better cash flow. Steps to reduce costs appears to have helped to ease the pressure.

When asked what would help get through 2021, 43% of business owners said a chat with business owners like themselves or some specialist advice would do the job – and that, of course, is what we are here to do. We exist to support small to medium businesses and their owners through the calm and the storms and the insights you share through the Pulse Check allows us to make sure that support and advice is relevant and timely for you and your business. Thank you for taking part – our next check will be in the Autumn – and in the meantime, remember we’re here to help.

The Alternative Board conducted the Summer Pulse Check with 266 members and associates between February 9 – February 16 2021 with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Stephen James is the owner of The Alternative Board NZ.   You can contact Stephen on 021 606 934, [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn

Ready to get back to business with the Pulse Check

Ready to get back to business with the Pulse Check

It’s time to get back to business and discover how you are getting on. Our February Pulse Check – the first one of the year – is now live and aims to track the progress of small to medium businesses and their owners throughout the year.

The thinking behind our quarterly Pulse Check is simple — you keep your business going and we are here to keep you, the business owner, on track, motivated and equipped to cope in our current times.

Your insights ensure we continue to have the right resources to help you and, by listening to and understanding your perspectives, we can better support your needs. We also make your views heard by sharing your perspective with Government and policy makers who have shown a keen interest in what you have to say.

The link to the survey is here http://bit.ly/PulseCheckFeb so please, tell us how you are, how you’re managing, and how you’re feeling about the future.  As a thank you, when you’ve finished the short survey — it takes just a few minutes — you can enter the draw for a complimentary business coaching session.

You can access results from last year’s Pulse Checks here on our website.

Stephen James is the owner of The Alternative Board NZ.   You can contact Stephen on 021 606 934, [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn

Small Business Pulse Remains Strong As Global Pandemic Progresses

Small Business Pulse Remains Strong As Global Pandemic Progresses

Yes – it’s been a very hard year. Yes – we have all been touched by the tragedies and difficulties presented by COVID19. Yes – there are still some hard months to come but resilience, tenacity and innovation have been the watchwords for small business owners in Aotearoa and, as the COVID19 pandemic continues to rage around the world, they’re getting ready to take on 2021.

Since July, we have been checking the pulse of small businesses, following the progress of their owners and enterprises.  Inevitably there have been worries and difficulties as we collectively figure out how to operate in a pandemic but, overall, businesses outside the hardest hit sectors of tourism, travel and hospitality have demonstrated a remarkable capacity for strength in the face of adversity as they have worked tirelessly to stabilise the heart of the economy.

Amid lockdowns and restrictions, they’ve tackled employment issues, cash flow crises, supply chain and other problems – all at the same time they’ve had to reinvent the way they do business.

During this challenging period, the Pulse Check revealed a rapid rate of growth and opportunity for some, while for others, the life-blood of their business has been drained. Two constants have kept them going – government support and specialist business advice – and the indicators suggest that more government support is needed to help small business owners develop the skills and resources they need to progress. In the report you can access below you’ll be able to see how resilience and optimism has fared during COVID-19 with insights into sectors that have quietly got on with the job, providing for their staff and communities during this exceptional period. There are insights into progress, what’s needed in the years ahead and, as 2021 peers over the horizon, looks at where they are now and where they hope to head next.

Throughout the country we have found that the uncertainties and stresses of 2020 have resulted in an increasing need for the services that we provide, especially so when supported with financial assistance channeled through the Regional Business Partner network.

The Alternative Board’s Steve Wilkinson, based in Christchurch commented: “The resilience shown by our client base in Canterbury has been remarkable and reflects previous experiences.  With careful guidance and a commitment to playing what is in front of them I am delighted to see all of my clients have not only got through the COVID 19 pandemic intact, some are reaping the rewards of being well positioned to take on what is in front of them”.

The Tracker report follows the results of the Pulse Check monthly monitor for small to medium size businesses. Pulse Check was launched so we could listen to our members and associates, discover how they are managing during COVID-19, how they are, what support they need, their views on current challenges, their confidence and the opportunities ahead. You can download a copy of the tracker report here.

We will continue to check the pulse in 2021 with the next edition scheduled for early February.

Each Pulse Check has had a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Stephen James is the owner of The Alternative Board NZ.   You can contact Stephen on 021 606 934, [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn

Credit issues are on the rise

Credit issues are on the rise

Our recent Business Pulse Check showed 7% of respondents have experienced more late payers and defaults, while 4% are struggling to pay creditors. In recent client coaching sessions, I am also noticing that there is an emergence of fiddly credit issues that are starting to take up a little more time for both business owners and their credit staff.  These issues range from company liquidations, more creative excuses for not paying, down to just not paying on time, or paying later than normal. In some cases, the debtor has grown their exposure with the company over recent months without any further analysis of the increasing credit risk.

In a paper I wrote earlier this year on the Changing Face of Credit Risk I emphasised the need to continue to be vigilant with your credit control processes and procedures.

With the Christmas break coming up it is critical that everyone makes sure they have robust processes in place for collecting outstanding debts – including pro-actively following up overdue amounts expediently. Anything left outstanding on Christmas Day is unlikely to be paid until late January, with the resultant impact on your company cashflow at a time when it is most needed.

In the meantime I would suggest you remain focused on the following:

  • Watch for changing signs with any clients i.e. increased exposure/delays or excuses in paying.
  • Where appropriate be pro-active in updating Terms of Trade, particularly in cases where you may not have personal guarantees and exposure is increasing.
  • Use credit checking more regularly for clients who are showing different patterns in their payments.
  • If appropriate, consider registering under the PPSR register.
  • For clients showing changes in trading/payment patterns consider putting in place credit watch processes.
Photo of Christchurch TBO Steve Wilkinson

Steve Wilkinson is the owner of The Alternative Board Christchurch and North Canterbury.  You can contact Steve on  021 334 203, [email protected], or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Unsettled Spring brings supply chain disruptions

Unsettled Spring brings supply chain disruptions

Issues concerning working capital and supply chains have emerged in the Spring Pulse Check, with members flagging problems with orders, disruptions and payments.

Difficulties with supply chains, imports and exports have been due to port and shipping disruptions but despite the challenges, members are proactively planning their future after a year which saw most business owners change the way they operate. Some have opted for digital transformation, others increased marketing spend while still more reduced their costs and, in doing so, increased profits.

The Spring Pulse Check found that overall, confidence and optimism remain high and job prospects steady in small-to-medium size businesses outside the hard-hit sectors of retail, tourism and hospitality but there is a rise in the number of businesses having difficulty finding skilled workers.

At a personal level, business owners are exhausted – the majority would like nothing more than to switch off for a few weeks or, at the very least, have a bit of a rest, but the main reflections provided in the Spring Pulse Check have been the ‘three wishes’ they would ask of Government. These included continuing financial support, consistent policies plus a plea to give small businesses more work and greater involvement in discussions about their sector.

Stephen James observed: “Our members have flagged a number of issues and, although numbers are relatively low at present, it suggests there will be no smooth sailing into summer.  Member confidence levels and optimism remain high but fatigue is setting in. Having maintained confidence and resilience through the main crisis periods, their hard work and stress is starting to take its toll. 

“The ‘three wishes’ they would ask of the Government were continuing financial support, something that has been a lifeline for businesses large and small, consistent policy, so keep doing what you’re doing but do it really well and, lastly, a plea to put small businesses to work starting with less red tape and providing greater accessibility to government contracts or tenders.”

The Spring Pulse Check surveyed 269 members and associates between 30 October – 6 November with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error. You can download a copy of the results in full here.

The Alternative Board conducted the Spring Pulse Check with 269 members and associates between 30 October – 6 November with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Stephen James is the owner of The Alternative Board NZ.   You can contact Stephen on 021 606 934, [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn

Small businesses look beyond COVID-19 with confidence

Small businesses look beyond COVID-19 with confidence

For the third month in a row, small-to-medium size businesses outside the hard-hit sectors of retail, tourism and hospitality are proving confident, optimistic and actively planning for their future beyond COVID-19.

Our September Pulse Check shows exceptional levels of confidence and optimism with business levels booming or the same as last year, relatively unchanged levels of employment and sustained sales.

More than 80% of you are confident you’ll make it through, more than half report sustained or improved business levels, nearly two-thirds are optimistic about the next twelve months and 65% are already working on future strategies and getting business plans in place.

On the downside, 2020 has taken a toll with business owners feeling exhausted and that’s a real concern. Government support and business advisors have helped get through the difficult days of 2020 but despite weathering exhaustion, lockdowns, alert level changes and varying levels of uncertainty, you’re not giving up and have your head down, planning your way to the future.

For some, the forthcoming election, mainstream media stories and government policy are reducing confidence, while for others, their own resilience drawn from past experience, government policy, and the thought of open borders is a confidence booster.

Stephen James observed: “Our members are, for the most part, outside the sectors acutely affected, such as retail, tourism and hospitality. It may seem that member confidence levels and optimism are at odds with other commentary but our small business owners are efficient and resilient because they have to be. Small business owners regard their employees as family, do their utmost to retain them and are able to adapt and evolve business practices swiftly with the right support, even among those hardest hit.

“It’s heartening – and speaks volumes for business owners – that so many have got through with relatively unchanged levels of employment, due in part to the government support people have  turned to and a willingness to change where necessary.

“One of our priorities will be to help business owners cope with the high levels of exhaustion they’ve reported. We see this as a danger area as, no matter how resilient they may be, working through an ongoing crisis is hard and it is draining. Supporting our business owners helps them to help their business, so developing strategies and solutions to what we know will be an ongoing challenge is an area we will be working on with our boards and through our coaching sessions”.

The September Pulse Check surveyed 266 of our members and associates between September 18 – 27 with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error. You can download a copy of the results in full here.

The Alternative Board conducted the September Pulse Check survey of 266 of its members and associates between September 18 – 27 with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Pulse Check