Three out of every four SMEs in Australia expect a cash flow problem before 2024: report

Businesses will need to actively monitor their income and expenses to maintain positive cash flow since economic headwinds, ranging from inflation and supply chain delays to higher interest rates and decreased consumer spending, are expected to persist throughout FY24. 

According to an unsettling new report, three-quarters of SMEs expect reduced cash flow before July of next year. Small Business Loans Australia, an Australian comparison website that assists Australian business owners in selecting the best financing and loan options in Australia, performed the research, which included 253 Australian SME owners and decision-makers.

There were 68 per cent micro businesses (1-10 employees), 18 per cent small businesses (11-50 employees), and 14% medium-sized businesses among the respondents (51–200 employees).

SMEs are expecting a cash-flow crisis

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents said rising interest rates and inflation would impact their cash flow before FY24. Specifically, 30 per cent feel their cash flow would be damaged because it will be more difficult to recover consumer payments, while 26 per cent believe it will be more difficult to generate customers. Another 20 per cent stated that both issues would impact their cash flow. According to the survey, 44 per cent of respondents do not have a strategy in place to maintain cash flow during difficult times. 

How much cash flow do small businesses require to stay afloat? Small Business Loans Australia also inquired about the amount of cash flow needed each month to cover business expenses. Although 68 per cent of all respondents are tiny enterprises, more than a third (39 per cent) claimed they need more than $50,000.

Will fewer small businesses invest in themselves?

Small Business Loans Australia wanted to know if the ability and incentive of small businesses to invest in themselves would be impacted by rapidly rising interest rates and inflation. More specifically, more than a quarter (29 per cent) of respondents saidthey had no plans to invest in their firms at all this fiscal year.

Forty per cent (40 per cent) will postpone planned investments until conditions improve, demonstrating that many small businesses’ motivation to grow is closely related to excellent economic conditions. Fifteen per cent will stop or have already terminated investment in their company, while only 17 per cent would continue to invest.

Among the businesses who had planned to invest in themselves before July 2024 (including those who are cancelling their investments), half (56 per cent) planned to invest more than $50,000, and a quarter (27 per cent) planned to invest more than $70,000.

The recent ABS Business Conditions and Sentiments survey found that in the first three months of 2023, 30 per cent of employing businesses had planned to increase wages and salaries, and 27 per cent would increase employee numbers. However, small businesses are less likely to action these investments to the same extent as larger businesses.

Alon Rajic, the founder of Small Business Loans Australia, says: “As Australian businesses continue to face the repercussions of the last two years, a significant proportion will have challenges, particularly without a savings buffer or strategy to help meet their expenses.

“One of the most effective ways to invest in and protect a business is to grow customers and sales – especially acquiring customers who have healthy incomes and good cash flow. This could be a good time for small businesses to develop a strategy to not only survive but grow. Businesses often reduce costs when external conditions impact them but then de-prioritise, driving new sales. However, there are opportunities even in tough conditions. 

“Growth often requires investment. Improving your product or service offering, getting in front of new customers, and customer loyalty will be important for many businesses that want to succeed in these times. For most, it will require financing.”

Alon adds: “Businesses seeking financing to help them will have a plethora of loan products to wade through. Research and loan comparisons will be important to finding the most suitable and lowest-risk loan. This may include flexibility in repayments and lower fixed interest rates. Many loans may have hidden costs and fees that should be factored into decision-making.

“However, ultimately, it is important for SMEs to seek advice from a licensed financial adviser before committing to a loan to ensure they can meet repayments and higher interest rates during periods of reduced cash flow. Using a comparison service can also assist in finding an appropriate loan option with lower interest rates.”

The full survey results can be found here.

Source: Small Business Loans.

ABS, June 2022 data:

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