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New research shows silver lining to SME recovery

New research reveals 2 in 3 SMEs were motivated to do business better and recover fast in the last two years 

New research from a leading travel management company reveals a promising silver lining from the last two years of restrictions, financial instability for businesses and economic downturn. 

Almost two in three (62 per cent) Australian SMEs used this time to their advantage, by pivoting and optimising operations, ultimately placing themselves in a better position for recovery and growth. 

The findings were derived from a survey of an independent panel of 202 Australian SME business owners, commissioned by Corporate Traveller, Flight Centre Travel Group’s flagship specialist SME division.[1] Full survey results across states and business sizes can be found here 

Respondents were asked to identify the changes they made in the last two years to better their business and could select more than one change from a list of five. 

Corporate Traveller found 45 per cent of businesses were able to retain or attract talent by offering employees flexibility, remote working or more choice in their work arrangements, while 27 per cent created a safer workplace for employees by implementing stringent OHS and infection measures. 

Nearly one third (31 per cent) transitioned some or all the business online to retain and attract sales. 

Other changes businesses implemented for a positive outcome included introducing new technologies to make their operations more efficient (chosen by 20 per cent) or streamlining and optimising operations to allow them to do more with fewer people (chosen by 19 per cent). 

Fortunately, 19 per cent of businesses were deemed as an essential service or supplied essential products during the pandemic, allowing them to perform well as a result. 

Larger businesses were more likely to pivot and implement changes to do business better in the last two years. Half (51 per cent) of medium-sized businesses implemented more stringent OHS and infection controls, compared with 33 per cent small businesses and 16 per cent micro-businesses. 

Forty-one (41) per cent of small and medium-sized businesses also offered employees flexibility to retain and attract talent, compared with 18 per cent of micro-businesses. 

More medium-sized businesses were also considered an essential service and therefore did well over the last two years: 53 per cent of medium-sized businesses were essential, compared with 24 per cent of small and micro-businesses. 

Tom Walley, Global Managing Director at Corporate Traveller, says it is promising to see that many businesses weren’t deterred too much by the challenges presented over the last two years and used it to their advantage instead. 

“Many Australian SMEs could be in a better position than they were before the pandemic as a result. Just one in five (19 per cent) businesses didn’t appear to have used the pandemic advantageously by pivoting or optimising operations,” Mr Walley said. 

“However, it’s not too late to make changes or engage in activities for growth and recovery and build a more resilient business as a result. The one thing SMEs are inspirational at are adapting to a new environment and there’s no doubt they will lead our economic recovery. 

“I encourage Australian businesses to reignite or introduce travel programs now that the world has reopened. International travel will allow businesses to expand into new markets, increase sales, and attract new business partners.” 

Full survey results across states and business sizes can be found here

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