The release of The New Zealand Small Business Strategy could be the turning point for the New Zealand small business sector, according to Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Leeann Watson.
Developed by the Small Business Council and Minister for Small Business Stuart Nash, the strategy includes 20 recommendations aimed at empowering small businesses to aspire, succeed and thrive.
Watson, who is a member of the Small Business Council, says the recommendations target key areas, including access to finance, having people with the right capability and skills, and reducing the compliance burden, which are crucial in helping small businesses to grow and increase productivity and performance.
“The driver of this body of work was to first understand the needs of small businesses and the challenges they face, then to create a decisive plan for change that would make a tangible difference to the small businesses that play a crucial role in our country in terms of both economic and social outcomes,” says Watson.
“What has become clear is the very real need to reduce the financial and operational burdens on business and the barriers to growth for those businesses looking to expand – or barriers to productivity, for those businesses content to stay small but looking to become more time-rich.
“In Aotearoa New Zealand, 97 per cent of businesses employ less than 20 employees and contribute over $66 billion to GDP. The small business sector is also by far the largest net creator of jobs, employing 29 per cent of our workforce, so the value of nurturing this sector cannot be understated.”
Watson says these interventions could fundamentally transform the environment in which small businesses operate in and the way in which they conduct business.
“Through our engagement with small businesses, we know that cashflow and late payments are often a challenge, so it is positive to see that the Government is taking the lead by setting prompt payment targets across 34 core government departments.
“We also know that small businesses can be weighed down – and can be overwhelmed by – the shifting landscape of compliance and regulation, which has a disproportionate impact on small businesses. In addition, they have limited access to capital and are often time-poor, which can result in a lack of planning for the future, including vital areas such as capability building for themselves and their people, while also keeping an eye on future disruptors including the future of work and climate change.
“Yet we also know that small businesses are 30 per cent more likely to be productive and successful if they utilise tech tools or seek external advice, so it is pleasing to see the emphasis in the report on the government working in partnership with the private sector and existing networks on potential delivery, rather than assuming that the Government is best placed to fill any gaps when it comes to implementation.
“Ideally it would also be great to see a ‘burden hunter’ role set up within central Government to find and minimise or remove the burdens that restrict and limit small business operations, and create a systemic shift from an environment of compliance to one of enablement.”