Business expectations

Since 2004, we have called on WA’s small business owners to provide feedback on their expectations for the coming year. This survey gauges views on issues such as:

  • the cost of employing and retaining suitable staff
  • expected changes and challenges within the business
  • anticipated business profitability
  • the impact of the economy

Business expectations survey 2017 results

The 2017 survey was completed by 106 respondents from all sizes of small business.

  • 41 respondents had 1-4 employees
  • 22 respondents had 5-19 employees
  • 2 respondents had 20+ employees
  • 41 respondents had 0 employees

1. Impact of the economy

Respondents were asked whether they believed the economy would have a positive, negative or neutral impact on their business in 2017. Buoyancy has decreased this year, with only 24 per cent expecting a positive impact, down from 31 per cent in 2016. 

Expected impact of the economy on respondents' business over the next 12 months

Chart of expected impact of the economy on respondents' business over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

2. Overall sales/revenue

Thirty six per cent of respondents indicated that they expected an increase in the overall sales/revenue of their businesses. This is down from 43 per cent last year and the lowest level in four years. A similar proportion of respondents expected no change (37 per cent), while 28 per cent expect a decrease in their business sales for the year ahead.

Expected sales/revenue of respondents' businesses over the next 12 months

Chart of expected sales/revenue of respondents' business over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Unit cost of materials and supplies

The vast majority of respondents (55 per cent) indicated they expected the cost of materials and supplies to increase in 2017, a significant decrease from 76 per cent in 2016. Many expect it to remain stable, while four per cent anticipate a decrease.

Respondents' expectations of the cost of materials and supplies

Chart of respondents' expectations of the cost of materials and supplies 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Selling price

Respondents’ expectations for selling prices have improved slightly from last year, with 35 per cent expecting their selling prices to increase (up from 29 per cent last year). Just over half of respondents expect their selling prices to remain the same for the next 12 months, while a small per cent anticipate a decrease.

Respondents' expectations for their businesses' selling price over the next 12 months

Chart of respondents' expectations for their businesses' selling price over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Business profitability

In relation to the expected profitability the results have converged. More businesses are expecting profits to remain stable compared to previous years while fewer businesses feel profits will decrease. 

Respondents' expectations for the profitability of their businesses over the next 12 months 

Chart showing respondents' expectations of business profitability over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Cost of employing staff

Thirty five per cent of businesses indicated this question was not applicable.

Of those businesses where the question did apply, 48 and 45 per cent expected costs to stay the same or increase respectively, while a small number expected a decrease. 

Respondents' expectations for the cost of employing staff over the next 12 months

Chart showing respondents' expectations for the cost of employing staff over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Ability to find and retain suitable staff

In relation to finding suitable staff, 36 per cent of businesses indicated this question was not applicable.

For those businesses where this question did apply, there was a slight lean towards expecting it be become more challenging to find suitable employees, however in comparison to previous years it is a fairly evenly spread. 

Respondents' expectations for the ease at which their businesses will find new employees over the next 12 months

Chart showing respondents' expectations for the ease at which their business will find new employees over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

In relation to retaining suitable staff, 34 per cent of businesses indicated this question was not applicable.

For those businesses where this question did apply, most expected the ease of retaining suitable staff to remain unchanged in 2017.

Respondents' expectations for their ability to retain suitable staff over the next 12 months

Chart showing respondents' expectations for their ability to retain suitable staff over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Expected changes to the business

Each year, respondents are asked what changes they anticipate making to their businesses over the coming 12 months. They can select as many options as they like. In a stark contrast to last year, 23 per cent of business plan to increase their customer base, while exploring new markets (18 per cent), updating equipment and technology (11 per cent) and employing more staff (9 per cent) were also popular responses. 

Respondents' expected changes to their business over the next 12 months

Chart of respondents' expected changes to their business over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respondents were asked to elaborate further where they were planning to update existing equipment and technology. Comments included changes such as upgrading physical equipment (eg. gardening tools, woodworking equipment, printing equipment), increasing the use of teleconferencing, introducing mobile solutions and moving into the digital market, investing in improved computers and point-of-sale equipment, updating computer software and improving website systems and processes.

Respondents could also select ‘other’ and were asked to provide further details. Other reported business changes included sub-contracting professional expertise, moving from a home business to a shop, re-branding the website, and drawing down on debt owing.

9. Challenges for 2017

Survey respondents were asked what their top three challenges for 2017 will be. The results indicate that the main challenges respondents expected to face will be attracting new customers (13 per cent), increased competition (10 per cent), increased operating costs (9 per cent) and, in a marked rise from 2016, nine per cent expected the current economic climate will be one of their top four challenges.

Respondents' anticipated challenges for their business over the next 12 months

Chart of respondents' expected challenges to their business over the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Additional comments

Respondents were given the opportunity to comment more generally about their business expectations for the year ahead, with some of the comments outlined below.

“2017 will be affected by a continuation of ongoing stagnation and with minimal growth - both in Australia, and overseas”

“Although I expect the general economy to continue to stagnate (and possibly deteriorate further), my business expectations for my own business are buoyant.”

“This year, we hope to find the correct financial advice which can guide us in the right direction to be able to be competitive and achieve and sustain a moderate growth rate”

“I think the last twelve months have been extremely tight but I believe we are over the worst and looking forward to a steady rise in work opportunities and revenue”

“Local Government is continually changes their perception of what is required for new building and upgrades.”

“Major concern is for better access to suitable internet and communication services when operating a business in a rural area.  Cost is much greater than similar service in metro area, and service is second rate, intermittent access, delayed responses and call outs.”

“State payroll tax is impacting our business and we have had to not replace staff as they leave to try and reduce wage costs. Deregulation of trading hours is also looming all the time which will negatively impact our business and definitely cause a downsize to our business.”

“We are looking to expand in Australia and internationally plus introduce two new business lines so our biggest challenge is managing the expansion while maintaining a high standard of delivery for existing clients and managing cash flow.”

If you would like to participate in future surveys please contact us.