Time to thrive or survive as economic alarm bells ring for SMEs

With business growth further challenged as economic and business conditions fluctuate, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) must avoid ‘survival mode’ and rethink their business approach to thrive in an unsteady and competitive market, according to The Executive Connection.

The comment comes as The Reserve Bank rings alarm bells over the state of the economy; citing high export costs and the threat of rising interest rates as it strengthened its commercial warning1. NAB’s latest Monthly Business Survey2 also reports varying business conditions across different industries have prompted business confidence to drop 2 points in September, bringing business conditions to its lowest level in four months.

“Uncertain economic conditions and the ability to access capital present SMEs with a challenging business environment. CEOs must rethink their current business model to find new ways to grow and thrive in a competitive and unsteady market,” says Stephanie Christopher, CEO, The Executive Connection.

Some CEOs across Australia are already ahead of the curve with research from the world’s largest CEO network, The Executive Connection, revealing that members who seek access to a combination of peer-to-peer support, strategic mentoring and practical learning from subject experts, are financially outperforming their peers by an average of 10 percentage points.

The research compares the business performance of The Executive Connection’s member organisations with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) analysis of all Australian SMEs3.

The results reveal that while Australian SMEs experienced an average downturn of 3.87 per cent in their financial performance in FY2013, members of The Executive Connection experienced an average 6.46 per cent increase in revenue in the same period.

The findings suggest that connecting with peers and experienced mentors, coupled with practical learning from subject experts in innovation, sales and technology, offers executives the opportunity to proactively drive their own business growth.

“In today’s challenging environment, the day to day management of running an enterprise can often leave business leaders feeling isolated, undermining their confidence. CEOs and business owners are faced with daily make-or-break decisions that could have significant implications on their business; and many feel they are making these big calls in a vacuum.

“By connecting with peers from different industries, and experienced mentors who understand their challenges and opportunities, business leaders gain new perspective; finding new ways to grow, innovate, continue to learn and in turn, elevate their business to the next level,” says Ms Christopher.

Through the network, members of The Executive Connection can connect with over 1,000 CEOs across Australia and New Zealand, and over 18,000 CEOs around the world. The Executive Connection’s Chairs are experienced executives who lead peer advisory groups and provide strategic, relevant guidance for members to support their professional and personal goals.

“Fostering environments where business leaders can broaden their thinking and seek the counsel they need to transform and grow their business, as well as their own professional careers, is essential to ensuring CEOs and the businesses they lead can thrive in an increasingly challenging market,” concludes Ms Christopher.

1Reserve Bank of Australia, Financial Stability Review, September 2014

2NAB Monthly Business Survey, September 2014

3The Executive Connection surveyed 188 Australian member organisations with up to 200 employees about their financial and employment performance for FY2012 and FY2013. The results were compared to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) analysis of small-to-medium enterprise performance during the same period (ABS 8155.0). Results were weighted according to industry representation to ensure validity of results.