These shocking statistics on cash flow show how incredibly stressful life can be for Australian small businesses

Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Hanging out your “shingle”, running your own business, and being master of your domain sounds like a great goal to many Australians. But increasingly it’s looking like being a small business owner comes with a set of challenges and stresses that lead to a big drop in personal wellbeing.

That’s the finding of Commonwealth Bank Small Business Study which summarise the responses of 500 small business owners.

While the survey was interested in finding out SMEs’ approach to and take-up of technology its findings show that other business stresses are getting in the way of technological progress at a small business level.

Like the recent MYOB survey of SMEs, the CBA said “cash flow remains a stress factor, with half of the respondents opting to not pay themselves a wage one or more times in the past year as a result of cash flow issues”.

There’s also heavy use of personal funds and credit cards to manage cashflow, the CBA said.

The survey showed 32% dipped into their own accounts while 44% use credit cards “as their primary tool to manage cash flow, working capital and business investment”.

The trouble with that, according to the CBA, is it then leads “80 per cent of small businesses [to] delay the adoption of technology offering long-term benefits, despite more than half (58 per cent) claiming to have a good personal knowledge and understanding of technology”.

It seems it’s a question of time as much as money though.

Karen Last, general manager small business, Commonwealth Bank said: “A significant number of small businesses are reluctant to implement data analytics due to cost, or they believe it has limited value, or belongs in the ‘too-hard’ basket.”

The survey showed that 44% of respondents “think they do not spend enough time on personal wellbeing and development – an interesting statistic considering one in two claim looking after themselves is crucial to ensuring productivity”.

That sounds a bit like a chicken and egg argument in some respects. But it’s a crucial one.

In the release that accompanied the survey, the CBA quoted behavioural scientist, Dr Johann Ponnampalam, who noted that “compromised wellbeing and stress often leads to poor decision making, inhibits creativity and increases status quo thinking”.

So it’s no surprise then he said that “stressed out small business owners are failing to recognise the benefits offered by new digital and analytic technologies”.

If only they could find that elusive time and money.

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