The COVID pandemic forced Australian small business owners to focus on what’s really important – for their own wellbeing, as well taking care of their people and their business. What does this new sense of clarity tell us about how owners want to work – and live – in 2022?
Even in the face of great uncertainty and challenge, thousands of new businesses opened their doors (whether physically or digitally) and started hiring last year. August 2021 ABS data showed a combined 13.2% year-on-year rise in the number of employing businesses with less than 19 employees.
The pandemic gave many people a chance to reflect on what really mattered to them – both professionally and personally. And starting a business, where they can invest their time and energy into their own vision, might be one way to stay focused on the things they care about.
As part of BizCover’s 2022 Small Business Bravery Report, which captured the thoughts of 1,327 respondents across 20 industries, business owners shared how that time of reflection has shaped what they will focus on this year.
An eye on the home front
As if running a small business wasn’t hard enough, the last few years added a level of intensity for business owners.
Lockdowns and social distancing dramatically cutting down on foot traffic. Supply chain issues holding up valuable materials, equipment and deliveries. The Great Resignation causing increased employee turnover. These hurdles and more led to long hours for many small business owners, while they quickly shifted their service offerings. 23% of business owners said they developed new products or services to meet market opportunities, and 17% developed new online solutions or adopted new technology.
This adaptability helped hundreds of businesses around Australia survive. But it came with a price. It meant less time for living everyday life – including sleeping, exercising and spending time with those who matter at home.
One small business owner shed some light on what many around Australia faced.
“I worked more than 80 hours a week, plus raised my family, ran the home and ran a side business in bookkeeping just to keep money coming in so we could keep our home,” they said. “I’ve worked hard all my life, and this was just another challenge – you knock me down five times, I get up six.”
Given this pressure, it’s not surprising that many owners took the opportunity to rethink their business purpose – and how they could make their business work for them, rather than the other way around.
Nearly half of the respondents (46%) said their top business goal for 2022 making more time for family and personal wellbeing. And more than a third (35%) said they wanted to spend 2022 improving professionally by learning and developing their own skills and abilities.
46% of small business owners plan to make more time for their family or personal wellbeing in 2022.
A third also said they want to spend more time doing what they love in their business (rather than admin), while 23% wanted to focus more on fulfilling their business’ underlying purpose.
A training service owner in Victoria experienced the benefits of doing exactly that in 2021.
“When I started being brave and looking at what made me feel energised, I realised I needed to say no to work that didn’t align with my business,” they said. “I also decided to be brave and say yes to work that I didn’t feel I was ready for yet. This bravery led to some of the most dynamic and interesting groups I would never have otherwise been able to work with. It wasn’t my most profitable year, but it was a huge year of learning and growth.”
Much of 2020 and 2021 were about doing whatever it took to keep the business afloat. But, after bravely fighting tooth and nail to overcome all the obstacles and challenges thrown their way, it’s clear that many small business owners are looking to get back to doing what makes them happy.
Looking for some certainty
When it comes to the biggest challenges facing small business owners in 2022, 40% pointed to external factors outside their control, such as climate change and future COVID responses. So it’s not surprising some respondents are looking for ways to take more control over their future.
One third of respondents said they wanted to find ways to feel more certain about the future, and 25% wanted to feel more in control of their decisions.
A more stable operating environment – and the right insurance – could provide greater certainty. Unfortunately, we saw a disconnect between the risks facing small business owners, and the coverage they’ve taken out.
Other owners are looking for stability in the longer-term. 12% said they want to make 2022 the year they sort out an exit strategy or succession plan for the business, while another 5% said they want to protect their legacy.
To succeed as a small business owner, you must have an unrelenting drive and belief in yourself, your team, and your product or service. But after months of sweating case numbers and wondering how each new lockdown restriction would impact the bottom line, many owners around Australia have realised life may be about more than the incomings and outgoings. And finding more balance inside and outside their business this year might help steel them for the challenges ahead.
To learn more about how Australian small business owners plan to recover and grow in 2022, download the 2022 Small Business Bravery Report.