3-Minute Small Business Survey Results

At Peer Business Consulting, we want to know about the challenges facing business owners. We want to know what you think, what keeps you up at night and what you need to grow and run successful businesses. So we decided to go straight to the source.

In late 2015, Peer Business Consulting conducted a short survey. This is a summary of what we found.

Survey questions

Business owners are busy. So we kept our survey short and sweet. We asked respondents the following three questions:

Q1. What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing startups and small businesses in Australia?

The options from which the respondents could select (only one) included non-existent or inefficient strategy/business planning, business management experience, cashflow management, staff management or time/workflow management.

Q2. Rank the following factors in order of most important to least important for the success of YOUR business?

The factors were:

  • A good business plan or strategy
  • Smooth revenue inflow with a healthy sales pipeline
  • Keeping operating costs low
  • Delegating or outsourcing non-strategic work or non-core business activities, and
  • Competent management team and staff.

Q3. Rate (from most useful to least useful) the following types of assistance that are available to startups and small businesses.

The types of assistance included government assistance programs, online blogs and articles, group training courses, one to one small business coaching, intense business programs, and others.


Can't see the light-peer-business-consulting

Survey participants

We invited everyone in our network of connections, including subscribers to our newsletter and LinkedIn contacts, as well as clients and prospects. The organisations invited included small and medium businesses, who offer products and services in a broad spectrum of industries.

Survey results

The biggest challenge

The survey found:

  • Half the respondents (50%) thought that not enough experience in running a business was the biggest challenge facing small businesses today. A third (33%) felt it was insufficient or non-existent strategy/business planning and the rest (17%) believed insufficient revenue or poor cashflow management was the major contributor.
  • Interestingly, difficulties with appointing and/or managing staff and poor time management did not rank at all, although one respondent cited the biggest challenge was the overwhelming amount of work to do.

Factors leading to business success

Survey respondents ranked the five factors for good business as follows:

  1. A good business plan or strategy
  2. Smooth revenue inflow with a healthy sales pipeline
  3. Competent management team and staff
  4. Delegating or outsourcing non-strategic work or non-core business activities, and
  5. Keeping operating costs low.

Most useful assistance channels for small business

From most useful to least useful, respondents ranked the assistance channels in the following order, based on their own experience:

  1. One to one coaching with a business consultant/coach and other subject matter experts, such as sales, marketing, SEO specialists, etc.
  2. Online blogs and articles targetted at startups and SMEs, e.g. Flying Solo, LinkedIn Pulse, Expert360 blog or Peer Business Consulting blog.
  3. Group training courses offered by small business associations, such as NSW Business Chamber, SHE Business, The Lounge by Modewest, etc.
  4. Intense business programs, such as Key Person of Influence or New Rules of Business, which teach business owners to manage all aspects of their business, usually over a prolonged period, e.g. 6-12 months.
  5. Government assistance programs offering small business information guides, templates, links and workshops, e.g.

It should be noted that the scores achieved by channels 3 and 4 were almost equal.

In summary


We found these results interesting and can make some general conclusions:

  • The things that keep business owners awake at night most include business planning, smooth revenue inflows and getting the right information/learning to enable them to run their business.
  • Respondents most value one to one business coaching and free online resources over group learning.
  • Although appointing and managing staff did not rank as a major challenge for business owners, a competent team ranked third in the factors leading to a successful business. This may show that the respondents feel they have a good handle on this important aspect of their business.
  • Cashflow management was the second biggest challenge for business owners. Cashflow management is about both inflows and outflows. Operating costs ranked last in the factors leading to a successful business, which indicates that businesses place more importance on consistency of inflows rather than managing outflows per se.

Our recommendations

Based on these results, we suggest:

  • You don’t need to lose sleep over your lack of business experience. Get educated. Set aside an hour a week for your personal and skills development. Stop learning and start dying. Check out our blog articles on good learning resources and tools and resources for your small business.
  • Creating a business strategy or plan doesn’t have to be so difficult. We can help. Just contact us. Or search our many blog articles on business planning, like this one.
  • Cashflow management is stressful but good business practice is manage both sides of the equation, i.e. inflows and outflows. So here are 28 ways to manage your cash.
  • Each person responds to different ways to get help with their business. One to one consulting is an excellent way to get a tailored service which addresses your specific issues. However we suggest you don’t overlook resources provided by the Government. Our recent favourites are the ATO tax basics for small business and

So there you have it. Our Small Business Survey results. We hope you’ve found this useful and if not useful, at least interesting. Do these results ring true for you? Do your answers to these questions differ from our respondents? We’d love to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below.

* Image sourced from Death to the Stock Photo.

Peer-Business-Consulting-Angeline-Zaghloul-5What did you think of this article? Post your comments and questions below. And if you found this useful, please share with your networks.

About the Author: Angeline Zaghloul is an expert in business strategy, client management and business processes, and is the Principal of Peer Business Consulting, a Sydney-based consultancy providing strategy and operations support to startups and SMEs. Angeline also publishes a regular blog which provides research, advice and tips on key issues facing businesses.

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