Are Kiwi entrepreneurs putting lifestyle ahead of ambition?

  • Breaking
  • 22/04/2015

Many of us worry about whether we are getting the work lifestyle balance right. It seems it is not just staff who are concerned, but many bosses as well.

That's based on the findings from the Westpac 2015 Grow New Zealand survey of almost 1200 small and medium sized businesses (with turnover of between $250,000 and $5,000,000 per year).

Westpac says just over 30 percent have experienced positive growth, up 12 percent from 2011, and the number who are experiencing tough times is down 6 percent to 20 percent. 

However, it says the improved economic position did not change investment intentions with there being little to no change around expanding businesses, maintaining the size of the business, or looking to sell.

Westpac chief executive David McLean observed that "the lifestyle mentality many SME owners have toward their business was a key driver behind the lack of enthusiasm for growth. Underlining this, 31 percent said the biggest block to growth was their desire to maintain work/life balance or retire - a 10 percent increase on 2011."

"The economy is going better than 2011 and prospects are good, but for many SMEs the improved conditions are the cream on the lifestyle cake rather than looking to grow or expand," Mr McLean said.

"Trying to encourage our SME owners to invest for growth and to be bold is important to the country given their role in our economy."

It's what's known as the three Bs mentality - the desire for the bach, the boat and the Beemer.

The desire for a better work lifestyle balance contrasts with the United States where for many entrepreneurs the idea of time off seems unthinkable. But it could be a sign that New Zealand companies have come out of the Global Financial Crisis better than most.

The chairman of the Productivity Commission Murray Sherwin said "The Westpac survey results indicate that NZ SME business owners are intending to prioritise improved work life balance considerations ahead of investing in technology and business change. This comes at a time when NZ's productivity performance has been running ahead of most other countries as NZ has weathered the GFC better than others."

Business and Technology

The survey looked at business owners' attitudes towards embracing new technology.

Westpac found that 42 percent intend to invest in their business . But "fewer SMEs than four years ago are looking to invest in their business over the next three years by developing new products, increasing sales, increasing marketing or hiring staff."

Local companies are adopting digital technologies but Westpac says "few appear to have restructured their businesses to suit the new world. They were asked about the impact of digital technology on their business over the last five years and in the short term future. The lack of impact over the last five years is surprising while they are also not confident about securing the right staff to capitalise on it."

Westpac Chief Economist Dominick Stephens said "In the United States, productivity gains have been made by altering business structures to suit the new technological reality. There doesn't seem to be as much pressure for New Zealand firms to adapting quite as quickly."

Westpac's survey found that nearly one third said digital technology has had no impact over the last five years and 27 percent expected it to have no impact over the next five years. They are also only using smartphones, tablets and social media in a rudimentary way while 38 percent are unsure what is needed or how to obtain the right staff or training to use digital technologies.

Productivity Commission Chairman Murray Sherwin said “we still have low productivity generally and technology is a key factor in increasing that. New Zealand businesses, with some exceptions, either lack the skills and understanding of ICT or are reluctant to change their business model to get the most out of new technology.”

The Dollar

The talk of a parity party again proved premature. The Kiwi dollar has fallen below 99 Australian cents.  That was after the release of Australia's latest inflation numbers, which suggest Australia's Reserve Bank will not be rushing to make another cut to interest rates.

Australia's headline inflation rate was 1.3 percent. It would have been 2.2 percent if not for a slump in petrol prices. It was a fraction higher than expected but broadly in line with the Reserve Bank of Australia's own expectations of interest rates, which it thinks will be in the middle of its target range by mid-2017.

The markets believe that there is now little urgency for the Reserve Bank of Australia to make another cut to the cash rate. The complication to this idea though is that the RBA may be so worried about the fall in iron ore prices that it decides an interest rate cut is needed anyway.

A rates cut in Australia would make New Zealand's higher rates even more attractive to offshore investors looking for a better return on their money.

Interest Rates

The Reserve Bank's Assistant Governor, John McDermott, gives a speech in Hamilton at lunch-time about interest rates.

The speech comes just a week before the Bank will review the Official Cash Rate.  Next week's review is one of those where the Bank does not hold a media briefing. Instead it puts out a one page statement.  Because John McDermott is giving a speech he will have more room to outline the Bank's thinking on interest rates, not just right now, but where rates are likely to be months from now. So the economists and currency traders will analyse the written notes in detail.

Could it lift the Kiwi again back over 99 Australian cents ? It's trading at just over 98-and-a-half cents right now.

On Monday the latest New Zealand inflation stats came out. The March quarter CPI figure fell 0.3 percent. This lowered New Zealand's annual inflation rate to 0.1 percent, from 0.8 percent in the previous quarter. It was slightly below market expectations of a 0.2 percent decline for the quarter.

The lower inflation number encouraged talk that rates might be cut sooner rather than later. But the CPI was not as weak as the Reserve Bank was expecting. So perhaps the speech will be a chance for the Bank to make clear it has no plans to move rates up or down for some time ?

Google Rises

Stocks rose about half a percent on Wall Street, helped by technology stocks.

Google led the way, unveiling a new low-cost wireless phone service. Dubbed "Project Fi," it will costs around US$20 a month for the basic service and charges customers for the amount of data they use. The low-cost plan puts the internet search giant into competition with AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Google's stock rose 1 percent, to $539.35.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 88 points, or 0.5 percent, at 18,037.

McDonald's rose 3 percent. Its sales have continued to fall, but its earnings were better than expected.

Boeing has reported higher profit and revenue for the first quarter. But the aircraft maker's sales missed estimates, while costs climbed for its 787 Dreamliner. Boeing dropped 2 percent by the close of trading.

source: newshub archive