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SMB

Are you part of the SMB trends for online activity?

Before reading the statistics below, think about your online activity as a small business.

Are you using online activities more or less than last financial year?

Have your online activities changed in the last year? For instance, are you using Twitter more and Facebook less?

Do you use social media more or less than your competitors?

How important is your website to your business and gaining new clients?

All good questions that can help you assess your time and marketing efforts, and make decisions about budgets and software needs.

So what are other SMBs doing online?

This post was inspired by two different sets of data – mainly because they are so different.

According to MYOB’s July 2012 Business Monitor Survey, online transactions, email marketing and social media use have all dropped during the last quarter.

On the other hand, the Sensis eBusiness Report (August 2012) shows an increase in social media and website use by SMBs over the year.

Interesting isn’t it?

Were the surveys so different or has the last quarter thrown the overall pattern for the year?

Social media use

From the Sensis report, I can tell you that…

41% of medium businesses use social media

27% of small businesses use social media

68% of SMBs in cultural, recreational and personal services sectors use social media

21% of SMBs monitor and update their social media presence daily, with 39% doing it at least weekly

For those on social media, the breakdown is:

usage trend graph for social media

Social media usage move up and down

  • 86% Facebook
  • 32% Twitter
  • 25% LinkedIn
  • 12% blog
  • 5% YouTube
  • 4% Google +
  • 2% MySpace
  • 1% Pinterest

Do you spend most of your social media time in Facebook or Twitter? I know I do!

The MYOB report showed that…

5% of SMBs used Twitter compared to 6% in March quarter

15% of SMBs connected via Facebook, YouTube or Google + – it was 18% in March

19% Victorian SMBs (the biggest social media state apparently!) used social media compared to 24% in March

 Websites and online transactions

Like MYOB’s spokesperson, I am glad to see an increase in the number of SMBs with a website – 38% now have a site compared to only 36% in March (interestingly it was 40% when I posted about this in April 2009).

Yet only 24% of SMBs use search engine optimisation to promote their business (it was 31% in March). How much time and effort do you put into SEO and keeping your website fresh and valuable?

72% of SMBs with a website said the website improved the business’ effectiveness – a 4% increase for the last year.

Look at these drops found by MYOB:

  • accepting clients’ payments online dropped from 25% to 19%
  • running email marketing campaigns dropped 26% to 24%
  • buying products/services online dropped 37% to 24%

What impact do such drops have on your business?

With the trends – or not?

So is your business like the majority or minority of SMBs in Australia?

Can you make use of this data to make improvements to your business and your marketing strategy?

Just to confirm, I am on social media…

Tash & Word Constructions on Twitter          Word Constructions on LinkedIn             Tash & Word Constructions on Facebook

Are annual reports just for big business?

What do you think of when you hear about an annual report?

If you’re like most people, you think of thick, boring document produced by big business each year, sent out to shareholders who never read them. And there is a certain amount of truth to that, too.

Annual report rules

If you’re new to business, you may suddenly wonder about annual reports – and if there are any rules meaning you have to produce one, too.

The good news for SMBs is that annual reports are not mandatory for every business. However, once you register as a company you may have to produce annual financial reports (which is usually presented as an annual report).

You may also need to produce some sort of annual report if it is stated in your constitution, deed, financial agreement or other controlling document.

Generally speaking, the rules apply to the financial information you must include; the remaining information is an account of the business for the prior 12 months and is often determined by the company itself or the associated industry standards.

Creating an annual reportAnnual report cover for SMB

So if you don’t have to prepare an annual report, can you?

Yes, any business can prepare an annual report – and add whatever you like to it if you are doing it voluntarily!

A good annual report is a mix of general information, financial information and marketing. It is used by people to decide if they want to invest with the business – whether that means a direct investment as a shareholder or as a client – or even be associated with the business (such as an employee adviser or supplier).

Having an annual report certainly adds an air of professionalism and credibility to any business, and you can limit the financial information if you wanted.

On the other hand, it can be time-consuming and expensive to produce an annual report so it’s not something to be taken lightly.

For a business that doesn’t have to produce an annual report, do you think there is much value in doing so? Would you consider creating one for your business?

 

Do you think SMBs need better management?

I think small businesses (overall) are productive and working hard. Do you agree?

Economist with Treasury, David Gruen, is quoted as stating otherwise yesterday – and this has angered a lot of SMBs.

Amongst other things, he said that “family-run businesses tend to exhibit inferior management performance” and that having many small business in manufacturing impacts on Australia’s productivity because multi-nationals “tend to implement strong management practices”.

Business size and management

Note he is actually discussing results of a report showing that Australian managers ranked lower than those in many other nations, especially in people management. And that this same report showed lower managements standards in smaller companies – although only medium and large companies were studied, not small or micro businesses.

I would like a comparison done that includes small and micro businesses as well – maybe we buck the trend and are managed better than medium businesses?

Better management leads to more productivity and innovation, so management is important.

statistics for Australian small business

I like this quote from Gruen:

A  healthy economy allows experimentation by small start-ups with bright ideas, which may tend to have low productivity on average but which are likely to either exit, or improve and grow rapidly over time. It sees labour move over time towards higher productivity firms as they gain market share and away from lower productivity firms.

So Gruen was quoting from a report. If we assume the report was conducted well and reported accurately, there seems to be evidence of better management in bigger companies.

From your own experience, would you agree with that? Does your answer change if you ignore businesses with under 100 employees?

Maybe we can improve SMB management?

Instead of assuming Gruen is anti-SMBs, perhaps we can look at how we manage our SMBs and learn from the multi-nationals.

Take a constructive approach to improve our businesses, even if we don’t think the big guys have it right.

The main areas I can think of for improving SMB management are:

  1. having more written procedures to ensure consistency and efficiency
  2. outsourcing tasks to give back time for better management – or maybe go the whole way and outsource some management as well!
  3. making time to learn more – whether by reading more widely or attending seminars or doing actual courses. And keeping to that committment

In his speech, Gruen gave another partial answer:

 The level of education and skills of both managers and non-managers is positively correlated with management performance.

Unfortunately I can’t find any figures to show how educated SMB and big business managers are. It makes a certain amount of sense that further education increases your skills, but there are of course exceptions of fantastic managers and business owners with very little education.

And it’s a bit hard to make SMBs get more educated when they’re in the middle of running a business or two!

So what is good management?

How can we as SMBs improve our management?

What management practices do big business use that we can learn from?

 

By the way, you can read the entire speech transcript from David Gruen. I have no personal opinion of him other than this speech but am glad I looked it up rather than just relying on the second-hand report I first read. Anybody can sound bad with words taken out of context.