Friday, October 18, 2013

Exporters & importers enjoy better business despite several pressures

An MYOB study of small to medium business operators who import or export goods and services suggests they enjoy better business than their peers. This is despite reporting higher dissatisfaction with work-life balance and feeling more pressure from SME's most common business pain points.

More than half of the exporters and importers surveyed saw either increased or steady revenue in the 12 months to August, at 57% each. The best news was revenue growth, reported by 24% of exporters and 20% of importers versus 18% of SME overall. Those reporting revenue loss was similar across each group, at 40%, 41% and 39%.

Further, exporters and importers were more confident of short-term economic improvement. 33% and 31% respectively believed Australia's economy will improve within 12 months, compared to 23% of SME. One reason may be that 50% and 39% respectively had more work/sales than usual in their short-term pipeline (versus 28%).

Despite this, revenue expectations were not as positive among exporters and importers. 30% of the former and 31% of the latter were expecting a revenue fall in the 12 months to August 2014 versus 22% of SME overall. Around one quarter were expecting annual revenue to rise (25%, 23% and 25%).

MYOB general manager enterprise division Andrew Birch said: "Australia's two-way trade in goods and services was worth more than $616 billion in 2012. Our research indicates that likely has risen since, but forward projections show a lack of confidence. With today's digital economy intensifying the need for business owners to be more competitive in their offering, it's important exporters and importers leverage opportunities to differentiate and broaden their scope.

"Strengthening their market position and competitive advantage can be achieved through moves such as boosting expertise in a niche market, providing extra value to secure for margin increases, and lifting productivity through refreshed systems and processes. Even simple business management software and hardware upgrades can result in improved efficiencies, team engagement and cash flow, to create a platform for executing growth strategies."

Dissatisfaction with work-life balance higher among exporters/importers

Interestingly, exporters and importers were more dissatisfied with their work-life balance (32% each versus 23% of SME). However, they were more likely to be 'very satisfied' (17% and 16% versus 12%). In terms of overall work-life balance satisfaction they weren't far behind – 47% of exporters, 48% of importers and 50% of SME.

Most common pain points have more impact on importers

The MYOB Business Monitor found importers felt more pressure from fuel prices, cash flow and price margins and/or profitability – the top pressure points for the SME sector – than exporters and SME overall. Interestingly, exporters felt less pressure from prices margins and/or profitability compared to importers and SME overall.

Customer retention strategies a top priority for exporters/importers

In terms of intended investment of time and/or money across various business elements over the following 12 months, the areas most likely to see an increase were:


Customer retention strategies – 41%
Sale of products/services online – 37%
Amount paid to employees – 31%
Working with business advisers – 30%
Prices and margins on products/services sold – 29%
+ Number or variety of products/services – 29%


Customer retention strategies – 42%
Customer acquisition strategies – 37%
Number or variety of products/services – 33%
Sale of products/services online – 32%
Prices and margins on products/services sold – 29%

While customer retention strategies also topped the list for the SME sector overall, subsequent priorities differed somewhat. The top five for SME overall were:

Customer retention strategies – 35%
Customer acquisition strategies – 30%
The number or variety of products or services offered by the business – 24%
Prices and margins on the products or services sold – 23%
Amount paid to employees – 20%

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