New research reveals top challenges NZ small businesses face

Finding and winning new customers and balancing work, life and the books are top challenges for New Zealand small businesses, according to new research we’re announcing today.

We ran an online survey in April 2017 to help us define the focus topics of The Meeting Room, and were delighted that over 1,000 of our BizRewards account holders responded. Nearly nine out of ten people who took part (88%) were from small businesses (i.e. with 19 paid employees or less).

Pejman Okhovat, CEO of Warehouse Stationery, said: “The people who took part in our survey made evident the issues they struggle with every day. These issues may impede the growth of their businesses, their enjoyment of business life and their ability to fulfil their ambitions. NZ small businesses in particular are the engine room of our economy, so we all have a vested interest in helping them succeed. That’s the main aim of The Meeting Room.”

The work-life balance challenge

When asked about the personal challenges they faced in business, half of the respondents to this question (51%) selected work-life balance. This was clearly the most common concern, followed by time management (41%), which is of course central to ensuring work doesn’t take over the rest of your life.

“Juggling children and work”, “not enough hours in the day” and “workload extremes” were some of the comments respondents made about this important challenge. These statements highlight reasons why this sought-after balance is elusive for so many.

Commenting on these findings, Pejman said: “The results show that a good work-life balance is both a priority and a challenge to many New Zealanders in business. I have a demanding role, so am in the same boat, but have learned a thing or two about time management over the course of my career. So if you’re looking for help in this area, I have a blog on the site which outlines my approach to maintaining a healthy balance.”

The research revealed that other top personal challenges were upskilling (29%), managing others (21%) and finding external support, such as a business mentor (20%).

New business development most likely to cause pain

Finding or winning new customers was the top business pain point, with over one in three respondents to this question finding it a struggle now (37%). Awareness of, and compliance with, relevant regulations (35%) came a close second.

Next was recruiting the right people, a current pain point for almost a third (31%). To help in this area, the Warehouse Group’s recruitment manager, Matt Bartlett, has started a series of blogs. His first is on how to find the ideal candidate, which includes a template – free to download – for building a candidate profile.


The other two pain points in the top five were general legal issues (27%), such as contracts, and financial management, which over one quarter (27%) said they were grappling with at the moment.

Shane Lines, co-owner of online children’s clothes store, Jed and Tilly, said:

“When you’re starting out in business like we are, everything is exciting but hard. There is so much to do just to get set up, and while you’re doing this you know you’re not growing the business.  Anything that makes things easier or helps you save time and be more effective is very welcome.”

You wished you knew more about…accounting

When asked what they wish they’d known about before they went into business, half of the respondents to this question said accounting and finances (49%). On The Meeting Room, Sue De Bievre, CEO of accounting firm Beany, has already started sharing her expert advice on these topics. Her first blogs are on financial planning and buying a business.

Accounting and finances was followed by:

  • marketing and advertising (39%),
  • business development (38%),
  • technology (33%) and
  • relevant regulations (25%).

On regulations, health and safety compliance was cited numerous times in the comments section of this question.

Interestingly, when people were asked what they wish they knew more about now, the same top five appeared, just in a slightly different order (accounting was still number one, of course). This suggests that these knowledge gaps persist and that these topic areas need special attention on The Meeting Room.

Pejman also said: “With The Meeting Room, we want to help alleviate pain points and address information needs with relevant ideas, advice and tools provided by a mix of experts, some of whom are listed on the site's Partners + Others page. In doing so we hope to help business people improve their work-life balance, enhance their workplace or fulfill their ambitions.”