Businesses are vocal but not necessarily in agreement 

While reviewing the Business SA William Buck Survey of Expectations, Jamie McKeough reflects on the significant increase in commentary from the South Australian business community for the September quarter.

“We would usually see a far lower volume of comments. However, there were significantly more comments from across the range of questions, particularly around COVID-19. This increase tells me that business owners have a lot to say, and they’re not all in agreement either.

“When considering these comments against the changes announced in COVID-19 recovery roadmap that the State Government released last week, businesses want more certainty in the future.

“Whilst borders opening up on 23rd November will be welcomed by the 66% who said the border closure was impacting their business, there is still uncertainty for business. It doesn’t make sense to leave the decisions around staff and customer vaccinations to each business to navigate. 54% of businesses support mandatory vaccinations for their industry, while 33% do not. As for employers making vaccinations compulsory, there was a 4-way split between ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘unsure’, and ‘waiting for the government to mandate’. Clarity, or at least guidelines from the government, would be beneficial.”

“These are emotive decisions which only cause more significant pressure on business owners.

“And in the September quarter, the mental health of their workforce was in the top few issues keeping business owners awake at night. We shouldn’t be making this worse by increasing the pressure on them.

“From the survey, we know that labour shortage is the top issue keeping business owners awake at night for the September quarter, followed by profitability, sales, and mental wellbeing in the workplace. When we ran this question a year ago, it was sales, labour shortages and competition.

“Now it is the cost of materials, the availability of materials and the cost of logistics that is adding to business costs. When I read the comments from the business community in the September survey, there was definitely a shift in concerns.

“It was great to see increasing business confidence in the September quarter. However, I balance this out with continued concerns about labour shortages and a continued slide of business conditions. These two elements are likely connected, though, and our clients here at William Buck have indeed confirmed that it remains challenging to get the right skilled workers.

“An emerging pressure that we can see coming through the SOBE across multiple quarters is this difficulty to get the right people. As a result, if your existing labour force has to do more, business owners are only going to continue worrying about the mental health of their workplace.

“Whilst we haven’t had extended lockdowns like our eastern state colleagues, we have still felt the pressure of this prolonged period of uncertainty and increased work demands during covid.

“We have many opportunities here in South Australia post-covid, including the immediate opportunity we have while NSW and Victoria are coming out of the extended lockdowns. It will take these states some time to gain momentum, giving nimble South Australian businesses a competitive advantage.

“We need to play to our strength of being a fantastic place to live and work. The lifestyle here in South Australia is a massive appeal to returning ex-pats, international students and migrants.

“Our local tourism sector should maintain the push for domestic tourism even once the borders open up as many South Australians are now discovering more gems around their own state.

“Despite the challenges, there have been agile businesses that have turned this global pandemic into business opportunity. It is these lessons that we need to share and turn into permanent improvements to our businesses”.

To read the full report, please click here.

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By Jamie McKeough, Chair and Managing Director

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