SME owners find the positives in the sharing economy

The sharing economy is often held up as a big, bad threat to small business – but more are feeling positively about it than negatively about it.

According to our latest Business Monitor release, 75 percent of businesses felt neither positively about the likes of Uber and Airbnb or negatively about them. However, more said it was a positive than a negative.

18 percent of all SMEs said the sharing economy was a positive, with 71 percent of franchisors and 41 percent of franchisees the most optimistic about it.

Only 7 percent said the sharing economy was having a negative impact on their business.

MYOB Chief Technical Advisor Simon Raik-Allen said the positivity of SME owners showed that the sharing economy was creating value, rather than eroding it.

“This is a genuine area of growth and innovation in Australia – these new approaches are clearly creating their own markets,” he said.

“We’re starting to see a real buzz among our customers around outsourcing as well, so I’d be expecting growth in the virtual assistant and social and website management areas as operators increase their online operations.”

SME owners also appear to not be overly threatened by the pace of technological change, with three in five saying it was “about right”.

Gen Y (13 percent) and Gen X (14 percent) were the most relaxed about technological change.

Overall, the results paint a picture of SME owners actively engaging with the future rather than being threatened by it, but there is still enormous scope for digitising their businesses.

52 percent don’t have a website

While SME owners were embracing the future, MYOB found that just a shade under half (48 percent) had a website, which is up from 43 percent in the previous Business Monitor.

However, there appears to be a split between Gen Y and traditionalists when it comes to their digital presence.

We found 75 percent of Gen Y respondents and 66 percent of Gen X respondents were likely to have a web presence, in contrast to those over 70 with just 29 percent likely to have an online footprint.

The more than half of SMEs which don’t have websites have a great opportunity to get online.

Those who did have a website saw the main advantages of doing so as:

  • Generating more customer enquiries or leads in general (46 percent)
  • Enabling them to have a more professional brand image (44 percent)
  • Making it easier to do business (40 percent)

Elsewhere in the Business Monitor, we found that retail and hospitality businesses were leading the way when it came to digitising their payments.

44 percent said they are most likely to accept digital payments such as EFTPOS, ApplePay, PayPal or a mobile app – against the average of 28 percent.

Raik-Allen said it was heartening to see an increasing number get onto the digital payments bandwagon.

“We know that late payments and cash flow are an ongoing concern for SMEs so it’s great to see businesses discovering the immediate benefits of digital payments, which deliver funds quickly and securely,” he said.

32 percent of SME owners surveyed also said they were using an online accounting and bookkeeping solution.