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Small Business New Zealand on NBR

New small biz advice platform aimed at ‘filling the gaps’

Adviser Philip Wicks has created Small Business NZ aimed mainly at companies generating under $5m in sales a year.

With businesses past the worst Covid disruption caused by lockdowns in 2020, sites and services offering support to the SME sector continue to flourish – but they fail to properly support businesses making under $5 million take the next steps towards substantial growth, says one Cambridge-based business advisor.

Philip Wicks, director of national advisory firm BSP, said he noticed within his own clientele that although there was a slew of information and resources "out there", they were not easily accessible in one place and favoured the theoretical and ephemeral rather than "real world" needs of small business.

He has pulled together a group of business consultants to launch an online support and education portal for this group he believes is often overlooked. The Small Business New Zealand (SBNZ) platform, launched this week, promises to be the “one place where members can go to solve any issue their business faces.

"For a small annual fee, SBNZ saves business owners time looking for the right template, resource or expert; and celebrates the value of small businesses in New Zealand and the hardworking Kiwis behind them.”

The service has been launched with sponsorship from Wicks’ own company BSP as well as leadership consultancies Adeption and Cultivating Leadership, which was formed by Harvard professor turned New Zealander Jennifer Garvey Berger and run by Philip Wicks’ brother Jim; the Accountants & Tax Agents Institute of NZ (ATAINZ), and IT firm Maus Business Systems. It is seeking other ‘quality’ providers to also join up.

Businesses pay $199 plus GST annually to sign up with the platform.

While there is a lot of information and resources about for small business, “there isn’t necessarily a lot of information about what I would call the ‘real world’-type things, like a [skills] matrix form [to track the skills base of an organisation] or even some financial templates – and even when it is there it is often not promoted,” Wicks said.

The need for access to a portal on which everything could be found was even more important during Covid, when various forms of help were available but few businesses were across the details, meaning many missed out on assistance they could have accessed, the SBNZ founder said.

“There’s a group of businesses that really hunger for this type of thing, because they have developed their businesses to a certain standard, and now really want information, programmes, and to deal with different types of people in different companies to compare experiences.”

Information Gap

Wicks says he started to notice over several years that businesses that may have begun with a “van and a couple of guys” had struggled when they got to the stage of having 20 staff or so, requiring more sophisticated HR and marketing skills for example. At the million-dollar turnover stage, their systems and processes start needing an overhaul, but not all companies have the time or budget to work with an advisor, which is often an intensive, one-on-one process over several months.

Leadership is also a huge issue, says Wicks, and so many businesses never get over a certain size (600-800k) because they are too reliant the owners.

From small beginnings, Wicks hopes to build a real community that will counter a real sense of isolation that many small business owners feel: “When I was in corporate, if I had an idea, I'd walk down the corridor would have a chat to somebody, but business owners don't always have that opportunity.

“The emotional part is very, very important, and part of what we're trying to do in creating this community is to be able to provide that, and it’s just the start – we’d like to add marketing, HR and health and safety experts but also support around mental health, because it is becoming such a big issue in our community as well.”

Small Business Data

The June Credit Indicator from Centrix suggested New Zealand SMEs were borrowing less, and business closures were down some 37% over the previous quarter, while company liquidations were also down 14% year-on-year.

The data suggests a level of resilience in businesses that had survived the initial chaotic Covid period, although company credit defaults were beginning to increase, especially in the building and hospitality sectors, which were experiencing the highest default rates since the final quarter of 2019.

Data from ABC Business Sales out today shows the average sales price for a hospitality business was $284,050, up 40% compared to the same time last year. Other businesses have increased just 8% in the same period.

ABC MD Chris Small said the increase in sales price was not down to demand from ‘vulture buyers’ but represented a genuine bounce back in confidence for hospitality businesses – albeit they were also coming off a very low base in 2021.

“The main drivers of demand for hospo businesses include strong return on investment – often more than 50% – as well as positive cashflows from day one, ie cash coming in prior to paying any bills,” he said.

“Plus with the renewed confidence of our borders now being open to all international visitors, the ‘certainty’ of no more lockdowns and potential buyers hearing about many hospo operators experiencing extensive waiting lists and not being able to keep up with demand, the appeal of these businesses is well and truly back on the rise.”

This is an abridged version of an article that was originally published in The National Business Review by Dita de Boni, on 2 August 2022. Republished with permission.


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