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The Challenges That Come With Running A SME


In April this year, the Australian Government announced that it will be abolishing the Temporary Work (skilled) 457 visa, which will be replaced with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018. The announcement raised a lot of questions about the ability of Australian businesses to find capable employees.

SMEs often have more problems than a maths exam. From cash-flow management, to managing supplier relationships, running a SME requires an owner to wear a number of hats to get the job done.

The Biggest Challenge

One of the biggest challenges of the job, in terms of hiring and managing staff (alongside actually running a business) is finding capable employees. It’s a constant battle to find the right people to help run your small business. On top of that, you then need to have a strategy in place to build and maintain employee morale, and to ensure staff productivity remains at a top level. Who ever said running a business would be easy?!

If things go pear shaped, you then need to know how to effectively handle difficult employees, but also how to retain those employees who add real value to your business.

Finding the right person for the job also means competing against several external factors, such as direct competitors, and large corporations, who are all vying for the attention of top talent. This can seem like a battle lost before you’ve even begun as you think to yourself, “How can I possible compete against a large company to attract top employees?”. With already established brand recognition and access to larger budgets, it’s easy to see how this thought can gain momentum.

The Differentiating Factor

However, the simple fact that a business is a small to medium enterprise, can also be an enormous strength and advantage when attracting top talent; essentially, it all comes down to playing on your business’s strengths. For example, due to the flexibility of being a SME, the ability for employees to ‘fast-track’ their career progression can be a huge draw card for potential employees.

Make sure you display the unique culture you have within your business, and emphasise professional development opportunities, such as having closer proximity to the many different tasks and responsibilities that keep your small business running and successful.

So what do you do when you receive an application from someone which looks amazing on paper, only to have the interview flop? Or in other instances, what do you do when someone aces the interview, only to prove incompetent when it comes time to put their skills to the test? Perhaps you need to change your recruitment tactics…

Thinking Outside The Box

For some SME owners, networking can be a really successful way of picking out potential employees without having to commit as much as an interview would demand, for example. If you are working with others in your industry, you’ll also be able to create a name for your business and its reputation. You could potentially run into a candidate, and while they may not fit the criteria of what you are looking for, they may be a perfect fit for someone else, and by letting that business know, it’s likely the favour will be returned.

Overall, it’s an extremely important part of your business that you need to get right. What are your best tips for finding, and keeping, talented and hard-working employees?

This blog post is for general information purposes only and is not intended as financial or professional advice. It has not been prepared with reference to the financial circumstances of any particular person or business and should not be relied on as such. You should seek your own independent financial, legal and taxation advice before making any decision about any action in relation to the material in this article.


6 comments on “The Challenges That Come With Running A SME”

  1. Tony Cunningham says:

    Having run a number of SME’s, even if you’re looking for rare talent, the final criteria has always been on getting the person who best fits the team. Building the best talent and keeping it is all about the fit and everyone learns as the team grows. Happy employees will always shine brightest. In I.T the best tend to commune so that’s where you find them and believe me, there’s no shortage of premium local talent.

    1. Lauren says:

      Like your thinking, Tony. Perhaps a good tip for some SME’s would be to involve a staff member in the interview process so that as the final decision maker, you can gain the opinion of someone you trust. We do end up spending approximately 1700 hours per year with our colleagues after all!

  2. Ray says:

    The main challenge will come in the area of skilled trades people. We are simply not training enough apprentices. In all the disciplines. People with degrees appear to be more available. Very high levels of academic education is not the main shortage. We need more people who can use their hands. Diesel mechanics, fitters, electricians, instrument technicians and so on.

    1. Lauren O'Connor says:

      Skilled trades people are certainly our brick-and-mortar, and as a country with a growing population, apprenticeships are an integral part of positively impacting Australia’s employment rate. The question is, are there enough apprenticeships out there for the taking?

  3. Judy Higgins says:

    An interesting post when there are so many Australians unemployed or underemployed. It has been far too easy for compani9es to bring in staff on 457’s, so a change was well overdue. I agree that because of several factors relating to government policy and employer attitude apprentices and skilled trades people will be in short supply. The government has been warned of this situation for years.

  4. Robert says:

    Coming from the other side of the spectrum, the SME market does not always constitute the best in the brightest out of the region (or, perhaps, worldwide). Thus, taking risks with immigrant workers will always be a risk for small and medium organizations, as the global market does not immediately translate to Australian market success. This, there will always be a risk getting skilled workers abroad. However, companies who do hire them (us) should do a rigorous screen of their people. Well-versed resources technically does not equate to best team fit. It will always be a hit or miss, whether an organization takes a skilled worker abroad or locally. It is the hiring process that should matter.

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