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Media Release

Growth top of mind for regional businesses

Growth top of mind for regional businesses

49 per cent of regional businesses see potential to grow staff numbers.

Commonwealth Bank’s Regional Business Insights report shows that nearly half (49 per cent) of all regional businesses can see opportunities for growth. Launched today, the research provides a snapshot of regional businesses in Australia and the opportunities and challenges these businesses are facing.

CommBank Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking, Grant Cairns, says businesses are citing strong markets, growing populations and improving infrastructure as underpinning the potential to expand.

“Australia’s growing population, Asian demand for our high-quality food and consumer products and the increase in infrastructure spending are underpinning optimism in regional Australia, and creating a knock-on effect of new openings for a range of industries,” Mr Cairns says.

According to Mr Cairns, clarity around business challenges and opportunities is the first step towards innovation and success. While nearly half of all regional businesses saw the potential to grow, a significant number – one in five – thought there was no opportunity or were unsure of what the opportunity might be.

“The research suggests regional Australia could achieve even better results with greater clarity around how to achieve meaningful growth,” Mr Cairns says.

While regional businesses tend to think broadly about potential openings, they have much sharper insight when it came to challenges, with competition, input costs and red tape topping the list.

“In particular, online business is a double-edged sword in regional Australia. While it opens up the potential to trade outside local boundaries, it also gives competitors greater access to regional communities and that’s a significant challenge for many regional businesses,” Mr Cairns says.

Regional businesses are also empowering their staff to be creative thinkers and risk takers, helping to drive a significant uplift in the Commonwealth Bank Regional Innovation Index.

According to the report, regional businesses are as innovative as their metro counterparts, as they look to capitalise on opportunities for business growth.

The latest Innovation Index, based on 15 different measures of management capabilities and entrepreneurship and ranked on a scale of -100 to 100, is now at 32.2 for regional Australian business, compared with 25.5 the previous year.

“The upward shift comes as nearly two thirds of regional businesses now evaluate employee creativity and innovation skills as part of their appraisal process, while more regional businesses also report that they have employees who are not afraid to take risks and fail.”

“What this means, really, is that businesses are trusting their employees to try new things in order to better meet the needs of their customers. Businesses are recognising that staff have valuable insights into what customers are looking for and where there may be opportunities,” Mr Cairns says.

Key results:

  • 48 per cent of regional businesses are ‘innovation active’ (implementing genuine innovation rather than just improvements). 46 per cent of metro businesses are innovation active.
  • 62 per cent of regional businesses now evaluate employee creativity/innovation skills as part of their appraisal process (up from 44 per cent in 2016).
  • 58 per cent of regional businesses report that they have employees who are not afraid to take risks and fail (51 per cent in 2016).
  • 49 per cent of regional businesses said there was opportunity for business growth and/or increased staff numbers – but 11 per cent said there were no opportunities and 9 per cent were not sure what opportunities were available.
  • 57 per cent saw expansion as their biggest opportunity, while 24 per cent said they were either unsure about future opportunities, wanted to keep business stable or saw no future opportunity.
  • 25 per cent of regional businesses said strong market or industry performance created opportunity, while 21 per cent said population growth was creating opportunity and 14% said there was opportunity as a result of increased infrastructure.
  • 27 per cent of regional business said competition was the biggest challenge, while 24 per cent cited government regulation as a particular challenge.

For full results and state overview, read the full Regional Business Insights report.

About the research

Regional Business Insights canvasses 470 regional businesses about the opportunities and challenges they face. The research was managed by Chi Squared and fieldwork was executed by Fairfax Agricultural Research and Marketing. Calls were conducted in January and February 2018, with additional in-depth interviews completed in March 2018. This research was overlaid with data captured by ACA Research from the 2017 CommBank Business Insights report, with research conducted from August – October 2017. The Business Insights Study included 2,473 respondents, 389 of whom were located in regional or rural areas. Data was weighted to reflect the Australian business landscape by location, industry and turnover. ACA Research undertook a further analysis of the data to assess the state of innovation in regional Australian business and compare it to innovation in metro areas, as well as determining the Innovation Index for regional and metro business.