2023 market research by empiraa

The Challenges of Small to Medium Sized Businesses

In an ever-evolving business landscape, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face a unique set of challenges that impact their growth and sustainability. Empiraa conducted a market research survey to garner insights from 618 SMBs across Australia and the USA. The aim was to capture a comprehensive view of the hurdles these businesses face in the current climate.

Key Insights

A graph showing 89%


of businesses find integrating new technology sometimes or always a challenge
A graph showing 70%


of businesses sometimes, if not always find hiring new team members a challenge
A graph showing 48%


of businesses are actively trying to improve company culture and another 28% are having conversations about it
A graph showing 63%


of businesses need to diversify their product in the near future

People & Culture

The was a strong trend among the businesses surveyed that spoke to the struggle many are having finding and building the right team. Only 33% of businesses were satisfied with their current team.

The natural conclusion to solving this issue, is going to market for new people to freshen up your teams. However, the stats show that 70% of the businesses surveyed said they found it difficult to hire new staff. Whether that be from lack of expertise, high demands of potential employees, or not being able to provide a competitive salary.

With 48% of SMBs trying to actively improve their company culture, building your teams around the right people is critical.


of all 0-25 employee businesses surveyed find hiring new people a challenge sometimes if not always


of all 26-50 employee businesses surveyed find hiring new people a challenge sometimes if not always


of all 51-100 employee businesses surveyed find hiring new people a challenge sometimes if not always


of all 100+ employee businesses surveyed find hiring new people a challenge sometimes if not always
"I found it very interesting that 53% of businesses recognise that social media is the leading marketing tool and yet over 60% don’t have a dedicated in-house marketing team to help with this! Social Media is cluttered with very few credible experts to help navigate this space so it’s no surprise that nearly 40% find strategy development challenging!”
Kavita Herbert  |  CEO, BackBone
"Nearly a quarter of survey respondents pinpoint technology as the area most in need of investment. This reflects a recognition of its critical role in staying competitive and adapting to market fluctuations, which 56.7% of businesses find to be a significant challenge in planning."
Heather Smith  |  Chartered Accountant
"This [is] a good sign that the key stakeholders in businesses are proactively thinking and planning across the broad range of topics and issues outlined in the survey to best position themselves for future growth and success."
Rod Naismith  |  Partner, BDO
A graph showing 93%


of businesses with 0-25 employees find integrating new technology a challenge.
A graph showing 72%


of those businesses say their tech infastructure needs improvement.


The trends around technology were by far the most unanimous across the board of the businesses we surveyed. 89% of businesses find integrating new technologies difficult. And of those businesses, 44% believe digital transformation is critical for their success.

Businesses need to focus on streamlining their tech stack with software and platforms that actually work for them. The difficulty with implementing new tech shows that these businesses primarily don't have staff that are proficient in this area. It might be necessary for those needing to adopt new tech rapidly, to hire someone for this role, knowing that doing so is critical for the business longevity.


of people are happy with the level of visibility they have over their business.


of business owners say unforeseen market changes are the biggest challenge in planning.


of businesses are currently satisfied with their business plan. An additional 14% are very satisfied with their plan.

Business Planning

On the front line of business planning, most businesses are doing reasonably well in having some type of plan in place and checking in with it semi-regularly. 83% of businesses have a contingency plan in place, which makes sense given market and economic fluctuations are concerns for many.

One are that proved worrying was that only 17% of founders and business owners are confident in their business scaleability. This probably has something to do with the fact that 63% of businesses feel the need to diversify their products/services in the near future.

A graph showing 64%


of businesses with 0-25 employees say investing in product development is their priority.
A graph showing 39%


of businesses say competitive markets is their biggest external challenge. Followed by a close 32% saying economic fluctuations.

Ready to dive in and read the full report?