Why We’re In It

Keeping the passion alive
for SME owners

Why We’re In It

Keeping the passion alive for SME owners

A sponsored content series with Stuff

Small business owners and self-employed Kiwis create companies for all sorts of reasons. Being their own boss, or chasing long-held dreams are a way of fuelling their passion. 

But for many, the realities of running a business can often mean losing sight of why they’re in it - especially during a period dominated so heavily by Covid-19.

Luckily, there is hope. For businesses focused on two key areas - wellbeing and digitalisation - research indicates a higher likelihood to weather future storms.

A recent study from independent consultancy group NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) concluded an acceleration of digitalisation and investment in wellbeing can return dividends for SMEs - better placing them to ride out the economic recovery.

The report will be comforting to many entrepreneurs. The survey of 1,000 Kiwi small business owners recently found: 

  • 33% of business owners feel they work too many hours on average each week
  • 28% don’t believe it’s sustainable to continue working the hours they do
  • 33% believe they spend too much time on business administration 
  • More than half of all SME owners and self-employed workers say administrative work takes too much time and gets in the way of the aspects of the work they enjoy.

However, for some Kiwi business owners, the unique challenges of managing a business in a pandemic has already presented opportunities to adapt.

I knew we had to step up our game… Once you start feeling good about yourself, you’re a much better friend, colleague, partner, worker - everything changes...
- The Cobalt Club co-founder Amber Reid

Reigniting the passion

For Amber Reid, the co-founder of Auckland-based personal training business The Cobalt Club, a drive towards digitalisation and a constant focus on wellbeing has been crucial over the past year.

Reid moved back from Australia to start her boutique group training company a year ago, landing in New Zealand as the pandemic hit.

The intense demands of starting a company, working long, physical hours, and fitting in family time left the entrepreneur with little time on her hands.

Reid turned to digitalisation, and adapted to the Covid environment. After initially focusing on in-person training sessions, Cobalt pivoted to online with the help of app Trainerize.

When she started out, Reid used Facebook to organise online sessions. She later realised a dedicated app would improve efficiencies and provide a better experience for customers.

White label software Trainerize allows personal trainers to craft programmes for customers, and enables SMEs to add a personal touch to their offering.

“I knew we had to step up our game,” Reid says. “So we were set up and ready to go even before this latest lockdown hit.”

The digital shift has saved Reid valuable time, making it easier to create new sessions, communicate with clients, and build her customer base.

“Online is so scalable,” she adds. “Originally, we thought we would move to a big gym or try to franchise. But with online, there’s no limit. It has completely changed our thinking.”

Alongside the digital approach, Reid’s investment in staff and customer wellbeing has also helped the business to thrive.

“Once you start feeling good about yourself, you’re a much better friend, colleague, partner, worker. Everything changes.”

The digitalisation drive has given Cobalt’s owners more time to look at new revenue streams.  Reid plans to launch a Cobalt clothing line as the business takes off.

“Going digital has definitely brought that move on,” Reid adds.

The road to happiness

According to NZIER Principal Economist Michael Bealing, investment in wellbeing and digitalisation can provide a major boost to productivity.

A recent survey of Kiwi small business owners found that a third of SME owners feel they work too many hours. About 28 per cent of owners don’t believe it is sustainable to continue working at current levels, while a third say they spend too much time on administration tasks.

Bealing says: “Stress can be a major source of declining productivity and can be a concern for small businesses. According to international research, when people get into a state of distress or impaired mental wellbeing, they can lose nine hours a week.”

“That’s a lot of time, and a real burden on business owners and employees,” he adds.

In fact, 92 per cent of self-employed people say they are more productive when they're happy. This is backed up by NZIER calculations which indicate that investment in organisational wellbeing can make businesses more profitable with a return on investment (ROI) of up to 12 times what you put in.

NZIER Principal Economist Michael Bealing says investment in wellbeing and digitalisation can provide a major boost to productivity.

NZIER Principal Economist Michael Bealing says investment in wellbeing and digitalisation can provide a major boost to productivity.

Bealing believes an emphasis on wellbeing is vital for small business owners - and it could mean big money.

NZIER research suggests a 20 per cent uptake in cloud computing by Kiwi businesses could increase the nation's GDP by between $3.5 billion to $6.2 billion.

Digital tools can help to reduce workload and drive efficiencies through a business, and improve wellbeing, Bealing says.

“Digitalisation can have a significant positive effect for businesses and for GDP.

“It can lift productivity and make workers more agile and mobile. It can also create cost savings by reducing errors and duplication, also saving valuable time.”

The team at Cobalt who worked to move online as a response to the pandemic

Moving forward

What steps can businesses take to move forward and improve wellbeing? 

Bealing says SMEs can implement company-wide programmes to enhance mental health and fitness.

“Cross-company programmes that support staff to maintain the right balance at work can help to avoid the loss of those nine hours a week. Examples of this could include fitness programmes, or standardised ways to identify when you are under stress and how to get help.”

But it’s more than fruit and yoga. It’s about developing an organisational culture that supports wellbeing as a source of productivity as well as the outcome of contributing team goals, Bealing adds. 

“It’s about creating the right set of tools for the organisation as a whole and developing the right kind of culture. Some of it is simple, making sure staff can go to a fitness class, or ensuring they have space to exercise if they need to.”

On the digitalisation front, there are a host of platforms to help SMEs, such as the Xero App Store and Google.

The Cobalt Club enhanced their online offering to adapt to pandemic-specific needs

The Cobalt Club enhanced their online offering to adapt to pandemic-specific needs

“Both provide an excellent suite of tools, and there are plenty of options out there for small businesses,” Bealing adds.


Going online… has been a game-changer
- Amber Reid


Kiwi SMEs are ready to take on the challenges of the coming year. Many forward-thinking business owners have already invested in their digitalisation and wellbeing programmes.

After making significant changes to her business, Amber Reid is optimistic about the 12 months ahead for The Cobalt Club.

“I’m really excited,” she says. 

“Lockdown has taught me some valuable lessons, and we have started to make even more money after going online and launching our app.

“It has been a game changer. I’m stepping out of the gym, and my partner will focus on that side of the business. I am going to concentrate on online solely, and that wouldn’t have been possible before.”

To find out more about digitalisation and improving wellbeing, head to Xero's 'Why We're In It' page to discover the best tools for your business.

For a chance to win $5000 for your small business and to find out more about digitalisation and improving wellbeing, head to Xero’s ‘Why We’re In It’ page to discover the best tools for your business. xero.com/whywereinit