About the GNZB survey

The survey was carried out in late 2010 to early 2011, against a backdrop of continued sluggishness in the economy in the wake of the global financial crisis, and between the first and second major Canterbury earthquakes.

Background

Growing New Zealand Businesses (GNZB) is a project being undertaken by staff and research students at The University of Auckland Business School (UABS). It seeks to understand growth and innovation activities and challenges of New Zealand small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The project is creating a knowledge base which will inform teaching and related outreach activities, and ultimately to assist the growth and development of New Zealand SMEs.

A key part of the project is a GNZB survey, developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cambridge, and the University of Queensland Business School. The survey was carried out in late 2010 to early 2011, against a backdrop of continued sluggishness in the economy in the wake of the global financial crisis, and between the first and second major Canterbury earthquakes.

The GNZB Survey was sent to the Chief Executive Officer of 11,188 manufacturing and business service SMEs (with fewer than 250 employees) in November 2010, with follow-up reminders in late November and mid-December. Some (552) were returned unopened ("wrong address", "business closed", etc). Altogether 1911 were filled in and returned, marking an 18% response rate. Of these, 1762 fitted the size (less than 250 employees) and sector (manufacturing and business services) criteria, and are the focus of analysis here.

The survey had five sections:

  • General characteristics of your business.
  • Innovation.
  • Competitive situation and collaborative activity.
  • Finance.
  • You and your business.

One striking feature of the returns was the care with which they were completed, both in terms of figures provided, and responses to an open question about success and its measurement.

This summary is based on descriptive statistics, prior to detailed analysis. The survey itself will be followed by interviews of roughly thirty CEOs, selected from over 50% of respondents who indicated a willingness to be interviewed. In addition, similar surveys carried out in the UK and Australia – and potentially other countries – will provide the basis for comparative analysis and benchmarking. This will further enrich our understanding of New Zealand SMEs, their innovative activities and growth challenges.

About the businesses surveyed

Sector

49% were in manufacturing and 51% were in business services. One third of manufacturers and just over half (56%) of business services were in high-tech industries (essentially R&D intensive industries, designated by ANZSIC codes).

Age, size

Roughly a quarter of the businesses were started before 1980, almost a quarter in the 1980s, 31% in the 1990s and 21% since 2000. On the whole, manufacturers were somewhat older than business service (average age 28 years versus 24 years) businesses; 54% had nine or fewer employees (we call them micro businesses), 35% had 10-49 employees (small businesses), and 11% had 50-249 employees (medium-sized businesses).

Type

Just over three quarters were companies with the balance split between sole ownerships and partnerships. The majority of businesses were established as completely new startups. Others were established as spin-offs from existing businesses, through merger or acquisition, spin-offs from another organisation, or management buy-outs.

Read the GNZB summary of survey findings - PDF format

Alternatively, the GNZB summary of survey findings can be viewed in PDF format:

Next steps

In this summary we have presented the first "take" of the GNZB survey, to provide timely feedback to the CEOs who kindly took part in the survey.

Our aspiration is to be able to provide an online benchmarking service to participants in the future, as well as the results of more detailed analysis of the data, and our interviews.

In addition, through our collaboration with the University of Queensland Business School and the Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, we intend to provide international comparisons which will facilitate benchmarking, policy recommendations, and support for growing New Zealand businesses.