The six personas of Queensland small businesses revealed


queensland small business

Queensland Small Business Commissioner Dominique Lamb. Source: Supplied

Queensland small businesses are not necessarily risk-takers, but they put high value on serving their customers well, according to research commissioned by the state’s Small Business Commissioner.

The comprehensive study, which was undertaken by Central Queensland University and released this month to coincide with Queensland Small Business Month, also reveals the six personas of Queensland small businesses and identifies opportunities where governments can offer better support to business owners.

Importantly, it is the first of its kind to consider both the mindsets and life cycles of small businesses in relation to each other.

The study identified four stages in the life cycle of a small business — initiation, growth, stabilisation and exit — and for the Queensland operators surveyed and interviewed, stability is something they strive for.

While businesses often move back and forth between the growth and stabilisation phases, the study found reaching a level of stability gave operators “a platform from which they can pursue options”, including diversifying, expanding, contracting, specialising, stepping back and even exiting.

It goes without saying that running a small business is challenging, and maintaining stability is even more so.

“Some small business owners talk of the inescapability and intensity of their role,” reads the study.

“The owner is usually embedded in the business and due to the small size of the business, the owner’s role is emphasised. As a result, small businesess strive for stability.”

Business owners who participated in the study were also asked to rate their priorities according to six attributes or mindsets: customer orientation, competitor orientation, innovation orientation, risk-taking orientation, proactive orientation and analytic orientation.

Customers were by far the strongest priority for the group, followed by monitoring what their competitors are doing.

The study found Queensland small businesses are “open to innovation but are not highly enthusiastic about it”. Instead, they would prefer to stay “within their comfort zone” and overall expressed a low appetite for taking risks.

Similarly, the research found most of the small businesses were “only mildly proactive” and do not undertake much of their own analytics or research.

“They are not all that interested in being the first to introduce new technologies, products and services,” the study reads.

The six personas of Queensland small business owners

Small businesses make up 97.1% of all businesses in Queensland and employ more than 1 million people. The study sought to classify the state’s small business owners into key personas or profiles, as a way of better understanding their wants and needs — and the government policies or programs that would be best suited to them.

The six personas are based on the different mindsets identified above and include:

  1. The Competitor: This business owner “actively takes on competitors; takes a proactive approach rather than focusing on product or service innovation; and is willing to take on a challenge while controlling risk exposure”;
  2. The Traditionalist: This business owner is largely focused on satisfying customers, including by “changing products and services to respond to customer needs”, and is not as interested in taking risks or pursuing innovation;
  3. The Soloist: This operator “focuses on keeping their own counsel and minding their own business” and “believes that if they improve their own game the rest will follow”. They share similarities to the Traditionalists, but are even more risk-averse;
  4. The Entrepreneur: This business owner “embraces market information, seeking to understand and lead the market rather than follow; and is prepared to take calculated risks”;
  5. The Risk-taker: This business owner is similar to the Entrepreneur but is more likely to rely on “gut feel” instead of market intelligence. As the name suggests, their appetite for risk is high; and
  6. The Vigilant Operator: This business owner is cautious. They will monitor the market but is “unlikely to make sudden moves in response to perceived risks”.

Commenting on the research on Wednesday, Queensland Small Business Commissioner Dominique Lamb said the findings will guide the work of her office in supporting small businesses across the state.

“Understanding small businesses better allows us to tailor our support programs to ensure we are meeting their needs and delivering programs and support that help them prosper and move through those phases of the business life cycle,” she said.

The study was based on a survey of 331 Queensland small business owners and in-depth interviews with 20 of those surveyed, along with a review of literature about small businesses produced over the past two decades.

It defines a small business as one that employs fewer than 20 full-time equivalent employees and included business owners of different ages, genders, industries, business structures and stages of the business life cycle.

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