Small businesses in professional services industry remain optimistic: survey

SINGAPORE - Small professional service businesses in Singapore remain optimistic about the business outlook and ease of doing business here, according to a survey released on Friday (May 13).

The survey done in April by online services marketplace ServisHero found that over six in 10 of respondents in Singapore said they were performing better than they were in 2015. A total of 63 per cent reported an increase in their client base.

The survey polled more than 2,000 business owners in Singapore and Malaysia who employ 10 or fewer people, with 13 per cent of the respondents operating in Singapore. The majority of businesses were in the home maintenance category offering services like cleaning, while others were in industries such as events, business services and fitness.

Signs of weakening business activity remain confined to the larger industries and the slowdown is not as grim to small business owners, the company concluded in its survey report (http://servishero.com/blog/servishero-small-business-sentiment-and-frien...).

One reason for this could be because the local services sector is isolated from international factors, such as oil prices, foreign exchange impacts, and the cost of imports, which are affecting the manufacturing and construction sectors, said ServisHero's chief data officer Johan de Beurs.

"Labour market tightness is restricting the supply of workers, so the local demand and supply balance is tipped in favour of small businesses," he added.

Some 56 per cent of Singapore business owners surveyed said the country is a favourable place to start and manage a small business, compared with 47 per cent of those in Malaysia who felt that way about Malaysia.

Of key concern to business owners here were the challenges of hiring employees and securing financing, which were identified by 63 per cent and 57 per cent of respondents in Singapore respectively.

Just three in 10 reported hiring or trying to hire workers in the past six months, while 46 per cent intend to hire over the next six.

Overall, Singapore respondents came in at 61.4 on a sentiment index created by ServisHero, where 1 is the most pessimistic and 100 the most optimistic. The index takes into account recent business performance, expected outlook for business performance and changes in the macroeconomic environment.