May 19, 2020

Why Small Businesses Don’t Make It: An Accountant’s Perspective

small business
David Henderson, CEO of ROCG A...
4 min
Why Small Businesses Don’t Make It: An Accountant’s Perspective

In today’s fast-paced commercial environment, businesses can no longer rely on historical analysis when planning a business. Business success is predicated upon objective day-to-day analysis.

Half the businesses that exist today weren’t even thought of five years ago.

There’s no point in developing a business plan, factoring in last year’s scenarios, when the dynamics can change in a week.

As a chartered accountant dealing with businesses from small to listed entities for over 20 years I started to notice that there are three major areas hindering business growth for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); emotional decision making, lack of attention to detail and a business as-a-hobby mentality.

Emotional decision making. Emotional pricing often sees owners base their prices and services structures on gut-feel with minimal evidence, fingers crossed, without considering where they sit in the marketplace. Objectivity rarely comes into the equation.

Lack of attention to detail. Business owners need to sweat the small stuff. The minutiae of working out the hours and variables required to meet success criteria, such as calculating the benefit of what adding five trading-hours each week and what it could mean to the business, is paramount. A coffee shop has to understand how many coffees it will need to sell to be profitable, how the weather affects those sales and the influence factors of locality dynamics. 

Business as-a-hobby mentality. This approach means the owner is just not treating the business as a business. Instead of standing back and seeing the business as an entity that must perform for profit, the shop, office or factory is run on bravado or lifestyle. Friends and family are roped in, recruiting and training is poor and compliance is negligible. 

Before opening their doors, business owners must factor in their biggest cost—the rent guarantee. Often they don’t realise this requires a commitment of several years. Coupled with equipment and fit out, it’s easy to spend big upfront without factoring in removal and make-good clauses and the liability of the lease whether the business flies or fails.

The danger is new starters will often wing it with a cursory internet search to suffice as competitor analysis of marketing or pricing points, without fully realising big companies can afford loss—leaders, years without profit or have other strategies to support their losses.

Every small business can access a cashflow dashboard to flags the potential for problems before it’s too late.

A dashboard can’t physically stop an owner from buying an imported designer desk but it will flag how many extra sales are needed or what has to be cut from the marketing or hiring budget to pay for it.

If profits aren’t stacking up, real-time numbers will compel the business owner to delve further into alternatives be that developing a niche or finding a different route. 

For example, one business owner realised that it would be best to sell his online underwear business while we he was still ahead. Aware of a new online competitor opening every few months and the threat of Amazon coming into his space, there was no hope of survival. As there is little loyalty in the digital marketplace, he was able to determine what he would have to spend up on business development and even if he did invest that budget he was never going to make a decent profit.

Most small businesses are overwhelmed with the abstract edicts of competitor analysis, integrated digital strategies and market positioning. Endeavouring to predict threats, opportunities and weaknesses is futile, just as hiring big-end-of-town specialists is beyond the average SME budget.

There’s no need for an accountant to tell you what the graphs highlight. It is often just small changes that are the difference between flying, flailing or failing. 

David Henderson had has baptism into accountancy working for a global accountancy firm, at the same time working in his family’s small accountancy business. He is a chartered accountant and the CEO of ROCG Australasia; marrying the benefits of a global player and making those insights accessible to the small end of town have been a constant theme in his professional life. David has seen the good and bad in the business world. He’s seen some amazing successes too; ordinary people who didn’t think they could possibly make it to the next financial year end, who’ve built fantastic businesses.

That’s why he developed the online tool that helps plan, set strategies and manage budgets. Visit for your free trial.


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Jun 8, 2021

Timeline: India takes unicorn leap with six in five days

Kate Birch
2 min
We chart an historic week in India’s startup tech industry, where from April 5-9 the country achieved six unicorns

We chart an historic week in India’s tech industry, where in just five days, between 5-9 April 2021, the country achieved six new unicorns, bringing India’s total to 10 in 2021 to date, an immense unicorn leap from just seven in 2020 and six in 2019.

April 5: Meesho

India’s first social commerce unicorn, Meesho raised US$300m from SoftBank, Facebook and Shunwei Capital, giving the Bangalore-based startup a US$2.1bn valuation, a threefold jump from its previous funding round in 2019. Founded in 2015 by two IIT-Delhi graduates, Meesho connects producers and resellers, helping small businesses sell through social media. It has 45m customers and has enabled 13m entrepreneurs to start their online businesses with no investment.

April 6: CRED

Founded just over two years ago, Bangalore-based credit card repayment app CRED raised US$215m from Falcon Edge Capital and Coatue, nearly trebling its valuation to US$2.2bn from its January US$80m round. Allowing customers to pay off their credit card debt while earning CRED coins which they cash in for rewards, CRED has grown rapidly during COVID-19, doubling its customer base to nearly 6 million in a year.

April 7: API Holdings / Groww

The first epharmacy startup to gain unicorn status, PharmEasy (API Holdings), which has digitised 60,000 brick and mortar pharmacies and 400 doctors across India, raised US$350m in a round led by Prosus Ventures. Founded by four former Flipkart employees as a way of making investing simple, investment platform Groww became India’s second-youngest fintech unicorn, raising US$83m in Series D funding led by Tiger Global, quadrupling its previous round in September.

April 8: ShareChat

New Delhi-grown social media startup ShareChat, founded in 2016 by Mohalla Tech raised US$502m from Lightspeed Ventures, Tiger Global, Twitter and Snap taking its raised total over six rounds to US$766m and pushing its valuation to US$2.1bn. The funding will be used to grow its user base and short video platform Moj, which launched in 2020 following TikTok’s ban in India. The regional language startup claims 280m users.

April 9: Gupshup

AI-led conversational message startup joined the unicorn club after raising US$100m from Tiger Global giving it a ten-fold valuation of US$1.4bn. The smart messaging platform, which has seen accelerated growth during the pandemic, was founded in Bangalore in 2005 by serial entrepreneur Beerud Sheth, whose online freelancing platform Elance is now listed. Gupshup’s API enables 100,000+ businesses to build messaging and conversation experiences across 30+ communication channels. 


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