Australia's small and medium business owners are feeling more positive about the local economy as they head into the 2013 business year, according to research released by Telstra.
The survey of more than 1000 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across Australia found more than half (51 per cent) expect the Australian economy will hold steady in the next six months, and nearly one in 10 (9 per cent) believe it will improve.
The result is a marked improvement from previous quarters where up to 43 per cent of business owners believed the economy would worsen.
Telstra small business sales and service executive director John Boniciolli said the research also revealed an improvement in the financial forecasts for individual businesses.
"We have observed growing confidence among small and medium sized businesses in recent months," he said.
"Last July, nearly one in four (23 per cent) of small and medium businesses were bracing for a bleaker financial period, but by the end of the year that figure had declined with only 16 per cent expecting a weaker financial performance in the first half of 2013.
"Eighty one per cent of SMEs expect their finances to remain the same or improve over this period."
While signs of confidence were emerging, Mr Boniciolli said some business owners remained uneasy about the Reserve Bank's decision to relax interest rates.
"The lowering of interest rates presents a double edged sword for businesses - it can put more money in the pocket of consumers but it can also signal that the Reserve Bank is concerned about softening economic conditions," he said.
Another major concern for SMEs, according to the research, is the burden of administration. Forty three per cent say they spend too much time on it and 50 per cent say there aren't enough hours in the day to fulfill their business duties.
To help overcome some of these challenges, Mr Boniciolli encourages businesses to investigate incorporating digital technology into their daily operations to help free up time.
"Many small businesses are lagging behind in managing their back office and it's clearly frustrating them. Nearly 40 per cent still use paper files locked in a cabinet and are missing out on the benefits of services like cloud computing to help drive efficiencies," he said.
The research also found SMEs in the mining states were the most positive about the financial future of their own businesses.