Dear Jacinda,

As an insolvency-specialist lawyer, I see a high volume of business owners who are really struggling and many who ultimately fail and lose everything.

These hardworking New Zealanders often do everything for their businesses.

They are their own product/service developer, finance department, marketing department and sales department.

There is often no "work-life balance", we now talk about "work-life integration".

What I'm getting it is, being in business is hard.

But you may not appreciate that.

Because if you did have a basic understanding of SME (small-to-medium enterprise) life, there is no way that you would be acting the way that you are. There is no way that your Government would have the policies that you do.

For example, you are making it difficult for New Zealand SMEs to employ foreigners for roles Kiwis don't want anyway. You are increasing employee costs for business owners who aren't even paying themselves a living wage.

You are making it harder for employment relationships with changes to the trial period provisions. You are increasing costs to business by tampering with fuel costs. There is uncertainty over the tax position of SMEs and how that could play out.

For many businesses the future is uncertain.

I've worked with hundreds of businesses that have failed and have encountered hundreds of different reasons for that failure.

Cranes over the Auckland skyline hint at continuing economic growth, but there are many challenges for SMEs.

There are a variety of reasons, maybe there was insufficient capital to survive. Maybe large contracts did not eventuate or were lost.

Maybe the business did not keep up with innovation. Perhaps contracts were not priced properly. Perhaps there were unexpected expenses.

Perhaps the business was not managed properly.

Maybe the Inland Revenue was not paid in a timely manner or the payment of tax wasn't managed properly which created a large liability that was incapable of being paid.

Perhaps the business partners' relationship imploded, and the business subsequently did too.

According to figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 63 per cent of companies started in 2010 were gone by 2016.

The reliability of this statistic is problematic but represents a massive problem.

The Government is now investing significant resources to regulate the insolvency industry due to the volume of corporate failures which has attracted all sorts of cowboys.

Many SME directors in New Zealand tie their identity to their company. The way they trade reflects this.

A common misconception is that directors of companies have limited liability.

Directors will often do everything they can to prop up the business. If they had a trust with assets, it is very common to see them pulling the assets out to pay the debts and attempt to keep the business afloat.

Most lose everything in this attempt.

If they don't do this, they are likely to have given personal guarantees all around town and if the holders of those guarantees don't tip them up, a liquidator may sue them for everything under the sun and they end up broke.

Undoubtedly, financial problems put a massive strain on relationships so therefore it's very common to see marriages ending at the point of insolvency and families getting split.

Business owners have an extremely stressful role. They literally risk everything. Their assets, their time, their physical health and their mental health. They do it because we are great optimists in New Zealand. They do it for the nest egg. The better future for them and their loved ones.

And if they are successful, they will contribute in a very important way to our economy and they will provide employment to many New Zealanders who don't want to or can't run a business.

So, why do you and your party wish to make life even more difficult for hard working Kiwi business owners?

It is about time that priorities were re-evaluated. We need policies that support SMEs, not put more burden on them.

It is about time that you got a real grasp on your impact on SME businesses in New Zealand. Because you need them. We need them. Everyone needs them to not only survive, but to thrive.

Source; Brent Norling, Director of Norling Law Barristers & Solicitors


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