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Australian small businesses are feeling optimistic and are looking ahead to revenue growth in the next 12 months, according to new research from Westpac and Deloitte. 

The Westpac Small Business Report found that while small business are matching the wider economy in growth terms, they are lagging behind in hiring new employees due to barriers presented by policies and procedures. 

The research found that 31 per cent of respondents are employing fewer people today than 12 months ago, with 38 per cent indicating that financial barriers are the biggest reason for not hiring.

Only needing help occasionally (28 per cent) and wages and penalty rates (24 per cent) were named as other hurdles when it comes to hiring, suggesting more support is needed for small businesses. 

Westpac general manager of SME Banking Ganesh Chandrasekkar said that while conditions have been tough, small businesses are remaining hopeful. 

"Many small businesses faced tough conditions over the last six months with a slowing economy and tightening margin pressure, however there is some light at the end of the tunnel which can help boost employment.

"Given recent RBA interest rate cuts, a boost in infrastructure spending and a better-looking housing market, many small businesses say they are optimistic about the coming 12 months.

"One way to boost confidence back into the market is to remove the complexities and challenges small businesses face when it comes to hiring.

"If every employing small business took on one additional staff member, that is 900,000 jobs. Even if we could create a fraction of that amount by removing employment barriers, it would make a big difference." 

The report also found that one third of small businesses have a secondary source of income, indicating that their biggest fear is having no financial security. This sentiment is particularly noticeable in non-employing businesses (41 per cent) and female small business owners (40 per cent - 25 per cent for males). 

However, 20 per cent of small business owners have no income outside of their business and 15 per cent indicated that they would lose equity in their home if their business were to go under. 

Chandrasekkar said this predicament places small businesses under intense pressure. 

"Two in three business owners do not request funding, leaving many small businesses cash-strapped.

"This places an extraordinary amount of pressure on business owners, their families and employees, for the business to perform.

"With over half of Australian small business owners using their personal savings to establish their business, this can have a deep impact on their mental and financial wellbeing." 

What are your thoughts on these findings - are you feeling positive about the the next 12 months? Do you have a side hustle? Leave your comments below. 

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