Trades and ConstructionBusiness Advisory

Navigating risk and leveraging strengths for trades businesses

Nigel Smelie Nigel Smellie
6 October 2023
6 min read

In an ever-evolving world, the trades industry stands as a pillar of innovation, craftsmanship, and economic vitality. Yet, like any sector, it is not without its challenges. The realm of trades businesses is rife with opportunities for growth, but it's also fraught with risks that require intentional navigation. From shortages in skilled labour to the rapid pace of technological advancements, trades businesses are finding themselves at a crossroads in seeking the path to sustainable success.

A closer look at the risks for trades businesses

Succession planning, benchmarking, embracing new technologies, and growth planning – these are the key challenges facing trades businesses today, as revealed by our recent survey . The survey provided a glimpse into the landscape, unearthing the critical vulnerabilities that can either make or break these businesses.

See the full survey report here

Succession planning and bridging the leadership gap

One of the most pressing concerns facing trades businesses is the often-overlooked territory of succession planning. As the backbone of the industry, these businesses are often helmed by leaders with decades of experience. However, time often necessitates a seamless transition of leadership. Shockingly, the survey suggests that nearly half of respondents lacked a succession plan, with a further 17% uncertain about their strategy.

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The importance of succession planning cannot be overstated. It ensures continuity, transfers critical knowledge, mitigates risks, and aligns strategic goals. By preparing the next generation of leaders, trades businesses not only safeguard their legacy but also bolster their potential for long-term growth and resilience.


Benchmarking, another significant concern, is akin to a compass for trades businesses in uncharted waters. Comparing performance against industry standards and competitors, benchmarking allows for course correction and informed decision-making. The survey revealed that 34% of respondents did not use benchmarking, while 28% were unsure of its value.

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To thrive in the modern landscape, trades businesses must leverage benchmarking to optimise operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive employee productivity. By using reliable data sources and regularly updating benchmarks, these businesses can keep pace with the industry.

Embracing new technologies

In an era defined by technological breakthroughs, stagnation is the enemy of progress. The survey found that 38% of respondents had not analysed future technological changes in the industry, while 12% remained uncertain. This paints a concerning picture, as failing to adapt to technological shifts can leave a business behind.

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Embracing new technologies is not just a choice; it's a necessity. From streamlining processes to enhancing safety measures and accessing new markets, technology is the guide for trades businesses to move towards growth and innovation.

Growth planning and cultivating opportunities

Planning is fuel for growth for trades businesses. It sets goals, identifies risks, and attracts financing. Astonishingly, 42% of respondents admitted to lacking a growth plan, while 10% were unsure about expansion strategies. In a world of limitless potential, this lack of direction threatens to stunt progress.

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By conducting market research, making informed decisions, and cultivating a robust growth plan, trades businesses position themselves for strong futures. A well-defined growth plan not only maximises efficiency but also increases the likelihood of securing funding for expansion.

Sailing towards business success with these key strengths

While the risks may seem daunting, the trades industry boasts inherent strengths that, when cultivated, propel businesses toward victory. The survey illuminated the areas where these businesses shine brightest, offering a beacon of hope amidst challenges.

Customer and market demand

Staying attuned to customer and market demand is the cornerstone of success in the trades industry. A staggering 75% of respondents expressed confidence in their ability to stay updated on these critical shifts. Understanding customer needs, adapting to market trends, and delivering exceptional service are the fuel that propels trades businesses forward.

By prioritising customer satisfaction and market awareness, trades businesses ensure not only survival but also dominance in an ever-evolving landscape. The ability to anticipate challenges and leverage emerging trends positions these enterprises for long-term prosperity.

Asset protection/Estate planning and safeguarding the future

As pillars of economic vitality, trades businesses must safeguard their assets and pave the way for future growth. Encouragingly, 71% of respondents were confident in their asset protection and estate planning strategies, which is reassuring given these strategies lay the foundation for enduring success and a lasting legacy by helping to ensure smooth transitions, optimise tax benefits, and enhance credibility.

Management information systems

Good Management Information Systems (MIS) steer trades businesses toward operational excellence. Automating tasks, simplifying workflows, and enabling efficient data management, MIS empowers decision-making and customer satisfaction. Robust MIS systems, adopted by 62% of surveyed respondents, optimise resource allocation, streamline operations, and ensure adaptation to market changes.

Staff engagement the heartbeat of success

Engaged staff is the lifeblood of any successful trades business. With 60% of respondents reporting good staff engagement, these businesses are poised for growth. Engaged employees contribute to a positive work culture, fostering collaboration, innovation, and exceptional customer service. They act as brand ambassadors, attracting new customers and talent while ensuring operational continuity and savings on recruitment costs.

Read our full report of insights from NZ Certified Builders Conference

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Findex Tradies Academy

Amidst the challenges and strengths of the modern trades landscape, there is a guiding light for businesses seeking to thrive. The Findex Tradies Academy stands as a beacon of support, offering specialised coaching and guidance tailored to the unique needs of trades businesses.

By partnering with Findex Tradies Academy, businesses can chart a course to success, harnessing their strengths, and navigating the risks with confidence. From succession planning to growth strategies, technological adaptation to customer-centric approaches, the academy provides the tools and insights needed to thrive in today's competitive trades environment.

The world of trades businesses is a dynamic arena, rich with opportunities and fraught with risks. Success lies not only in recognising these challenges but also in harnessing inherent strengths and seeking guidance from experts. The Findex Tradies Academy is the compass that can guide these businesses to a future of growth, innovation, and enduring success. Head to our website or contact a trades business specialist to find out more.

Findex (NZ) Limited trading as Findex Group Limited

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the thought or position of Findex.

The title 'Partner' conveys that the person is a senior member within their respective division and is among the group of persons who hold an equity interest (shareholder) in its parent entity, Findex Group Limited. The only professional service offering which is conducted by a partnership is external audit, conducted via the Crowe Australasia external audit division and Unison SMSF Audit. All other professional services offered by Findex Group Limited are conducted by a privately-owned organisation and/or its subsidiaries.

© Findex Group Limited 2023. All rights reserved.

September 2023

Nigel Smelie
Author: Nigel Smellie | Partner

Nigel started with Findex in 2001. Nigel obtained full membership to the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2007. As a Partner, Nigel offers business advisory to his client base. Nigel is particularly passionate about digital solutions and ensuring clients are able to obtain the information they require to make accurate and timely decisions. Nigel works across two offices Alexandra and Cromwell.