At Xero, we often talk about championing small businesses. But what does that actually mean? When it comes down to it, how can anyone – from government or enterprise to small business owners themselves – go beyond platitudes to make a marked difference to the more than 2.1 million businesses that generate a fifth of GDP in Australia?

To create effective change in any space, you first need a solid understanding of the status quo. And when you’re talking about the health of millions of unique and evolving businesses, that requires access to present-day metrics from a large and trusted data set.

Such a robust resource is difficult to find. But with more than 500,000 subscribers in Australia using our cloud-based accounting software, we’ve been able to draw on a mass of reliable data to bring Xero Small Business Insights to life.

Here’s how it works, and the groundbreaking ways it champions the health of small business in Australia.

Insights into the Australian small business economy

Xero Small Business Insights gives a snapshot of the sector’s health, updated monthly. Its metrics – which are based on anonymised, aggregated data drawn from hundreds of thousands of our subscribers – provide insights into five key areas of small business health: cash flow, getting paid, hiring people, trading overseas and cloud adoption.

Trends that build over time

These metrics can help decision makers understand things like the number of small businesses in Australia that are cash flow positive, the average days it takes for a small business invoice to be paid, and the movement in number of employees in small businesses. And the beauty is that the understanding only grows over time. While we’re starting with 12 months of data, the figures deepen every month – revealing relevant business trends as and when they happen.

Help shape investments into the small business economy

By providing access to data that exists nowhere else, it’s our hope that policymakers and large enterprises can make more informed decisions to benefit the small business economy. It’s a sustainable move to use data to empower small businesses and make the funding they receive more relevant.

Tell the stories behind the insights

Finally, we know full well that business health is about more than numbers. That’s why, using these monthly metrics as the basis, we’ll invite regular commentary from business journalists, enterprises, and our panel of Australian small business leaders, to bring these insights to life.

As one panelist, Mark Lawry, Director of Suntax, summed it up, “I’m really passionate about the use of data to provide business trends and benchmarks for our clients – and the opportunity to give my voice to this nationwide small business index takes that approach to a whole new level.”

It starts with data, and ends with a deeper shared understanding of small businesses in Australia. And that, in my opinion, is the greatest way to champion the future of our small business economy.