As we head into 2018, it’s useful to examine how 2017 ended for clues about the coming year. Here’s what we know from the latest Xero Small Business Insights data, which covers the month of December.


  • Getting paid: Australian small businesses finished 2017 with the quickest payment times in three years. For invoices with 30-day terms, settlement took an average 34.2 days. The locations with the shortest payment times? The ACT and Tasmania. Here’s a look at what they’re doing right. In January, payment times typically hit their longest of the year as businesses shutter and postpone bill-paying until February or later.
  • Cash flow: Almost 57% of small businesses saw more money coming in the door than leaving in December, the largest percentage in more than three years. While December is typically a high-water mark because of Christmas trading, this year’s figure was especially robust thanks to shorter payment times. But watch out come January and February: Cash flow typically dries up amid school holidays and as businesses replenish depleted inventory.
  • Hiring people: Employment was little changed in December — down 0.4% — following November’s surge in casual headcount to prepare for Christmas trading. If past years’ pattern holds true, many of these casual positions will have disappeared by February.
  • Trading overseas: The value of small-business imports and exports rose 3.4% in December, the most in seven months, as measured by a resurgence in foreign currency transactions resulting in cash outflows. Past years’ data suggests January overseas trading will have slowed as businesses shut for school holidays.

We’ll have the January numbers ready for publication in early March, so sign up today to ensure they’re e-mailed to you as soon as they’re out!