Less than half of small firms expect growth in 2017

Under half of the UK’s small and mid-sized firms see growth as a potential outcome for their business in 2017, according to new research.

Only 46% of 1,200 firms quizzed by network provider O2 suggested that 2017 will be better than the 12 months previously.

Issues relating to staff retention and wider economic uncertainty will listed as key concerns by the start-ups and smaller enterprises.

They also called for the Government to ensure that negotiations around trade agreements take place, especially as discussions surrounding Brexit get underway.

Small businesses also said they need more help from the Government to enable them to expand, which echoes other research that claims business support is not up to standard.

One in five staff said that staff lack the skills and knowledge to successfully take advantage of digital technology, despite nearly three quarters of firms seeing it as key to performance.

Understandably, larger firms with greater access to finance were more confident in their future prospects, as 67% of large firms suggested they expect to outperform 2016 this year.

Training and education are viewed as strategic drivers of growth for smaller firms, especially when it comes to digital technology.

Businesses need to ensure they remain up-to-date, as a failure to act could see them lose out to rivals, see reduced sales, and ultimately be placed under greater financial pressure.

Even if sales do drop and a firm finds itself in difficulty, it is still possible to restore performance – turnaround management can help to identify opportunities and bring innovation to the table.

As part of O2’s study, small and medium sized businesses were also asked about what could improve business operations.

Reducing red tape topped the list of responses, followed by better access to technology and connectivity and more access to funding.

Having greater access to the best talent and skills training also featured, as did the need for strong trade agreements with countries from every corner of the planet.

By Phil Smith

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