Rural SMEs struggling to meet growth potential

Nearly half of rural SMEs in the UK are restricted in their day to day operations by poor broadband connections, the Federation of Small Businesses has revealed.


Some 49% of these businesses were unable to operate as they wanted and felt it was negatively impacting upon their potential for growth.


That figure compares to 28% of urban businesses who say they face similar issues with their broadband services.


Slow download and upload speeds coupled with weak infrastructure could potentially damage the £400 billion rural economy.


As a result, many small businesses are looking to improve their connectivity to ensure that they have the best opportunities for growth.


More than three-quarters of businesses believe that email is critical to the everyday running of their business while 57% said it was a vital component of customer engagement.


With businesses increasingly reliant on the internet to market products and services, not having an adequate service places this vital part of a strategy under pressure.


The potential for lost sales, slow product launches and reduced productivity could affect growth for these businesses and place them under financial strain.


In the initial stages of some firms these issues could make all the difference, especially when finances are low and the threat of early company administration is high.


Some 14% of SMEs believe that a lack of reliable broadband is their main barrier to growth, showcasing how firms view the internet as being of vital importance.


Moreover, 94% of businesses now view reliable connectivity as a key business requirement so poor connections in rural areas could represent a missed opportunity for growth.


The government has pledged a minimum of 10Mbps for all businesses by 2018-2019 while minimum speeds of 100Mbps should be possible by 2030, if not before.


Fast track investment will help businesses in the future, but it does little to aid those rural businesses who are currently struggling.


Making the decision of whether to move bases to better connected locations is therefore a vital one for those businesses with broadband fears.


By Phil Smith


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