SMEs doing well but want more Government support

A new study of SMEs across the UK, Europe and the United States finds most small firms enjoying solid growth and feeling positive about the future but there is widespread dissatisfaction with levels of Government support.

The eighth annual DNA of an Entrepreneur report from Hiscox surveyed 4,000 small businesses in the UK, Europe and the US; the findings show there has been solid growth for small businesses in the past year.

However, just 28% of small business owners and managers consider their Government supportive of entrepreneurs. The lowest figure is in France (14%) while in the UK the figure has fallen from 45% to 35% in the past year.

More than half (51%) of UK small business owners or managers agree with the statement "Our taxation system does not favour someone wanting to set up their own business", up from 47% a year ago.

However, more than half of UK small firms say Brexit will have no impact on their business, though a significant minority (31%) see it as a negative. In fact almost as many Spanish firms (29%) are worried about Brexit as British SMEs.

Other key findings from the report are:

  • All six countries surveyed (UK, France, Spain, United States, Germany and the Netherlands) show similar growth rates, with two-thirds of SMEs saying they had increased revenues;
  • Optimism levels are down marginally in all but Germany, but remain high by historic standards;
  • 22% say bank funding has got more difficult to access, up from 19% a year ago;
  • The proportion of firms taking on new staff has fallen from 21% to 13%, and one in ten firms has cut staff levels;
  • For the year ahead, 21% are planning to increase headcount and only 4% expect to reduce staffing.

Asked which country "has the greatest entrepreneurial spirit", respondents in five of the six countries put the United States top. Only the British beg to differ - they picked themselves.

Bronek Masojada, Hiscox ceo, said: "Our study provides a unique insight into the mood and financial wellbeing of the small business sector and there is a strongly bullish tone to this year's report. It is notable that small businesses in all the countries covered are now enjoying a positive growth phase, with several indicators pointing to another good year ahead."

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