Red tape presents bigger risk than cash flow woes for small business

The survey revealed that despite ongoing economic difficulties, the biggest boost to business prospects would come from reduced bureaucracy and simpler tax systems rather than improved access to finance or better interest rates, with SMEs calling on the Government to urgently address these issues.

The results also show owners and managers want energy companies to make their day-to-day lives more straightforward. A quarter of businesses want greater simplicity of energy tariffs, requiring providers to offer clearer information about bills and contract terms.

To make things easier for its small business customers, E.ON has introduced a range of reforms to ease the burden for customers, including a maximum one-year period for backdated bills, becoming the first major energy supplier to commit to these protections for all small businesses.

Anthony Ainsworth of E.ON, who commissioned the survey said: “Small businesses are the engine of Britain’s economy and their message is clear: in these tough times they need straight-talking and fair play, whether from government or suppliers, to keep their businesses moving and improving.

“It is telling that red tape and bureaucratic complexity has a higher impact than poor lending conditions. I want our customers to feel that we are easy to do business with, that we have listened to their feedback and introduced measures to increase the fairness and transparency of how we work with them.”

The significance of energy to SMEs was highlighted in the research, with 40 per cent citing its supply as the most important factor for business continuity, ahead of staff sickness/absence, delivery issues and problems with premises.

The key to successful supplier/customer relationships is trust, which ranks higher than cost at 22 per cent and security, plus the majority of businesses say that they are keen to develop two-way partnerships with their suppliers.