Small Business Britain set to champion nearly 6m small businesses

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Small Business Britain, the UK’s leading champion of small businesses, launches today to support the 5.8 million small businesses across the UK by offering support, knowledge and access to the small business sector.

Founded by Michelle Ovens MBE – Director of Small Business Saturday UK – Small Business Britain will champion, inspire and accelerate small businesses in the UK to foster growth and increased confidence, and change perceptions of success and what it means for a business to provide value, by recognising the connections and opportunities small businesses create in their local communities.

The launch coincides with the publication today of the Small Report 2020, which takes stock of small business confidence, ambition and challenges facing small businesses as the country moves ahead post-Brexit.

Supported by TSB, the report reveals that ambition levels are high amongst small businesses, despite issues accessing finance:86% of the UK’s small businesses consider themselves ambitious for their businesses in 2020, despite a fifth relying on bank overdrafts to finance their businesses, rather than loans or other types of investment.

The report, a survey of over 1,037 small businesses across the UK, finds that despite the UK arguably leading the world in opportunities for varied finance solutions for small business, over half have no financing at all for their businesses – and 2 in 5 admit to insufficient access to finance to keep their businesses going.

The insights reflect a lack of awareness of what is available, over and above a business overdraft or lending to the business personally, and indicate a significant opportunity for the sector to be better educated on financing options for the business, as well as using their own data to better manage cash to enable growth.

Despite financing challenges, the report finds that small businesses’ appetite for growth for their businesses is high – testament to the resilience of small businesses in the face of real financial concerns. Two in five strongly agree that growth is critically important for their businesses, with only 3% disagreeing.

The Small Report 2020 also identifies the digital skills gap as a persistent challenge for the nation’s small businesses, despite a considerable focus on digital skills by government and private sector in the last five years – with nearly half of small businesses admitting that they do not think they have sufficient digital skills for their businesses.

Skills and staffing is a key concern more broadly for Britain’s small businesses, with over a third unhappy with their ability to maintain and recruit staff. However, the report does demonstrate that small businesses appear resilient in the wake of Brexit when it comes to staffing, with only 8% claiming that our departure from the EU has affected their ability to recruit staff.

Michelle Ovens MBE, founder of Small Business Britain, says the report indicates a robust optimism on the part of small businesses to persevere in the face of real and persistent challenges:

“It would be easy to think that amid Making Tax Digital, late payments, mandatory pensions, minimum wage, IR35, and of course Brexit, small businesses feel worn down by the new challenges on their shoulders. The Small Report 2020 indicates otherwise. Despite press reports of negative confidence, small businesses have every intention of pushing forward, the vast majority consider themselves ambitious and most have at least some focus on growth in the coming year – and for good reason.

“Our mission is to accelerate small business confidence, and ensure small businesses are recognised for the incredible value they provide and for the day-to-day impact they have on the lives of everyone. The UK remains a phenomenal place to be a small business, and the 5.8 million who remain in business in 2019 are a great testament to that. The next decade shows no signs of slowing down and we are excited about what these small, courageous, extraordinary businesses and people can achieve.”

Looking ahead, the report finds that exporting is a largely untapped opportunity. Though there has been increasing focus on this topic in recent years from government – including initiatives such as the Exporting Is Great campaign – exporting is largely an unexplored opportunity for most small businesses. However, the report indicates there is intention to start among some small businesses: 1 in 10 currently export (14%), and a further 1 in 10 intend to start exporting in 2020.

Catherine Douglas, SME Banking Director TSB, said: “This report indicates that financial access is a key topic on the minds of many small businesses. As a bank, we know how important it is to give small businesses access to great banking and business support services in order to create time savings for business owners, as well as opportunities for growth. There is a significant economic benefit in ensuring small businesses realise productivity gains and it’s the responsibility of the financial services sector to ensure this happens.

“This is a great time to start and run a business in the UK, and we’re delighted to be supporting Small Business Britain in its ambition to champion and ensure their concerns – and achievements – are heard.”

The report identifies a number of opportunities to help small businesses realise their ambitions in 2020, including using simple analytics tools to look at cashflow, efficiency and performance; getting advice about exporting; and being open to new, big, customers.