The future health of UK business

Ron Robson, CEO, discusses how the future can be bright for the UK's SME sector

SMEs are everywhere. Every town in the country has its share of small and medium-sized businesses, operating across every possible sector and driving the UK economy forward. The UK was once described as a nation of shopkeepers but when you consider that 99% of all business in the UK are SMEs [1] then it would be more accurate to think of us as a nation of business people.

Those SMEs that export their products or services have benefited from the drop in the value of sterling and even those that don’t are enjoying a period where government support and low unemployment are both contributing to a positive atmosphere in which to do business.

That’s not to say that life as an SME is straightforward or that there aren’t challenges to face. In particular, I think one of the trickiest things to maintain when running any business is momentum.  Although there’s much to be said for stability, a healthy business is one that’s always evolving. This doesn’t necessarily mean that maximum growth should be chased at all times but rather that a business has in place the right tools and support to keep the ship steady.

Cashflow remains a real problem for SMEs, frequently topping the list of concerns for SMEs [2] and one of the key reasons small business go bust. [3] At a time when SMEs need support, many traditional lenders are failing to adapt to the needs of smaller businesses, making it harder for SMEs to borrow [4] the money they need.

Thankfully, there is an increased awareness of newer funding organisations, such as Ultimate, which offer complementary services to banking. As a smaller, independent company ourselves we have a real understanding of the needs of SMEs and are agile enough that we can adapt to changing needs for funding as well as offer bespoke options aligned to specific sector needs.

Whatever happens to the UK economy in the years approaching our departure from the EU, it’s certain that we will need the SME sector to be more ambitious, determined and flexible than ever before. I have no doubt that business owners will rise to this challenge but it’s going to be vital that they have access to the funding that they need to grow. Without it, SMEs are likely to stagnate and that’s bad news for everyone.

[1] Federation of Small Businesses, Small Business Stats, 2016.
[2] C2FO, Working Capital Outlook, October 2016.
[3] RSA, Future Impacts, November 2015.
[4] The Close Brothers, SMEs and Funding, November 2016.

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