A new survey of UK sole traders and small businesses has found that most business owners are determined, forward-looking and positive – even though they have significant concerns about rising costs and economic uncertainty.
The new poll, conducted by the Donut websites for small businesses and start-ups, has found that:
- 47% believe the economic outlook for 2017 is likely to be better for their business than 2016;
- 39% of UK small business owners plan to increase spending in 2017;
- 36% plan to recruit new staff.
In fact, although 35% of business owners admit they are unsure about how their business will fare in the coming year, only 18% believe the economic outlook is actually worse.
However, business owners remain concerned about rising costs and the outlook for the UK post-Brexit:
- just 20% of business owners are “very confident” that the Government can deliver a good Brexit deal for SMEs;
- 23% are worried about losing key staff;
- costs have risen “significantly” for one-third of businesses.
The study – Is the future bright for small businesses? – polled 664 small businesses in the UK. Most respondents were business owners (60%) or directors (21%), and were either sole traders (47%) or the owners of micro-businesses with four or fewer employees (25%).
The year ahead
Asked how the economic outlook for 2017 compares to 2016, 47% say it looks better, 35% are unsure and 18% say things will be worse.
When it comes to business spending in 2017, 42% say they plan to spend the same, 39% plan to increase spending and only 19% plan to make cuts.
There are positive signs that businesses are going for growth in 2017, with 57% of respondents saying they plan to spend more on sales and marketing in 2017. This is followed by IT and technology (41%), equipment, plant and machinery (32%), and training and development (31%).
“These results highlight the grit and resilience of the UK’s small business community,” said Rory MccGwire, chief executive of Atom Content Marketing which publishes the Donut sites. “As ever, business owners are not putting their heads in the sand in the face of uncertainty. They are determined to succeed, and it’s encouraging to see so many business owners making plans to recruit, invest and grow.”
Staffing plans in 2017
More than one-third (36%) of respondents are looking to take on new staff in 2017. However, the number of respondents either “probably” or “definitely” planning to make redundancies this year is a worrying 16%.
The findings also show that most businesses that employ EU staff (65%) are not concerned about losing key employees after Brexit – either because they believe that EU workers would not leave, or because their business would not suffer if they did.
However, 23% of those that employ EU workers said their business would suffer if employees had to leave.
Those that see a brighter future after Brexit slightly outnumber those with a more pessimistic view – 51% believe Brexit will make Britain a better place to do business, with 23% certain that this will be the case. Only 13% say it will definitely be bad news for Britain.
Small business owners are evenly split when it comes to having faith in the Government’s ability to get a good deal for small businesses as part of Brexit negotiations: overall, 46% are not confident while 54% are confident. Only 20% are very confident that the Government will get a deal that’s good for small businesses.
A third of respondents (32%) say that business costs have gone up “significantly” since the introduction of the Living Wage in April 2016. Auto-enrolment pension schemes have also “significantly” increased costs for 38% of SMEs.
Only 2% of those polled said it has become cheaper to be an employer in 2016:
- 14% say it is “much more expensive”
- 39% say it is “somewhat more expensive”
- 15% are unsure
- 2% say it is cheaper.
Notes to editors:
- The survey, Is the future bright for small businesses?, was conducted by Atom Content Marketing via its Donut websites. The poll took place between November 2016 and January 2017; 664 small business owners, directors and managers took part.
- The six Donut websites provide in-depth guidance on all aspects of starting up and running a business. The sites are: Start Up Donut, Marketing Donut, Tax Donut, Tech Donut, Law Donut and Sectors Donut. The Donuts are published by Atom Content Marketing, a specialist content marketing agency that helps its clients reach and engage with the UK’s five million SMEs.
- Rory MccGwire is available for interview.
- Where does the name ‘Donut’ come from?
The answer is here: Why call it Donut?