A CitySprint report reveals that while 11 per cent of SMEs will be looking to hire more staff this year nearly half admit that survival remains their top priority, with 20 per cent feeling there are fewer opportunities to pitch for new contracts or customers this year.
Worryingly, many cite the familiar barriers of red tape (16 per cent), limited access to talent (15 per cent) and finance (13 per cent) as key to hindering growth.
SMEs do agree, however, that more can be gained from the recovery by working closely together, with 68 per cent of businesses or an incredible 3.2m SMEs collaborating with an average of 16 businesses each to share skills, expertise and networks. London (80 per cent), the North East (78 per cent) and Yorkshire (71 per cent) top the list as the most collaborative regions in the UK.
Where as last years report showed that collaboration was driven by a need to survive, this year SMEs are clearly working together to thrive .
Outsourcing marketing and sales
The top three most outsourced functions by SMEs demonstrate a renewed focus on external facing and reputation enhancing functions with IT” (23 per cent), marketing and advertising (23 per cent) and sales and customer service (18 per cent) replacing IT?, training and legal services from last year.
New business partners
Some 28 per cent are working with other businesses to get sales leads and win new business and nearly a third feel more prepared, due to new processes and networks built up over the recession, to take on bigger competitors for new business.
Professor Robert Blackburn, Director, Small Business Research Centre, Kingston University, commented: SMEs turned to each other to maximise efficiency and output during the downturn and are now starting to collaborate in different ways. This includes a focus on bringing in support for functions which will help them grow their reach and market share, perhaps even into related activities and new geographical territories.