The study found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, many sectors shared the same anxieties. Manufacturing, retail, construction, transportation and distribution all cited ‘retaining business’ and ‘managing cash flow’ as their main worries. On the other hand, the media industry, hospitality and medical sectors all quoted ‘retaining business’ and ‘economic volatility’ as their main sources of apprehension. And the main concern among the legal, real estate and finance business divisions was compliance and regulations, while the agriculture industry quoted ‘the effects of unpredictable / extreme weather’ as the number one issue that keeps them awake at night.
Interestingly, small businesses in their first year had the least worries with 36 per cent reporting that nothing kept them awake at night. However, as companies expand and annual turnover increases, worries appear to grow and change. Those with a turnover of over £10m were much more concerned with employee skill gaps and shortages (26 per cent) and compliance and regulations (26 per cent).
It is perhaps no coincidence that money worries top the agenda for small business owners, as the research indicates that they relied on their own funds to drive their business in the last 12 months rather than relying on bank loans (nine per cent) or overdraft (19 per cent).
According to the research, although the vast majority of business owners across the UK had the same worries, Scotland was an exception to the rule, placing economic volatility at the top (24 per cent) followed by red tape (19 per cent). The most unfazed small business owners in the UK are the Welsh, with 47 per cent saying nothing was keeping them up at night. Whereas those in the Midlands are at the other end of the spectrum – 75 per cent admitted to not being able to sleep for worry.
Gavin Wraith-Carter, general manager at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “On the whole, our research has shown us that SMEs have a positive outlook with regards to the future of their businesses, but they are still faced with a number of challenges on a daily basis that threaten sustainable growth.
“Understandably small business owners are under an enormous amount of financial pressure, which if not kept under control can begin to impact them. That’s one of the reasons we use a local Introducer network, who take the time to get to know each and every SME they work with – we then see how we can arm their customers with useful solutions that will help them to tackle the many challenges of running a successful business.”
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