The common barriers to small business success and how technology can overcome them

As sponsor of Growing Business of the Year: Smaller Company (Turnover less than £25m) and Micro Business of the Year at this year’s Growing Business Awards, Canon is firmly committed to supporting businesses in this space of the market. But Real Business wanted to find out more from Mark Robinson.

(1) How much has the smaller business landscape changed in recent years?

Today’s small business landscape is completely different to what it was just a few years ago. We’ve seen a lot of disruptive companies popping up on the horizon – over a half a million were registered in the UK last year alone – of which everyone aspires to be “the next big thing”.

And because small businesses are no longer confined to selling in their local area thanks to the internet, the market has never been more competitive. Add the fact that margins are tight and it becomes pretty obvious that, if you don’t move fast enough, your competitor – who could be two doors or two continents away – is going to make you obsolete.

(2) What new barriers to growth have emerged for businesses of this size?

Costs are high up on the small business agenda, with many owners demanding greater flexibility and more control over how accessible finance is. Our recent study of 1,200 small business owners confirmed this, finding that almost a fifth in the UK saw the availability of credit or finance as the key barrier to achieving their business’ future aspirations. Just under a fifth said the same about opportunities to invest in growth.

(3) Why should these be seen as temporary hurdles rather than long-term obstacles?

As small businesses grow larger, their ability to absorb the impact of fluctuations becomes better. For small businesses, a lower-than-expected cash flow can be quite profound – usually, you work with few assets and few people, so an increase in expenditure one month can easily impact the ability to run your business profitably.

Larger companies are able to balance this out more easily with previously generated profit, bank credits or investor trust.

(4) What kind of role is technology playing in helping small businesses play on a larger scale?

Entrepreneurs often don’t have the necessary IT skills required to run their business. As a result, many might see technology as a stumbling block, rather than an enabler. This was reflected in our research: a third of them believed they could have benefited from additional skills in IT software and IT hardware when they started their company.

However, technology enables any business – small and large – to lower costs, speed up processes and drive customer engagement. It provides an unbelievable opportunity to scale up, fast.

Read more on small business strategy:

(5) Why has there never been a better time to be an entrepreneur at the helm of a small business?

Our vibrant start-up culture in the UK, paired with a wide network of tech hubs and accelerators, creates a mentality that anything is possible as an entrepreneur. This has sparked the creation of exciting new tech businesses such as Deliveroo, Worldremit or JustPark, which are transforming other industries – finance, fashion, advertising – entirely, giving the established players a run for their money.

The quality of the UK’s start-up scene is reflected by the prediction that total VC investment will surpass £1bn in the tech sector alone this year. Opportunities for succeeding with your own business seem endless.

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