Back From The Storm: Britain’s Small Firms Optimistic But Scarred After A Hard Winter


After a protracted economic winter of high inflation, flatlining growth and chronic labor shortages, Britain’s small business community is looking forward to the rest of 2023 with a certain degree of optimism.

But – and this is sort of a giant but – the tough trading conditions which have characterised the U.K. economy because the starting of the Covid pandemic have left scars. Entrepreneurs could also be looking forward to higher times but lots of them are also fighting confidence issues. In practical terms, spending on marketing, recruitment and digital skills has been pared back or suspended by some businesses. And in accordance with a recent report published by Small Business Britain in collaboration with Clearpay and Square, this might impair future growth.

The report relies on responses from around 1,000 small businesses across the UK. Greater than half are one-person bands and around 35% have 2-9 people on their payrolls. Only a handful have greater than 40 people working for them. In other words, the survey was aiming to tap into the sentiment of those firms which can be often described because the “backbone” of the U.K. economy while receiving relatively little attention.

Christmas Woes

At first glance, the outlook for these firms seems relatively positive, with just over 61 per cent expecting to grow in 2023.

However the devil is within the detail. For consumer-facing businesses, Christmas is an important time of the yr. But for a lot of, the 2022 festive season – the primary of the post-Covid era – was a disappointment. Ten percent reported poor trading and greater than 30 percent said it was not nearly as good as usual. Corporations that may ramp up revenues in November and December are significantly better equipped to take care of difficult conditions within the yr ahead. Poor Christmas sales remove a crucial cushion.

Storing Up Trouble

However the report’s authors are more concerned a couple of downturn in investment. Almost a 3rd of companies have delayed marketing spend and 27 per cent have cut it. Hiring has also slowed.

So are Britain’s small businesses storing up trouble for the longer term? Small Business Britain was established to be a champion and voice for small businesses. I spoke to founder Michelle Ovens, CBE. firstly asking how she would sum up the mood of the businesses collaborating within the survey.

“There’s a general consensus that conditions are tough, but they’re pressing on anyway,” she says. “Everyone feels how tough it’s, but there are signs of optimism.”

But Ovens expresses says cuts in marketing could well be an own goal.. “You can not stop marketing,” she says.

True, nevertheless it’s perhaps comprehensible that some businesses – actually quite just a few – have checked out the trading conditions they face and concluded that spending must be reduced, with marketing as an obvious contender. Unlike wages or other fixed costs, it’s something you’ll be able to flex up and down.

That’s something Ovens acknowledges but she urges cash-strapped small ventures to think about how marketing might be done more cost-effectively. “Corporations can invest time fairly than money,” she says.

One method to try this is to show to digital technology – social media being a working example – to succeed in customers without having to spend huge amounts on promoting or traditional marketing campaigns.

However the survey also detected cutbacks within the willingness of business owners to take a position in attending to grips with digital tools. That’s not necessarily an issue in the event you are already – for instance – a little bit of a whiz kid in terms of social media engagement or making short movies for Tik Tok – but not everyone seems to be. Ovens says business owners have to brush up on their very own digital skills: “Many entrepreneurs’ digital skills were frozen in time after they left their previous employment to establish a business.”

Ovens stresses adopting digital technologies – and never just in marketing – doesn’t must be expensive. There is reasonable or free software and online courses available. Nevertheless it does require commitment and time.

And it’s not, as she acknowledges, a silver bullet. TikTok videos or a Facebook campaign won’t work for everybody. “But we might urge people to offer it a go,” says Ovens. The outcomes might be impressive.

A Confidence Deficit

Perhaps the larger issue here is confidence. If a business has been bruised and battered by a mixture of Covid, inflation and consumer belt-tightening, owners can lose faith in their very own ability to make sales and even good decisions. Ovens says there’s a danger that when decisions are made, the driving force is panic fairly than good strategic considering.

And confidence generally is a fleeting thing. Hard won and simply lost within the face of adversity. “I hear people saying things like “I actually have lost my mojo,” says Ovens. “But we’re talking about people and all of us have our moments.”

So, what’s to be done? Ovens recommends looking for out a mentor. Equally vital, finding a “tribe” may also be helpful. Other business owners and advisers who can provide mutual support and trade information. More fundamentally, even taking a break might be helpful. Going for a walk or taking outing to think about the larger picture.

The report also recommends taking steps to construct resilience, with the creation of a recent marketing strategy an excellent first step.

The optimism – albeit self-declared – amongst small businesses is nice news but with trading conditions still tough, many will concentrate on day-to-day survival fairly than long-term growth planning. That would create problems further down the road.


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