It really is a complicated time. The picture’s mixed and confidence levels reflect that.
According to this new piece, over on Small Business.co.uk, entrepreneurs have confidence in their own businesses, but feel under-supported more broadly – not least by government.
That’s reporting on the latest Enterprise Index research carried out by financial and professional services group, Smith & Williamson.
Perhaps unsurprisingly. ‘Brexit’, says the piece, quoting Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurial Services at Smith & Williamson, ‘appears to be all-pervading’.
So what does the new research show?
‘Sixty-five per cent of business leaders believe that they lack government support’, starts the piece.
‘The Enterprise Index, a quarterly barometer which tests the views of nearly 200 business leaders and entrepreneurs, indicates that political uncertainty is having a real impact on business confidence.’
So how is this manifesting itself?
‘Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents stated that political uncertainty is negatively impacting their business’, says Small Business.
Political turmoil is perceived to have stalled things – and the party conferences a disappointment in this ‘core area’ of support for business.
‘Businesses are suffering’, the piece quotes Guy Rigby.
‘There was a belief that the government was getting to grips with the scale-up business agenda, and the benefits this offers the economy, but progress appears to have stalled in an uncertain political environment,’ he says.
There were green shoots, but more recently no further developments, seems to be the picture.
‘The introduction of a Scale-Up Champion, a Scale-Up Taskforce and the Patient Capital Review were all positive indicators of a government taking business seriously’, Small Business quotes Guy Rigby.
‘However, as yet, there have been no meaningful developments for business’. This is a pity.
Guy Rigby cites a perceived lack of ‘coordinated strategy or plan on how our entrepreneurs can be supported’, with each measure or appointment seeming ‘to be piecemeal’.
Consequently, the work’s being ‘left to private sector organisations, such as the ScaleUp Institute, which has limited authority and influence.’
It’s a frustrating picture.
And more emerges from the research.
‘Fifty-nine per cent of respondents believed that the impact of Brexit is real’, says Small Business, ‘and nearly two thirds did not expect the economy to improve over the next 12 months.’
Things seem stalled. Largely over Brexit. ‘This appears to be to the detriment of all other policy and the health of the wider economy’, says Guy Rigby.
‘We need strong leadership and coordinated activity to rebuild economic confidence.’
It’s good news, then, that, despite all this, the research suggests business owners do remain confident in their own enterprises.
Does this reflect your mood?
‘Despite their lack of confidence in the government and ongoing Brexit fears, it seems that many entrepreneurs retain faith in their own business’, says the piece.
‘More than three-fifths (62 per cent) are optimistic about their own prospects in the next 12 months and 58 per cent are still planning to increase headcount in the next quarter.’
Guy Rigby is certainly concerned, however. ‘The global economy is experiencing a sustained period of growth’, he says. ‘However, there are signs that Britain is beginning to lag behind.’
He counsels that, although ‘business leaders tend to be a remarkably resilient group,’ we do need to think ahead.
We should all be looking at exporting, he suggests, taking advantage ‘of a benign world economy and Sterling weakness’.
And ‘businesses should continually be looking at the potential to drive efficiencies. A prime way of doing this is to embrace the opportunities that tech has to offer.’
Keep one canny eye firmly here, seems to be the argument.
‘Big data, AI and the cloud are becoming increasingly accessible to SMEs’, says Guy Rigby, ‘and it’s vital that a business looking to scale puts themselves in the best possible shape’.
Lots of good advice and insights. We’ll continue to watch this space.