Among the constant and often gloomy business stories dominating our news feeds lately, it was refreshing to read a positive joint research piece by American Express and Oxford Economics this week, outlining an ambitious growth appetite for UK businesses in 2018.
The study, conducted in late 2017, surveyed 3,000 small businesses with between 10 and 250 employees, across 12 countries and 16 industries, provides an honest account of the perceived threats and opportunities faced by small businesses and more importantly the strategies they plan to employ to see success in the year ahead.
41% of UK SMEs are recognising their key strengths in agility, innovation and strong customer relationships as their main strategies for fuelling growth in 2018, with an additional 47% of businesses planning to increase operational efficiencies, to help boost ongoing financial performance.
Confidence levels, which were at just 14% at the start of 2017, now reach 57% among small business leaders, more than quadrupling in the last year and revealing a new-found optimism in the global economy over the last 12 months, with confidence levels in the UK 10% higher than the global average. It’s a positive barometer of improved feeling, and after a challenging few years for businesses of all sizes, it’s makes for very positive reading.
It also demonstrates an appetite for exploring more international opportunities, and whilst only 24% of those polled were currently exporting, they were confident in their opportunities to increase profit and capability within this channel.
It’s by no means, however, a nirvana for small business owners. They remain alert to changes in economic outlook, with over half of businesses citing economic uncertainty as a potential threat to their business’ success.
Overall, it paints a positive direction of travel for UK small businesses this year, and as an integral part of the economy, this optimism should help boost business confidence across the board.