SMEs have bigger worries than Brexit

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Whilst for large and enterprise organisations, Brexit has dominated the list of top headaches for over three years, for small businesses, other challenges are deemed far more pressing. 

That’s according to a new report from Clearwater International, titled Growth Europe, which surveyed some 2,100 small and medium-sized businesses across Western Europe. 

Of those firms questioned, from the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark, Brexit only ranked as the fifth biggest challenge that their company currently faced, behind maintaining market position and recruiting skilled staff. 

The top 10 challenges included:

  • Recruiting skilled staff (33.3%)
  • Maintaining market position (31.7%)
  • Finding new customers (28.3%)
  • Access to foreign markets (24.4%)
  • Brexit (23.9%)
  • Political uncertainty (22.9%)
  • Dealing with regulation (19.9%)
  • Late payments (15.4%)
  • Getting external investment (15.3%)
  • Access to finance (14.5%)

Whilst the data in relation to concern over Brexit was somewhat skewed by the EU-wide SME survey, analysis of the 500 UK firms who took part in the study still only ranked the imminent departure from the EU as their third biggest challenge, with 45% saying they were still exploring markets within Europe and nearly 50% saying they are looking to expand further afield.

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, 62% of small firms report that they expect a positive impact as a result of Brexit. 

Nearly all of the countries who’s businesses took part said that recruiting was their primary challenge, followed by maintaining market share and finding customers. 

In essence, for small businesses anyway, the same challenges exist now as always have done – despite the huge upheaval that Brexit and recent political wranglings may have suggested. 

Clearwater International’s David Weavers commented on the report’s findings that: “A lot has been said about the supposed sluggish performance of European companies in comparison to their rivals in the US and China. But the results of our study show that there is a lot to be optimistic about in both the UK and continental Europe.

Read more: UK SMEs confident of achieving 2020 aims despite Brexit uncertainty

“The biggest challenges facing SMEs at the moment, such as difficulties in meeting expansionary recruitment targets, relate to things which may constrain growth but aren’t necessarily suggestive of excessive downward pressures.

“As such, the data seems to indicate that companies are looking to the future from a position of relative strength and a desire to maintain or enhance their current market position, rather than from a position of weakness.”

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