As 2013 draws to a close, UK business owners are cautiously optimistic about prospects for the future, according to new surveys. For example, over half of 5,000 SMEs recently polled by the SME Finance Monitor predicted that their businesses would grow in 2014, the highest prediction of growth since the annual survey was launched in 2011.
Signs of growth are also confirmed by a recent Confederation of British Industry poll, which showed UK services firms currently experiencing a rise in business volumes unequalled since 2007. Demand for new workers is also at its highest level in over a decade, and the numbers in both permanent and temporary employment continues to grow.
Most dramatic of all is a recent SME Digitisation report, revealing a full 80% of businesses across six European countries, including UK, felt confident they would experience growth next year and beyond. Interestingly, the most optimistic of all was the financial services sector, where 9 out of 10 business owners predicted growth on their business finance.
Investment in New Technology
One significant factor in the current economic climate is the increased willingness of businesses to invest in new technology and innovation. In the SME Digitisation report, nearly two-thirds of respondents said technology was vital for their business in helping it rise above competitors, and nearly 7 in 10 felt that the importance of information technology will continue to grow in the near future.
The Role of Innovation
As it becomes clear that growth in the near-future is likely to be slow, with no sign of a return to the boom years prior to the financial crash, businesses are also relying more on innovation and up-skilling to stand out from the crowd. Nearly a third of those surveyed for a report by insurance firm Hiscox said they had developed a new service or product over the previous year.
Small businesses are increasingly recognizing that success is a long-term game requiring increased investment in training. Employees are also being encouraged to adopt new skill sets and think innovatively as a means to boost business. Unquestionably, companies that are successfully able to adapt to this tougher economic climate are the most likely to survive, while those who sit waiting for the good times to return are likely to fall by the wayside.
The Digital Future
The need for businesses to invest in technology was underscored by another survey earlier this month, this time commissioned by Google, which revealed a high level of dissatisfaction with current levels of technology in the UK workplace. Over half of respondents believed improved access to collaboration tools, including shared documents and videoconferencing, would boost productivity while only 1 in 20 were satisfied with the tools their company currently provided.
Despite signs of optimism, the going is undoubtedly still tough for UK businesses. Increasing innovation, technology and training are just some of the ways tough businesses need to get going in order to survive.