New report highlights optimism in SME sector
Emma Kennedy - November 16, 2015

With the Government’s joint Autumn Statement and Spending Review around the corner, you will find below some new research into SME aspirations, challenges and access to business support services.

The “Exemplas Index – Real Insights from Real Business”, was gathered from 721 interviews with businesses in England from May to July 2015, by small business consultancy Exemplas. The results found:

  • SME’s are optimistic about growth – 69% of respondents indicated they were, or aspired to be, a growing business
  • Growth businesses are more likely to access support and employ apprentices
  • Respondents indicated they favoured local support (more so in the northern regions of England)
  • There is a need for more tailored support, for example, more targeted depending on size of enterprise and sector, as well as region
  • Support needs to deliver on multiple channels (telephone, internet, face-to-face)
  • Business regulation,  including rules around expanding in to new markets, is one of the biggest barriers to growth SME’s face

The full report is attached or can be viewed online here.

Exemplas’ CEO, Jill Barnes is happy to discuss the extensive findings, and their implications in relation to the upcoming Spending Review. Here are some of her initial thoughts:

“The theme of November’s Spending Review is ‘more with less’, as George Osborne will set out departmental budget cuts of £20bn over the next five years. These cuts will inevitably impact the availability of government support for SMEs.
 
This is concerning, as research shows that SMEs using business support are more likely to succeed. Despite further cuts on the horizon, we still need to engage with the 27% of businesses that are not getting any support, and ensure that SMEs are getting more tailored support specific to their needs.
 
Our survey shows that the preferred channels for business support are telephone and face-to-face, which are also the most expensive methods. At a time when government budgets for business support are tightening, a solution is to integrate traditional channels with digital and design support in a way that provides tailored advice for SMEs in a more cost effective way.
 
Whilst greater emphasis on digital support for SMEs is a good solution to cost efficiencies, we propose a blended approach where digital methods are harnessed to complement and ensure effective use of telephone and face-to-face advice rather than replace it.
 
This blended approach will ensure that face to face advice and support is targeted where businesses need and prefer it. By placing the customer at the heart of the support service and harnessing the flexibility and convenience provided by good digital solutions we give the customer control of the service blend that they receive, guiding them through self- diagnosis and good tailored information and interpretation, through to an expert advisor where and if required. This approach is more cost effective and meets the need for a more tailored and interpretive, face to face or telephone based service which is identified in our research.”