SMEs are optimistic for 2015, so what’s holding them back?

Business is on the rise for the UK’s small and medium enterprises. According to new research, the majority of SMEs enjoyed a prosperous 2014 and are looking forward to a bright 2015.

In fact, more than half of SMEs have grown this year, according to the Opus Energy’s Business Boost report, which surveyed 500 companies to find out about the state of business confidence for small businesses across the UK.

It’s not all clear skies and plain sailing though for these small-but-successful companies, as this research has also exposed their key struggles and barriers to success. Lack of staff, skills and savings are the key obstacles preventing SMEs from reaching their true potential.

An optimistic outlook for 2015

2014 was a good year for independent businesses. 54% of SMEs grew in 2014, whether that was adding new premises, employing new staff, or otherwise. It looks like this is a trend as half of SMEs are also predicting growth for 2015 – perhaps explaining why the majority of SMEs are planning on putting their budget into expansion.

It’s no surprise that this surge of interest in small businesses has been punctuated in current events recently, as the UK’s second ever Small Business Saturday took the country by storm. Footfall on Saturday 6th December increased by 20% – that’s 2.7million more shoppers choosing small or medium businesses on the same day last year. With everyone from celebrities and politicians backing the campaign, and a sales increase of £36million, it’s clear that small businesses are doing something right – so what’s getting in their way?

A juggling game

SME owners are hard-working individuals, and more often than not are juggling many different things on their plate every day. Over half of SME owners are citing time pressures as a large barrier to growth, with 71% of small or medium business owners covering multiple roles while running day-to-day operations – including marketing jobs, customer service, finance and other roles. And these aren’t the only obstacles they’re overcoming…

Barriers for SME growth

While the majority of small businesses are ambitiously focused on growing their business, employees have noted a number of things that are putting a stopper on their success. Overwhelmingly, though, the main barriers can be pinned down to two key areas: staffing and finances.

55% of small business owners said that a lack of finance is their number one barrier to growth, while staffing came in a close second, with 51% of those surveyed said that a lack of skilled staff was their biggest barrier to company growth. So what do small businesses need to combat these obstacles?

The key to SME success in 2015

“Know your enemy and know yourself,” were the words of Chinese General Sun Tzu in his wisdom for triumphing in battle. The same principle can work in business – knowing where your barriers lie means that you can better face the New Year with a targeted and fruitful action plan.

If, like the majority of SMEs, your main barrier is access to finance, make sure you’ve used as many freely available resources as possible. Try this handy tool from the government: by entering your business details (location, number of employees) you can discover which grants, loans, funding or business support you could be eligible for. It is a simple process that literally takes seconds, and you could be very surprised at the resources you unearth.

Don’t forget to make sure you’ve also utilised digital resources, such as Google’s simple online presence creator. It’s entirely free, and means that customers can find you better – self-marketing means you may not need as much access to finance as you initially thought.

Finally, while it’s an obvious rule, focus what budget you have on what’s needed. With over half of SMEs recognising that they need more skilled staff, 49% are addressing this issue by focusing their 2015 budget on staffing, whether that’s training existing employees, outsourcing or focussing on hiring the perfect candidate.

With the barriers to growth known and targeted, SMEs UK-wide can keep their optimistic outlook from 2014 and get the kick-start they need for another successful year. For more small company advice, news and opportunities for business boosts, keep reading over at Opus Energy Gift.