By Daniel Hunter

Generating new business sales and legislation are the top concerns for UK small and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in 2015, according to new research from Santander Corporate & Commercial.

Generating new business sales was ranked as the key concern by more than two-fifths (44%) of SMEs, followed by legislation (37%).

Maintaining current sales volumes was the third most significant risk, cited by more than a third of respondents (36%). Other key concerns include managing cash flow (35%), managing staff (35%) and customer credit risk (28%).

The survey, which gauged sentiment from a range of UK businesses in terms of their business plans for 2015, found that SMEs which described themselves as ‘highly ambitious’ were even more concerned about generating new sales: half (50%) ranked new sales as the key concern. Maintaining current sales/ business was ranked second overall.

In an indication of their business mindset, highly ambitious firms were significantly more concerned about all business issues compared to the wider market, with concerns around customer credit risks and maintaining supplier relationships the most differentiated.

According to the research, smaller businesses with annual turnovers of between £1 million-£2.5 million are more concerned than larger firms with regards to generating new sales and business: 47% cited it as a significant challenge compared to 43% for SMEs with turnovers between £2.5 million-£25 million. However, larger firms were more concerned about customer credit risk and managing staff.

Marcelino Castrillo, Head of SME at Santander Corporate & Commercial, said: “Existing and new customers are the lifeblood of SMEs, so it is good to see these are priorities for the majority of firms. It is also interesting to note the heightened awareness of these among firms that see themselves as highly ambitious — a strong grasp on core business issues such as customer services, sales and staff management are fundamental to the success of any business."