By Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurs at Smith & Williamson

70% of businesses are confident in their business’ prospects for next 12 months, according to a new survey from Smith & Williamson.

In a survey of Smith & Williamson’s regional business contacts, overall we found that respondents are more confident about their own businesses and their own regions than they are about the UK economy as a whole. A third agreed that the economy will decline again, while 46% are uncertain.

Contacts in Bournemouth, Bristol, Guildford, Portsmouth, Salisbury, and Southampton were asked to select the issues most important to their business, with consumer confidence being a key issue for 55% of respondents. Availability of debt received votes from 20% of respondents, with concern over interest rates at only 17%. Devaluation of sterling and tax rates each got 10%, whilst unemployment and public spending were of concern to less than 5%.

23% of businesses reported that they have increased their headcount over the past six months, while the remainder were equally split between a decreasing or stable number of staff.

Meanwhile, insolvency levels appear to be on the ebb, with slightly fewer respondents reporting increased levels of insolvency in the businesses they deal with compared to 2009.

Just over a third of respondents are either considering or planning to raise finance in the next year. And of those businesses, 75% are considering bank lending, 19% private equity, 13% new share subscription and 11% personal loans. None of our respondents are currently considering flotation.

Almost six in ten said that their bank understands their business needs. Overall, the survey suggests that businesses and their banks are making progress, despite the tough climate, with 87% having revised their business strategy to reflect the current economic challenges.

About the survey

The 2010 Business Outlook survey is Smith & Williamson’s second survey of the opinions and practices of its regional business contacts in Bournemouth, Bristol, Guildford, Portsmouth, Salisbury, and Southampton. The survey was collected from 168 attendees at breakfast briefings. Most of the businesses represented were in the professional services, financial services and property industries. Most of the respondents were directors.

For more on the regional findings, visit www.smith.williamson.co.uk

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Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurs at Smith & Williamson, will be speaking at Fresh Business Thinking LIVE! and tell you how to grow your business and live happily ever after. Great ideas are two a penny, but great businesses are rare. It's not just the idea that makes a business successful, but the way it's developed, implemented and managed. In his session, Guy will look at the key drivers of business success, as well as examining some of the more common reasons for failure. He will explain how to build a strong and sustainable business, the opportunities that will create and how you can use these to help you live happily ever after.

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Fresh Business Thinking LIVE! will take place at Old Billingsgate on 8th September and features over 40 expert speakers and workshops.