By Claire West

As businesses brace themselves for a double-dip recession new research from Thrifty Car & Van Rental has highlighted SMEs are embracing flexible options to help ride out the recession, having learnt valuable lessons in best business practice.

With cash flow being the lifeblood of businesses, SMEs have adopted flexible ways of working during the last two years to improve their chances of survival. A quarter have taken on temporary staff to help meet demand when needed, 25% have reduced their fleet size, one in five (18%) have opted for flexible car rental and 17% encourage staff to use public transport more often.

In addition, the Government’s recent Budget announcement surrounding VAT increases and changes to capital allowances, has led businesses to further analyse their flexible working practices. Three quarters of companies said these new policies will affect their decision about using company cars — assessing whether they need a vehicle at all, reducing their size of fleet and looking at other alternatives to purchasing vehicles outright.

SMEs have also learnt valuable lessons from the economic crisis. More than a third (35%) said they have focused on making sure their products and services are competitive, a quarter (26%) are constantly searching for the best deals, 26% have cut the cost of their business premises and 22% are investing in their staff to help retain the best employees.

Despite more than two thirds of businesses fearing a double-dip recession, with 22 per cent saying they don’t feel prepared and one in five worried their business won’t survive, surprisingly only a quarter (27%) are being more cautious about providing customers with credit.

Roger Hancock, Managing Director for Thrifty UK comments: “Cash flow is clearly a concern high on businesses’ agendas and it’s promising to hear that many companies are proactively trying to find ways to improve their financial health. Taking advantage of flexible options such as premises, staff and cars means businesses can react to changes in their circumstances and the economic landscape without long term commitments.”

More than eight out of ten (82%) companies recognise flexible car rental terms would help them save money. More than a third recognised the biggest advantage of flexible car rental is no long term commitment, with 22% acknowledging it means they only have a car when it is needed and one in five seeing it as a means to save costs.

Thrifty, the leading car and van rental firm, offers Flexifleet. Cheaper than conventional daily car and van rental packages, Flexifleet offers all the benefits and peace of mind of longer term contracts — without the associated termination penalties or long term agreements.

Thrifty’s Flexifleet operates nationwide. For further information visit www.thrifty.co.uk or call 01494 751500.