By Max Clarke

Defying talks of a double-dip recession, the small businesses- backbone of the UK economy- have shown that a ‘true grit’ approach is the key to a positive 2011. Confidence was high among respondents to a Cisco® survey, with the majority (60%) stating that they believe small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be the drivers of economic recovery in the UK in the next year.

The Cisco Business Heroes Barometer, published today, follows the recent announcement of winners from Cisco’s nationwide search for Britain’s most resilient SMEs and revealed a highly productive sector — 44% of whom increased their revenues in the last 12 months. Moreover, two-thirds of UK SMEs (66%) are optimistic about their prospects for 2011.

Small businesses have been quick to recognise that when it comes to recovery, their size does matter. Owners and directors of SMEs say that flexibility (56%), agility (54%) and better customer service (49%) make them better able to prosper during a downturn than their larger counterparts.

Promisingly, 41% of the UK’s small businesses are beginning to recognise the opportunities that London 2012 will present for them as momentum begins to build up for the Games next year, and 39% recognise the role it will play in kick-starting the UK economy.

David Critchley, Cisco UKI director of Small and Medium Enterprises, said: “True grit is all about toughness and tenacity, and the UK’s small businesses have this in bulk. That almost half of SMEs increased their revenues in 2010, amidst talk of nothing but austerity is testament to their role as the engine room of the economy.”

Other highlights from the research, which defined Business Heroes as those SMEs that increased revenues in the last 12 months, showed that successful SMEs are those that:

• Invest in people — 73% intend to recruit more staff in 2011; 74 per cent intend to invest more in training and development.

• Embrace technology — 55% intend to invest in information technology and networking infrastructure in 2011; 35 per cent intend to invest in video conferencing and multimedia communications, and 25% intend to invest in cloud computing or open source software.

• Recognise the importance of flexibility — 72% plan to invest in technology to support mobile or flexible working arrangements.

• Connect digitally — 56 per cent monitor what their customers are saying about them via social media; 49% are using social media to support sales and marketing activity.

“Our Business Heroes campaign has uncovered some amazing businesses that have shown inspiring confidence and fighting spirit, which is exactly what we need to embrace across the economy.” concludes Critchley.

The research was commissioned alongside Cisco’s Business Heroes Awards, a search for the UK’s most resilient SMEs, across six categories: True Grit, New Kid on the Block, Technovator, Green King, Mumpreneur and Borderless Business.

“Continued uncertainty in the economy means that trading conditions are very tough at the moment. We have learned how to respond to such challenges and uncertainties to ensure that we strengthen the business year on year,” concurs Louisa Moger, marketing director at Richard Edward, winner of the True Grit category. “To be recognised for our resilience by Cisco is testament to the drive of all those involved in the business and indicative of the UK small business community.”