Despite being widely tipped as particularly problematic areas for the UK's smaller businesses, new research suggests that auto-enrolment and the National Living Wage are far from business owners' biggest concerns.

More than a third (34%) of small business owners surveyed identified sales at their biggest concern for the year ahead, making it a far bigger worry than any other area, according to the survey by NOW: Pensions.

Access to finance was the next biggest worry, with just 12% highlighting it. Interestingly, just 7% said the outcome of the EU referendum was their biggest concern.

The National Living Wage and auto-enrolment was chosen by just 2% and 3% respectively.

Top 10 concerns for the year ahead

  1. Sales (34%)
  2. Access to finance (12%)
  3. EU referendum (7%)
  4. Government spending cuts (7%)
  5. Keeping up with technology (6%)
  6. IT security (4%)
  7. Auto enrolment (3%)
  8. National Living Wage (2%)
  9. Attracting and retaining staff (2%)
  10. Lack of skilled workers (2%)
When it comes to what would make their life easier, entrepreneurs are calling on the government to reduce the amount of ‘red tape’ involved with running a business, with 19% claiming less paper work and increased access to government grants would make a big difference.

Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions, said: “With so many other things to think about it’s easy to see how auto enrolment can slip through the cracks. But, the penalties for non-compliance are steep, as much as £500 a day for firms employing 5-49 people, so small firms need to give it the attention it deserves.