Record numbers of small businesses in the UK, Europe and US increased their revenue in the past year, yet there is widespread unease about small business government policies.
Despite third year of solid growth for small businesses, there is widespread dissatisfaction with governments over what is seen as a lack of support for SMEs, according to Hiscox's study of 4,000 small businesses. Just 28% of small business owners and managers consider their government supportive of entrepreneurs.
Two-thirds of small businesses have increased revenue in the past year. The strongest performances are in the US and Germany (where 70% of firms report revenue growth) but there has been a marked upturn in Spain and France (where 69% and 60% of firms respectively have lifted revenue, up from 62% and 54% the previous year).
For the first time in many years all six countries demonstrate similar growth rates. Optimism levels are down marginally in all but one country, Germany, but remain high by historic standards. The survey points to further expansion in the year ahead with large numbers of firms reporting growth in their customer base and stronger order books.
More than a third of respondents (36%) say political instability is a potential issue for their business. Spanish respondents appear the most concerned, with nearly two-thirds (64%) saying political instability is hurting their business, and more than half of French respondents (54%) agree.
Bronek Masojada, Chief Executive Officer at Hiscox, commented: “It is notable that small businesses in all the countries covered are now enjoying a positive growth phase, with several indicators pointing to another good year ahead...SMEs are the engines of growth and it is vital their interests are taken into account by policy-makers.”
Findings from the study also revealed that the majority of UK small firms predict that Brexit will have no impact on their business, though a significant minority (31%) see it as a negative. Almost as many Spanish firms (29%) are as worried about Brexit as British small and medium-sized enterprieses (SMEs).
Once again, the report also highlights widespread unease over SME-focused government policies. Only 28% of respondents consider their government to be supportive of entrepreneurs. In the UK, the figure has fallen from 45% to 35% - though the introduction of the National Living Wage and the European referendum may have coloured thinking. More than half (51%) of UK small business owners or managers agree with the statement ‘Our taxation system does not favour someone wanting to set up their own business’, up from 47% a year ago.