Will better technology help SMEs grow in 2016?

Tuesday 22 December 2015

In previous years, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have depended on consumer demand for their growth. However, this has steadily been changing over the years, and the latest survey from Barclays Business has revealed that small businesses see their growth in 2016 coming from a different area.

Barclays' 2016 Hopes and Fears poll found that 39 per cent of SMEs expect improved technology to have the biggest positive impact on their business in 2016. This has become the number one reason in the survey, knocking consumer demand off the top spot.

Almost a third of SMEs still believe that this demand will still be important, with 32 per cent telling Barclays it would be the main positive driver of growth next year. Some 25 per cent expect their business to grow overseas, with international opportunities being the main thing they expect to aid expansion.

Another factor that SMEs expect to drive positive growth is improvements in their digital or online presence, chosen by 23 per cent of participants. This further highlights how technology has changed the world of small businesses. Another ten per cent said cultural and sporting events - such as the upcoming Olympics - would be the biggest factor.

Rebecca McNeil, head of SME lending at Barclays, said: "It is encouraging to see that many SMEs recognise the importance of technology for their business growth. It is therefore essential that businesses are given the right support, tools and guidance to enable them to embrace any new opportunities to maximise their growth."

However, most SMEs accept that the year ahead might not be 100 per cent positive. Interestingly, the main worry for small businesses was not anything explicitly financial, but was to do with the climate.

Out of the companies surveyed, 23 per cent said extreme weather had the greatest chance of having a negative impact on their business. This shows how despite increases in the number of online companies, it is still essential for a firm to have somewhere to work from and other physical assets, which could be damaged by storms or floods.
However, the outlook appears to be positive overall. The survey also highlighted how SMEs are well aware of risks to their business, which will enable them to take steps to safeguard themselves in the year to come.

By Victoria McDonnell

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