SME Owners: Their Struggles and Solutions

If you’re a small business owner, whom do you turn to for advice? If the results of a recent AAT survey are accurate, then your answer is likely to be the internet – and unlikely to be a trade association. And the reason you need help in the first place may be because you skimped on the groundwork…

Start-Up Struggles

The survey by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) looked at the challenges faced by start-ups and how owners overcome them. 65% of SME owners admitted they struggled in at least one area at the start, so what did they identify as their biggest struggle?

* 20% named a lack of financial knowledge
* 12% of owners struggled with marketing knowledge
* 11% struggled with legal knowledge

These problems are unsurprising, however, with so many owners also admitting to what is, in some cases, an astounding lack of preparation and research. 26% of those surveyed launched their business after less than a month researching the current market and how to start a business, and only 29% spent more than six months on this vital pre-launch research.

A Learning Curve

Despite these teething problems, only 11% said they wished they had spent more time on finance before starting the business, while 19% felt they could have spent more time on marketing to generate leads and 8% on IT. Only 5% felt they should have spent more time on PR and social media.

And whether their confidence is misplaced or not, the SME owners surveyed had plenty of it. 17% felt fully confident in their business from the moment they had their idea, and 15% felt fully confident once their business had been launched. Although over a quarter (27%) admitted it took them over a year to gain confidence, only 4% said they still don’t feel fully confident in running their business.

* 81% were confident they understood the market and their competitors
* 75% were confident about budgeting for the future
* 70% were confident about writing their business plan
* 69% were confident about setting out their terms and conditions of trade
* 68% were confident about putting together financial projections

However, there was less confidence in an area where the outcome rests on external factors, rather than their abilities: acquiring finance. Only 50% were confident about identifying and securing business loans.

The Internet: The Go-To Place for SMEs Seeking Advice

Perhaps one of the most surprising findings of the survey was that when SME owners need advice, it is usually the internet they turn to rather than contacting trade bodies or experts directly.

30% use the internet when they need advice or information, with 19% using search engines and 11% using business websites.

22% said they seek the help of an accountant, with 10% using business networks, only 8% contacting trade bodies such as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and 7% asking the advice of family and friends.

Commenting on the survey survey, Rob Alder, Head of Business Development at AAT, said:

“Starting your own business can be a daunting process. This research shows that many people who want to run their own business may need more help when they’re starting out. If you have a business idea, it’s essential you do as much research as possible to ensure your idea has the best chance to succeed. Being confident in yourself and your idea is excellent, but you should still ensure you get as much advice as you can, from multiple sources.”

Stephanie Whalley
Serial snacker, compulsive cocktail sipper and full time wordsmith with a penchant for alliteration, all things marketing and pineapple on pizza.