Small business owners are feeling upbeat about the prospect of trading getting back to normal but are still struggling with their mental health and finding financial support, according to a survey from ACCA UK (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and The Corporate Finance Network (CFN).
All owners reported that business trading is at the level they expected or slightly higher this month, a jump of 11% over last month.
And there was also unanimity from 100% of respondents that their businesses will return to pre- Covid levels of productivity and turnover within two years, with more than half (57%) believing they will achieve that goal within 12 months.
The SME Tracker, which reports what small businesses tell their accountants, reported data from accountants representing 12,135 SME clients and ran until yesterday.
However, despite the optimism, about their own prospects, business owners continued to report on the struggle to find suitable financial backing from traditional outlets now that government-backed loans are winding down.
More than half (57%) said they found it more difficult to obtain even an overdraft and the same percentage struggled to obtain an unsecured business loan. Others also had problems qualifying for a commercial mortgage (43%), which was a 10% increase from last month.
Anecdotally, some members even told the survey that even the most straightforward tasks, including opening bank accounts, have been made more difficult.
This frustration with the real-world practicalities of delivering on the opportunities now re-emerging may have contributed to another worrying set of responses concerning business owners’ wellbeing.
More than one in five (22%) said they were more stressed and anxious and 19% reported that they were either not sleeping, feeling unable to cope or that their mental health had deteriorated.
Glenn Collins, head of policy, technical and strategic engagement at ACCA UK said: ‘Our survey shows business owners are still struggling to secure the right financial support.
‘They are telling us that conventional and traditional sources of business finance, such as banks, are lagging behind and are making it difficult for them to complete even the most basic functions like opening bank accounts and securing an overdraft.
‘We would like to see government working with finance providers to improve access to the right finance options to help to support recovery and we will be engaging with both parties on this matter.’
Kirsty McGregor, founder of the Corporate Finance Network, said: ‘Small business owners can see the opportunity on the horizon and are seeing the early signs that trading can return to normal. However, they are also feeling uncertain about navigating the current financial landscape, which is causing them stress.
‘They are generally optimistic about the future, but they perceive a high degree of risk and uncertainty stands between them and achieving their targets.’
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This edition has sought views from accountants working in practices advising some 12,135 SME clients. The data for this poll closed on 25 August, 2021.
About SMEs: SMEs, (typically less than 250 employees), account for 99.9% of the private sector employment in the UK and there are 22 million employees working for these private sector businesses.
About ACCA: ACCA is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. We’re a thriving global community of 233,000 members and 536,000 future members based in 178 countries and regions that upholds the highest professional and ethical values.
We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society that supports both public and private sectors. That’s why we’re committed to the development of a strong global accountancy profession and the many benefits that this brings to society and individuals.
Since 1904 being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. And because we’re a not-for-profit organisation, we build a sustainable global profession by re-investing our surplus to deliver member value and develop the profession for the next generation.
Through our world leading ACCA Qualification, we offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. And using our respected research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing us for tomorrow.
Find out more about us at accaglobal.com
About The Corporate Finance Network: The Corporate Finance Network – www.thecfn.org.uk - The Corporate Finance Network consists of some of the most proactive and commercially astute regional, independent accountancy firms in the UK. They specialise in providing corporate finance advice for smaller transactions. Kirsty McGregor can be contacted at info@TheCFN.org.uk