Things appear to be looking up – at least that’s what the results from the latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer show, with business confidence returning to growth for July 2021.
Confidence amongst businesses in the West Midlands rose to 30% – up 27 points from the 3% reported back in February 2021 – with 22% of businesses in the region expecting to increase staff levels over the next year.
But, as the country begins to return to ‘normal’, we wanted to ask SMEs how they feel about the future and what challenges they are facing in the current climate.
We posed the following four questions to small businesses on the #SMESupportHour group on Twitter. Their responses were indicative of the times we’re in; struggling to overcome unique challenges but feeling positive about what lies ahead.
Are SMEs optimistic about the future of their business?
66.7% of businesses said they were optimistic about the future and were confident in their abilities to continue moving forward. However, uncertainties still lie with the unpredictability of another lockdown emerging which has instilled nervousness – not just from SME owners themselves but from investors.
What challenges are SMEs facing in the current climate?
A significant rise in the number of people self-isolating is a big barrier to growth for SMEs. As more people are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app, SMEs are seeing a rise in appointment cancellations, and some have to operate on reduced capacity because of staff shortages. Other SMEs have had to pause trading all together due to the nature of the business. It is hoped that recent modifications to the NHS Test and Trace app will reduce the number of people self-isolating and therefore reduce the burden on small businesses.
Has the easing of restrictions been beneficial to SMEs?
The easing of restrictions has been particularly welcomed by the leisure and hospitality sector, which has arguably been the hardest hit during the pandemic.
But other sectors are also feeling the benefits, as the removal of social distancing rules means that many businesses can return to working at full capacity. For many office-based businesses, the benefits of home-based working experienced in the past 15 months has been combined with human interaction in the office to create a hybrid working approach that suits all and improves mental wellbeing and productivity.
Do SMEs have plans to access finance over the next few months?
Whilst fewer businesses are currently applying for finance right now compared to earlier in the pandemic, this does reflect the latest business advisory community survey from the British Business Bank, which found that more SMEs in the West Midlands will require additional finance for growth in the next 12-18 months as they begin to recover from the pandemic.
BCRS Business Loans can help
BCRS Business Loans is committed to helping businesses kickstart growth and recovery plans across the West Midlands region.
BCRS is an accredited delivery partner for the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS), offering loans ranging from £25,001 to £150,000.
Click here for more information about our offering and eligibility criteria.
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