One in four small and medium-sized UK enterprises (SMEs) is predicting zero growth for their business in the next six months (23%), research shows.
The figures suggest that the recovery is not filtering down to smaller businesses, in stark contrast to more positive recent economic statistics.
Mike Smith of Virgin Media Business, which commissioned the research, said that whilst the UK has every right to feel optimistic about the economy, both government and industry need to continue to work together in recognising that smaller businesses, in particular, are still finding the economy challenging.
He called for others to follow the lead of Virgin Media Business as it launches new technology bundles specifically to help SMEs prosper. The move comes just weeks after the telco launched its free-to-all digital skills learning hub – The Big Digital Skills Hub – ensuring that all entrepreneurs can seize the opportunities in an ever-changing business environment.
The study of over 1,000 companies in the UK with two to 250 staff found that a quarter of (24%) SMEs said the current economic situation was their single biggest barrier to growth.
Half of company founders (53%) said getting the right business advice was one of their greatest challenges when setting up their business, just behind understanding taxes and VAT. Fewer than one in 10 (8%) said they turned to government services when they actually had business problems.
However, the research also showed that businesses were failing to appreciate the growth potential in modern digital technology. Only one in five SMEs (20%) said that digital training was a key area for investment in the next five years.
To help SMEs build their communications technology to support growth, Virgin Media Business has launched three different telecoms bundles for businesses: Red Value, Red Speed and Red Performance.
The packages cover those starting out, as well as growing, emerging and maturing businesses and will help to reduce complexity and make it simpler for firms to seize business opportunities every day.
Mike Smith, Director, SMB at Virgin Media Business, said: “Small and medium-sized firms should be the fuel of our economy powered by simple, flexible technology, but we feel that industry and the Government need to look at ways it can provide more support and direct assistance to this group which is UK plc’s driving force.
“Technology has an unrivalled power to help propel businesses forward but people need the skills to be able to use it. With simpler products, better skills and backing from the top, the UK’s businesses will grow faster and that can only be good for the whole economy.
“The UK’s digital economy already accounts for 8% of GDP – more than any other G20 nation – but we risk losing this competitive advantage if we fail to enable our SMBs to use technology better.”
To further give small and medium-sized firms a lift, Virgin Media Business today launched a “SMEcab” service to provide free taxi rides to entrepreneurs across London, Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield from today (Monday 22nd September) to Friday 25th September.
The inside of the SMEcabs are packed with technology and tools to help passengers polish their digital skills during the journey, as well as a message from Sir Richard Branson and best practice case studies. Businesspeople can also record video clips of their thoughts on the highs and lows of life as a small business for sharing with their peers.
The service was launched today with an cab that drove literally across the Thames in Richmond to prove that, while it cannot make you walk on water, great technology can help cross barriers which seemed blocked.
For more information, to boost your technology skills, or to book a ride in a SMEcab, visit the Digital Skills Hub at www.learndigitalskills.co.uk.
Meet Virgin Media Business at the Convergence Summit South – http://south.convergencesummit.co.uk/