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UK SME business confidence down almost 20 per cent on 2017

Research commissioned by Dun & Bradstreet revealed UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) confidence in future financial success is down 19% compared to last year. The study found that almost a third (32%) of respondents have considered leaving the UK to increase their chances of success.

As well as ongoing uncertainty over Brexit impacting growth, the research also shows that late payments have risen in the past year. Cash flow remains a critical issue, with the average amount owed to SMEs at any one time over the past 12 months now at £80,141 – an increase of nearly 25% from 2017. The consequences of these late payments include cash flow difficulties (31%), delayed payments to suppliers (28%) and reduced profit performance (22%). Nearly two thirds of respondents (63%) feel that there should be financial penalties in place to tackle late payments and 62% believe there should be legislation in place to mitigate the problem.

Other factors cited as impacting the future financial success of SMEs include recruitment of the right talent and resources (35%), adoption of new technology (26%) and ability to deal with increased regulation such as the GDPR (20%). Operating in an uncertain business environment has had a clear impact on SME business plans, with 63% of respondents saying they had a clear business strategy in place, down from 70% in 2017.

“Given the changing political, regulatory and economic landscape, it’s unsurprising that small business confidence is down,” said Tim Vine, Head of European Trade Credit at Dun & Bradstreet.  “There’s no doubt the months ahead will continue to be challenging as we move towards the Brexit deadline. Small business leaders are having to contend with scenario planning on top of dealing with day to day priorities such as cash flow management, late payments and securing finance for future growth.

“Despite the range of factors at play, positively, over half of the businesses we spoke to were confident that their business can achieve financial growth over the next five years. The resilience of SMEs will stand them in very good stead through these changing and complex times.”

Source: London Loves Business

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How Invoice Finance could drive the UK economy following a no-deal Brexit

With the details of Theresa May’s recent Brexit deal pushing cabinet members to resign, and a seemingly long road ahead before a draft deal is passed by the UK parliament, a no-deal Brexit is becoming more than just a worst-case scenario.

Small-to-medium-sized businesses are making more conscious efforts to put serious contingency plans into place, as a result.

A CBI survey on Brexit preparedness this year stated that more than 50% of businesses had examined different Brexit scenarios, and more than 60% had begun developing contingency plans in the event of no deal.

However, findings from the same survey showed that 77% of businesses said the number of potential scenarios made planning for Brexit challenging. Amid all the uncertainty, the question remains, what can SMEs do to keep a strong economy post-Brexit?

A study published this year by Equiniti could have highlighted Invoice Finance as the answer. The report demonstrated a close correlation between the level of business borrowing and rising Gross Domestic Product (GDP); connecting the two makes a strong case for Invoice Finance being an optimal way to fund business growth in the wake of a cliff-edge Brexit.

Understanding the threats

So what happens if we depart from the European Union with no concrete agreement? Where does that leave the small business owners of Britain?

One of the biggest talking points surrounding life post-Brexit falls on the dissolution of a transition period. Without a deal in place before exiting the EU, we would need to revert to trade on the basis of World Trade Organisation rules in a matter of days, meaning businesses would need to be ready to react to the changes, and fast.

CBI data shows 48% of businesses that had completed scenario planning found the main difficulties related to the costs incurred for internal resources or for hiring external help.

With no implementation period, increasing costs attached to simple business essentials, additional tariffs and the anticipated fall in sterling, SME survival could be in real jeopardy.

Numerous organisations including the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE and the OECD have raised concerns that the WTO scenario may reduce UK GDP by up to 10% or more, which could result in company earnings and stock prices reducing with it.

These unfavourable outcomes could act as deterrents to potential investors looking for investment opportunities, placing further pressure on the types of funding available for SMEs.

To survive a no-deal Brexit, UK SMEs will need to find quick and accessible ways to acquire and maintain healthy cashflows, source new suppliers, and access funding facilities that grow in line with their business to help pay unexpected tariffs, charges and taxes.

However, searching for the best most relevant methods of financing and investment will be difficult in the current climate, leading many to query which kind of financial backing is the most viable for SMEs post-Brexit?

Connecting the dots

There are a small number of financing options that allow SMEs to borrow large sums of money without having equally large minimum turnover requirements.

There are even fewer that also provide flexibility, competitive prices and the kind of quick turnaround decisions that will be necessary to keep the economy afloat post-Brexit.

One of the main sources of funding that adheres to all the above is Invoice Financing, and it is this option that may well hold the key to the betterment of the UK economy.

Invoice Finance is a way for businesses to borrow money against the outstanding amounts due from their customers. Businesses pay a small percentage of the invoice amount to the lender as a borrowing fee which allows business owners the financial flexibility to access working capital.

Findings from the Asset Based Finance Association (now known as UK Finance) show that Invoice Finance is already popular amongst SME’s, with the amount advanced to the UK’s smallest businesses jumping over 60% within just a year. The goal here will be for SMEs to continue this pattern after Brexit decisions have been made.

With small and medium enterprises totalling 99.3% of all UK private sector businesses, the loss of capital from this sector could stifle business growth and impact the overall strength of the British economy.

To stop this from happening, small-to-medium sized businesses need to continue growing and thriving, with strategic lending solutions such as Invoice Financing acting as a brilliant way to adapt confidently after Brexit has passed.

Source: Asset Finance International

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6 ways to ensure your SME gets funding

Over half of SMEs do not obtain the funding they need to survive, says Giles Fuchs.

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 businesses in the UK are looking for funding at any one time. Yet only a small percentage will secure sufficient funding to enable them to grow and expand into credible businesses that have a real market impact.

Clearly, there’s a problem and it is contributing to the failure of as many as nine in 10 early-stage businesses.

For many young companies, securing the scale-up funding they need is still challenging. The UK has a great reputation for supporting start-ups, it’s ranked third by the OECD, but only 13th for its ability to help companies secure the funding they need to become viable.

Also, the prospect of Brexit currently casts a shadow over the UK economy. Even though the Government has recently pledged to provide up to £200m of additional investment in UK venture capital and growth finance in 2019-20 if the European Investment Bank withdraws its support after Brexit, it is still a small percentage of the funding needed. Recent research from small businesses finance provider Liberis, revealed that over half of UK SMEs are still unable to access the funding they need to grow.

UK SMEs contribute some £200bn to the UK economy, so ensuring they can access the funding they need is vital. In the current uncertain climate, to try and secure such backing, whether from private sources, such as high-net worth individuals or family offices, or institutions, it has never been more important for early-stage companies to plan properly and set out a compelling vision.

Develop a proper plan

One of the most common reasons that early-stage businesses fail to raise further funding is a lack of proper planning. Typically, they have grown with less regard for proper structure and process and more emphasis on entrepreneurial energy and drive. However, to secure serious funding from credible investors, management teams need to put together a comprehensive plan which identifies the type of investor they are targeting, best timing for the approach, the quantum of funding sought, and how the company will cope with the rigour of the questions that investors will ask.

Don’t be shy to show your passion

Investors are more likely to back a business if it’s something they’re inspired by, so be passionate about your company and others will buy into it. Remember, you will be one of hundreds if not thousands of businesses your potential investors will be considering, so bringing enthusiasm and excitement to your pitches and meetings will help you stand out. It will help engage investors and help persuade them that you are genuinely creating a business worth backing. Retaining the passion that first prompted you to set up your business could be key in unlocking the funding to help it grow.

Create a compelling narrative

Given young companies are at an early stage in their growth, they will most likely not have delivered substantial commercial success. So, it’s important that you create a compelling narrative for the company as that is what investors will buy in to and will persuade them to back a business. It’s important to have a clear, concise proposition, which outlines the market potential articulately – and why someone would want to invest in it.

Demonstrate the growth prospects

Showcasing your strategy and proposition is the starting point but practically demonstrating the growth potential of the business is crucial. Anchoring your vision in a clear business plan that outlines in workable, pragmatic steps how the company is going to secure its growth will be what investors are expecting.

Have a strong management team

Having a strong management team that investors can see is capable of delivering on the vision, strategy and business plan that you have put together is essential. Investors might be excited by your plans, but most are hard headed and want to know who will be responsible for delivering on these plans. If you can’t show that you have the management bandwidth in place, then you will struggle to secure funding.

Ensure the timing is right

This is the most intangible of all the factors outlined, but timing really is key. It’s important to only consider seeking investment when the business is in a strong enough position and is performing well enough to support this. It’s vital that your company has the structures in place, the systems, the human resources and IT support to provide a proper foundation for your fundraise. You can still go for funding without all this being in place, however, you will increase your chances of success immeasurably if this has all been thought through and implemented.

Seeking funding may seem daunting, the hurdles may seem high, even insurmountable, but treat this exercise with the same rigour and focus as you have to take your business this far, and it is more than likely that you will be rewarded.

Source: SME Web