United Kingdom

SME (Small, Medium … Excellent)

By Matt Lewis, Partner, KPMG in the UK

There are nearly five million of them in the UK and that figure continues to grow; they employ over 23 million people and deliver a combined turnover of £3.1 trillion, accounting for 99.9 percent of all private sector business. No wonder they have a week put aside to celebrate their achievements and focus on how to become even more successful.

I am talking, of course, about the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector in the UK. This week it is Small Business Advice Week (#SBAW13).

Throughout the recession, the value and importance of the SME community to the UK economy has been highlighted.  Many businesses struggled and continue to find times challenging, but it is a growing sector and one which, if nurtured and supported, could accelerate the turnaround in the British economy.

Despite a generally supportive environment in the UK by policy makers towards SMEs, there is still an overwhelming amount of red tape that small businesses have to face.  Ever changing employment law, tax regulation, increasing focus on compliance and health and safety rules, can often side track business owners or small business management teams from the task of just getting on with their businesses and helping it to grow. They are such an important part of our economy, the more some of these barriers can be removed, the more able the UK will be to fight its way back from recession.

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) has recently released the findings of its Procurement 2013 report, revealing the power of small businesses in the local economy. The research found that more money spent with a small firm is re-spent in the local area.  In fact, the research concluded that 63p in each £1 (compared to 40p in each £1 spent with a larger business) goes back into the local area.   The SME community is vital to local economies, creating jobs and supporting growth.

Many smaller businesses will be thinking about how they can achieve sustainable growth in a low-growth economy. Some will be looking at how they can recruit skilled staff and retain their best talent using a number of tax efficient incentives on offer to SMEs that aren’t available to the big boys; others will be looking at international plans and how they can make in-roads to the faster growing economies in the East, whilst many will be looking at the different funding routes available to them.  Whatever the priority is, there are a host of organisations that can help SMEs to get the answers and support they need in order to move their businesses forward. I hope that this week not only highlights the value of the SME community to the UK, but that thousands of SMEs take the opportunity to get the answers they are looking for so that they can go on to grow their businesses and our global reputation for commerce.

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