2012 is a year of growth for SMEs Entrepreneurs are increasingly optimistic about the business climate and many expect to grow their companies this year. Those are the findings of research conducted by business insurance providers Hiscox into how the leaders of small and medium-sized (SME) firms are feeling about their businesses – and themselves.

The findings demonstrate that Britain’s small businesses are at last feeling confident about the future, after a very rough ride in recent years.

Half of those we surveyed* expect their businesses to grow this year. More than one in 10 said they were aiming for growth of 10-20%. But nearly as many (9%) said they thought their firm could grow by more than 20% this year. Only 15% think their business will shrink in the year ahead.

But growth brings its own challenges. Companies are likely to face new risks as they expand, so it’s worth discussing your plans with an insurer that knows your industry and can advise you on how to manage some of the challenges you’re likely to face.

The confidence among SMEs shown in our research is good news for the UK because with revenues of around £1,500 billion**, small businesses account for nearly half of private sector turnover, according to figures from the Federation of Small Businesses.

As the debate continues about when and if the UK economy is recovering, many small business chiefs think it is in sight. Of those we surveyed, 32% said they expected the recovery to occur in the next 1 to 2 years; 25% expected it to take 2 to 3 years.

Keeping hold of customers was the biggest challenge cited by 40% of small business leaders. Certainly, many of them are working longer each day to serve their clients better. Others said they were staying later at work to prospect for new clients.

But most said they were “determined”, when asked to describe themselves at work, followed closely by “focused”.

To read more about our survey please go to http: //www.hiscox.co.uk/press-room/2012/smehealthcheck/

*Populus interviewed 502 business leaders (owner managers, proprietors, managing directors, board level directors / partners, and directors) in SMEs with up to 249 employees in the UK online, between February 8-22, 2012.

*Sourced from Federation of Small Businesses http://www.fsb.org.uk/stats