Over a quarter (26%) of the 4,000 UK, European and US small businesses interviewed in the latest Hiscox DNA of an Entrepreneur study currently operate more than one business. It’s more proof – if needed – of the rise of the serial entrepreneur. In the UK, 20% of the 1,000 small business owning entrepreneurs report that they are currently operating/running more than one business. London and the North West at 31% and 24% respectively are proving to be particular hotbeds for the serial entrepreneur.

Also illustrating that it’s never too late to go it alone, while the average age of nearly half (47%) of the serial entrepreneurs might be below 30, a significant 15% are over 60 marking the rise of the silver entrepreneur.

Slight drop in revenue and optimism in UK

Despite evidence of this entrepreneurial zeal, it’s a slightly less optimistic overall picture for UK small businesses than this time last year when it comes to revenue growth. While three in five (61%) report revenues up for the past year, the figure is slightly down on 2016’s 64%. That said, there is a significant regional variation with small businesses in Wales seeing a huge spike in growth (up to 80% from 59%). London and Scotland also report an increase. Overall optimism levels are however down on last year with 55% of the 1,000 UK companies saying they are optimistic for the year ahead compared to last year’s 60%. In comparison, 72% of US entrepreneurs are optimistic about the year ahead.

One reason for the UK’s comparatively low score when it comes to business optimism might well be rooted in perceptions of political instability. Nearly a third (31%) of the survey’s UK respondents agree that ‘political instability is affecting my business’ – up from 22% in 2016.

‘Cuts in public spending have led to a very stagnant market’, says Carolyn Lloyd Brown, herself a serial entrepreneur with a successful £1m plus business already notched on her CV, and the creative spark behind  heritage consultancy Heritage Angel, a Hiscox Business Club member.

Mixed views on Brexit

While the average total of 70% of our respondents in the US, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK believe Brexit will have no impact, not surprisingly that number drops to 49% for UK respondents specifically.

Over a quarter (28%) of the study’s UK respondents see Brexit as a negative, with sectors such as business services and technology/media/telecoms having an overall negative view. Fewer businesses (23%) see Brexit as a positive – the more upbeat sectors are led by manufacturing, financial services and construction/property.

‘My own income is down and most of my peers are finding it very hard to grow in the UK. For me, Brexit was a total disaster as there was so much crucial European co-operation, so many pan-European projects and funding streams, ‘ says Lloyd Brown. ‘I know people who had projects cancelled within one week of the vote.’

Interestingly, while the proportion of UK businesses exporting has fallen marginally from 24% to 22% over the last two years, the proportion of sales made up by exports has actually increased from 27% to 33%.

Are UK businesses on the verge of an export boom? Caroline Lloyd Brown has certainly seen a swing. Over the past 30 years, almost 90% of her turnover was UK-based. Now it’s the other way around, with the bulk of her work in China, a country keen to invest in its heritage and develop tourist destinations. A small but growing number of the firms surveyed (6% compared to 3% in 2016) also intend to start exporting in the coming year.

Late payers

Other notable trends in this year’s survey include nearly a third (32%) of small businesses reporting late payers as a problem. The top UK business concern however was a fear of not being able to attract new business – a view shared by small businesses in the Netherlands and the US.

The good news for many a hard pressed entrepreneur is that they appear to be taking a little more time to enjoy the fruits of their labours by working an average of 38.4 hours a week (compared to 39.5 hours a week in 2016). Unfortunately, the shorter working week hasn’t translated to longer holiday breaks with an average of 23.4 days a year taken (a day and a half less than for 2016).

Cyber attacks continue to concern

The cyber threat also continues to grow with 13% of the entire 4,000 businesses surveyed reporting that they had suffered from a cyber attack (up from 11% in 2016). Of those UK businesses that had suffered a cyber attack, 45% say they had suffered serious financial loss. More businesses are looking to their insurance to cover themselves in the event of an attack with 41% of UK businesses who had suffered a cyber attack able to claim on their insurance – that’s a big increase on 2016’s 25%. More generally from an insurance perspective, UK businesses are more likely to have negligence cover (48%) than businesses from the other countries surveyed.

To find out more read our Hiscox DNA of an entrepreneur report 2017