- Optimism presides: Many more SMEs are optimistic than pessimistic despite tough times in the last year
- Working hard for new customers: A majority of SMEs in five out of six countries reported increases in new customers. The average working week for a business owner is 42.8 hours, but the Germans work 8.5 hours longer, on average, than the British
- Stresses and strains: The downturn has brought more stress to 43% of SMEs and 31% reported sleeping problems. More women reported stress, sleeplessness and health problems than men
- Eager but lacking language skills: SMEs who had recruited school leavers or graduates gave them higher ratings for keenness and motivation than for language skills
- Few SMEs seek outside help: Only 22% of SMEs had turned to outside help from elected representatives and business groups – and those which did preferred a business organisation or a local representative to a national politician.
London UK (9th October 2012) - A wide-ranging report published today gives a unique and revealing portrait of entrepreneurs in Europe and the USA as they cope with another year of economic crisis. Despite financial pressures, stress and sleeplessness, they still have faith in their futures and maintain the determination to succeed.
Published today by Hiscox, the international specialist insurer, the fourth DNA of an entrepreneur study reports findings from research of 3,000 owners or partners in small and medium-sized businesses in six countries: the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain.
Bronek Masojada, CEO at Hiscox, commented:
“Our fourth annual study of SMEs confirms what we know from working closely with them: they consider and manage a wide variety of local, national and global risks everyday while keeping faith in their values and ambitions.
We hope that the insights in our study will help all those supporting SMEs make their essential contribution to economic recovery.”
Key themes from the study:
Optimists outnumber pessimists
Although SMEs had experienced tough trading conditions, the study found 48% of respondents were optimistic about the year ahead for their business, compared to 27% who declared themselves pessimists and 26% who were not sure. The Spanish (28%) had the lowest optimism, and the Dutch (61%) the highest. In five out of six countries, a majority of respondents reported an increase in new customers: the leader was Germany (72%) followed by the USA and the Netherlands (64% and 62%). Across all countries, 75% of respondents hope to avoid redundancies in the year ahead or even recruit, and 61% were not letting the eurozone crisis affect their business plans (57% in the five EU countries). As many as 91% found benefits from running an SME compared to working in a large company.
Tight finances – but stable relationships with lenders
Forty five per cent of SMEs reported profit growth over the last 12 months (33% in Spain, 58% in Germany). However, across all countries 62% had not needed to renegotiate borrowing from a lender, and 74% of those who had renegotiated had been successful, partially or totally.
Stressed but determined
Across all six countries, the average working week for leaders of SMEs was 42.8 hours, and 2.1 of those hours were spent on government regulation. The Germans put in the longest hours - 47.1 hours on average each week (2.7 hours on government regulation). The British had the shortest average working week – 38.5 hours, with 1.6 hours spent on government regulation. Forty three per cent of all respondents said that the economic downturn had given them more stress (54% in Spain, 24% in the Netherlands), and 31% reported sleep problems due to increased worry. However, 30% said that the downturn had made them stronger and more determined to succeed, and 31% said that it had spurred them on to work more efficiently.
New recruits – keen but not so good at languages
Among the SMEs across all six countries who had recruited school leavers or graduates in the past two years, 63% gave them high ratings for keenness and motivation, 56% for reading and writing and 52% for basic arithmetic. However, only 41% rated them highly for speaking different languages (USA 33% and UK 26%).
A helping hand
Only 22% of SMEs across all countries had asked for outside help from business groups or elected representatives. Eleven per cent had approached a business or small business organisation, and 9% a local councillor or mayor. Just 3% had turned to a representative in their national parliament or assembly and only 1% of respondents in the five EU countries had approached their MEP.
For further information please contact:
+44 20 7448 6470
Caroline Cecil Associates
+44 20 7610 4110
Notes to editors
A full copy of the report will be available at www.hiscox.co.uk/DNA from 0001 hours on Tuesday 9th October 2012.
Sample and methodology
Respondents were owners or partners of SMEs in the UK, USA, Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain. The businesses were predominantly service-based (79%). 92% were below £1 million annual turnover, 61% £100,000 or below. 41% were one-person businesses and 73% had fewer than five employees. 56% of respondents were men, 44% women. 54% of respondents were aged 40-59, 35% under 40.
The research was conducted for Hiscox by The Survey Shop. The sample was drawn from online panels. 3,000 owners/partners took part between 17th-26th July 2012. Statistical accuracy: +/- 1% to +/- 1.5% for the whole sample of 3,000 and +/-2% to +/-4% for each country’s sample of 500.
Hiscox business insurance in the UK
Hiscox is a specialist insurer offering professional indemnity insurance, office insurance and public and employers’ liability insurance to a range of businesses including those in IT, management consultancy and marketing.
For further information about Hiscox business insurance in the UK, visit: www.hiscox.co.uk/business-insurance/
Hiscox, headquartered in Bermuda, is an international specialist insurance group listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). There are three main underwriting parts of the Group – Hiscox London Market, Hiscox UK and Europe and Hiscox International. Hiscox London Market underwrites mainly internationally traded business in the London Market – generally large or complex business which needs to be shared with other insurers or needs the international licences of Lloyd’s. Hiscox UK and Hiscox Europe offer a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers, as well as high net worth individuals. Hiscox International includes operations in Bermuda, Guernsey and USA.