University of Nottingham (c)2005
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Wednesday, November 15th, 2005

Survey BB89 October 2005

The themes of the 89th UK Business Barometer Survey were: key influences on a firm's growth rate, the National Minimum Wage, marketing costs, business advice and expertise, time allowed for strategic matters and the medium to long term economic future compared to a year ago.

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  • About the respondents

    The UK Business Barometer surveys the people running small and medium size businesses. In the October survey 142 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics:

    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    24.6% 7.7% 67.6% 100.0%

    Turnover (£)
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    71.1% 19.0% 9.9% 100.0%

    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    56.3% 30.3% 6.3% 4.2% 2.8% 100.0%

    Survey Findings

    The first set of questions in the October survey asked respondents about key influences on a firm's growth. Respondents were asked to rate five different potential key influences, each on a scale of one to five. The same set of questions was asked of respondents in the parallel UK Business Adviser Barometer (UKBAB).

    The attitude of the owner proved to have the highest response, taken over the two top ratings, out of all five questions in the set. 80% of respondents were in the top two categories for this, and respondents to the UKBAB were even more emphatic, with 89%. A close second was 'market demand', although fewer Business Advisers rated this as highly - more of them preferred 'available skills' as a greater key influence.

    More detailed comparative results for each question in the set are available here

    The second set of questions were centred on business advice, consultancy and training. Panellists were asked about their sources of business advice. More than one choice was permitted, and an average of 3.7 choices was made. Accountants received the highest number of responses, 19% of total, and were chosen by 69% of respondents. Other business owners were the second most popular choice, with 16% of total responses and chosen by 58% of respondents.

    In the UKBAB, the question put was 'What sources of business advice, including yourself, do your clients find useful?'. Accountants topped the responses again, with 16% of total UKBAB responses, from 82% of respondents. There was an average of 5.1 responses to the UKBAB. Business advisers came second with 14%, but only by a very narrow margin over other business owners.

    While UKBB panellists were asked for their direct preference of issue on which they would like a day's worth of consultancy, UKBAB panellists where asked which of the issues should be addressed for their clients by a consultant for a day. Marketing was the strongest response from both sets of respondents, with 47% from BB results and 50% from BAB results. 'Management skills' was the second favourite choice and the following question looked at which aspects of management skills training should focused upon.

    UKBB panellists were asked which one aspect of management training they would ask a free specialist expert to focus upon while BAB panellists were asked which aspect their clients should focus upon for free Management training from a specialist expert. The two sets of results were in broad agreement as to order if not quantity. People skills came out top of needs, followed by change management and then finance.

    61% of UKBB respondents spend less than 10% of their outgoings on marketing activities, with 29% spending between 10% and 20%. The Business Advisers questionnaire asked what proportion of a client's costs would be expected to be allocated to marketing activities. The results were to some extent comparable with the UKBB results - 54% said less than 10% and 36% said between 10% and 20%.

    The National Minimum Wage rates increased on 1st October 2005. The rate for those over 22 years of age went to £5.05 an hour, from £4.85, an increase of 4.1%. Other NMW rates increased in line. In practice only 10% of respondents to the UKBB survey find that the NMW features highly or relatively highly in their decision making processes although 19% of respondents to the UKBAB have found from their experiences that it features highly or relatively highly for their clients' decision making processes.

    75% of respondents to the UKBB take time out to evaluate strategy and related matters each year. In fact, 26% do so every month, while 24% revisit on a quarterly basis. The panellists of the UKBAB, the Business Adviser Barometer, were asked if they encourage their clients to set aside time for looking at strategic matters. 90% do, and 37% recommend this takes place quarterly.

    Entrepreneurs and business advisers are vitally concerned in the working economy and decisions taken and advice given is likely to be strongly related to the economic outlook as seen through their eyes. The same question was asked on the future of the UK economy to respondents to both the UKBB and the UKBAB and responses were very similar and quite strongly indicative of a negative shift. 46% of both sets of respondents are more pessimistic than they were a year ago, although about 40% say they have not changed their view.

    Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB89 October 2005.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

    Views expressed are those of individual panellists and may not represent those of the University.

    Business Services

    Feeling a lot happier this quarter, despite what appears to be a very major downturn in our industry ie 315 of the top 1000 agencies on the verge of receivership!

    I think that generally the questions in the surveys are very practical and you encompass small to medium sized business views.

    The first questions were ambiguous. You asked us to comment on whether each factors was THE key factor. Technically, if we answered Agree to any one, we would exclude the other. Better to ask something like 'How import and to you think that XYZ is ....' etc.

    Production & Manufacturing

    I am an old fashioned believer in the Economies need for a Manufacturing base. Its like any household in the long run, we cannot keep sending money out of the country without it coming in through our own Exports. Also UK manufacturing supports a massive part of the service sector. W all know what is happening to UK Manufacturing, why do we continue to let it happen and why do we keep on ignoring the deterioration in our balance of payments. Someone please give me a straight answer if they think I am wrong!

    Astonished at new paternity and maternity laws. May be interesting to see if all industry thinks the same in a future survey.

    I'm guessing that many will answer the question about "Who do you seek business advice from?" NOT from suppliers, but in our case, our business has had very good relations for many years with a key supplier (in a similar industry). They have helped a great deal with staff issues, regulations, IT questions and more. I suspect that is a fairly unusual situation.


    A tough challenging year so far and if the market confidence remains low for the next quarter then by all accounts were in recession.