Friday, February 11th, 2005

The first Barometer survey of 2005 enquired about growth aspirations for businesses, types of legislation as constraint or encouragement for growth, sources of advice by type and, following recent headlines on the health and performance effects of caffeine, preferred beverage throughout the day.

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  • About the respondents

    The UK Business Barometer surveys the people running small and medium size businesses. In the January survey, 145 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics::

    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    26.2% 9.0% 64.8% 100.0%

    Turnover ()
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    73.7% 16.6% 9.7% 100.0%

    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    58.6% 29.0% 6.2% 2.8% 3.4% 100.0%

  • Survey Findings

  • The first part of the January 2005 UK Business Barometer Survey asked questions on the theme of business growth. Panellists were first asked to identify with one of a selection of possible aspirations for the growth of their businesses. The same question was asked of the panel of the parallel UK Business Adviser Barometer Survey (UKBAB). Results from the two panels were closely aligned, with the majority hoping for growth of up to 10% per annum.

    The impact of regulation on economic growth is an area that causes concern to both government and businesses themselves, and nearly of respondents to the UKBB admitted that they have decided not grow their businesses because of having to deal with further regulation. Business advisers were asked in the UKBAB survey if they have worked with businesses that decided not to grow because they did not wish to pass regulatory thresholds and 76% of respondents said that was the case.

    Of the 24% who had decided against growth because of further regulation, nearly all attributed this to the impact of employment legislation. Business advisers were asked which areas of legislation they thought have led to smaller business not increasing their size, and the two areas advisers selected as being of greatest impact were employment legislation and VAT.

  • Question 4 in the January 2005 survey asked from what single regulation would small businesses choose to be exempted, if they were allowed. Panellists were given the opportunity to provide a text response with no prompting.

    Almost two thirds of the respondents wished to be exempted from employment regulations, often pointing out how disproportionately burdensome these can be for small firms. Several highlighted the difficulties in dispensing with the services of employees (8%), others cited Health and Safety (8%), whilst maternity/paternity leave regulations were a concern of 13%.

    Around one third of respondents, very rationally, wished to be exempt from tax regulations in respect of corporate tax, general taxation, and VAT.

    All the actual responses are listed in the UKBB website with the Survey results for January.

    49% of UKBB respondents think that fast growth businesses find it more difficult to cope with regulation than other businesses, although 31% think it is about the same for all businesses.

  • In previous editions of the UKBB, panellists have been questioned as to the type of 'adviser' they prefer. The following set of 6 questions sought to break that down by type of advice sought. Each question was 'shadowed' in the UKBAB by asking advisers to whom a 'typical' small business would first turn for advice in each of the areas.

    The first area was Finance and an Accountant was the most popular choice in both surveys, with 52% of UKBB responses and 65% of UKBAB responses. The second choice of UKBB respondents was Business Adviser, with 19% of responses and only 11% thought they would consult a Banker.

    The second area was technical advice. Clearly this covers vastly different issues according to the type of business, and could range from specialist precision instrumentation to IT systems or stand alone cash registers, giving rise to a wide dispersion of responses. 43% of UKBB responses were in the Specialist category.

    In the area of legislation, 40% of UKBB respondents would refer to a specialist and 30% would consult a trade association or representative group. 11% would go to a Business Adviser.

    When advice on marketing is required, 33% of UK Business Barometer respondents would turn to a business adviser, while 29% would ask for advice from a specialist. This contrasts with 63% of respondents to the UK Business Adviser survey who would expect a typical small business to go to a business adviser for marketing advice.

    The two most accepted standard sources of advice on management amongst UKBB respondents are business advisers, which attracted 48% of responses, and specialists, with 17% of responses, but 18% of respondents said that they would use other sources for this type of advice. 57% of UKBAB respondents said they would expect small businesses to consult business advisers, and 18% thought small firms would ask accountants.

    For legal advice, 78% of UKBB respondents would turn to a specialist, with 12% consulting their trade association or representative group. 68% of UKBAB respondents would expect small businesses to go to a specialist on these matters, with 13% expecting them to contact a trade association or representative group.

    The final question in the January survey was a response to recent headlines on the health and performance effects of caffeine. For respondents to both the UKBB and the UKBAB surveys, coffee was the most frequently chosen beverage, followed by tea and then water.

    Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB80 January 2005.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

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

    Production and Manufacturing

    As I indicated last year, the survey that we complete does not seem to have any affect on the government as they (seem to) consider manufacturing as not important part of economy.

    Business Services

    Your questions on advice assume that advice is or would be taken externally in each category. This is not the case with knowledge-based firms like mine.

    The new disciplinary procedures are cumbersome, unfair on both sides and are making me think twice about giving an opportunity to an individual who may be successful in my business - but I don't know unless I try.

    'Advisors' is a very general term. I use appropriate specialists, usually talking to at least 2 and selecting them on the basis of previous use, specialism and cost. I may also use a Business Link.

    I have seen this for the first time. Have not seen your results but from my point of view, it would be interesting to see comparisons or movement since the previous survey.


    I feel after completing a number of these that there is an obsession somewhere with red tape, perhaps less questions on this...