Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

The September survey seeks your views on graduates as entrepreneurs, externally provided business advice, collateral, A levels as an indicator of ability, 'yob culture' as it affects business, unreported crime, sporting success and an enthusiastic and positive attitude to work plus the usual quarterly trends questions.The trends charts from the responses to the regular quarterly questions, analysed by size of firm and sector, can be found on the project's website at www.ukbb.ac

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  • About the respondents

    The UK Business Barometer surveys the people running small and medium size businesses. In the September 2005 survey 155 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics:

    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    26.5% 7.7% 65.8% 100.0%

    Turnover ()
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    73.5% 16.8% 9.7% 100.0%

    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    56.8% 30.3% 6.5% 3.9% 2.6% 100.0%

  • Survey Findings

  • The National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship was formed in 2004 and aims to increase awareness among graduates of the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur as a career option. Entrepreneurship has been a growth study area particularly since the launch in 2000 of the Science Enterprise Challenge initiative, and pioneering courses are helping to bring out the innovative dimension, for example through the development of creative problem solving skills. The perceptions among the communities of smaller business owners and business advisers were tested with the first question in this month's UKBB survey. The same question was also asked in the parallel UK Business Advisers Barometer (UKBAB) and the results are compared.

    There was broad agreement between the two communities - most heavily grouped around average (51% from UKBB and 46% from UKBAB). 12% of the UKBB respondents felt they would make promising entrepreneurs but 37% thought they would be unpromising or very unpromising.

    Note: all the above percentages are quoted after adjusting for those who responded with don't know: these amounted to 30% of UKBB respondents and 20% of UKBAB respondents.

    Business advice can cover many different issues and attitudes towards using can depend not only on business experience but also the type of business being pursued. 35% of respondents regard external business advice as a regular and useful addition to their own thinking, a slightly smaller percentage than in April 2003. At the same time, a smaller percentage than in April 2003 regard it as a measure of last resort- 6% now compared to 10% then.

    Compared with the September 2004 survey, and after adjusting for those selecting 'not applicable', there has been a small increase in the percentage of respondents who have used their houses as collateral - 34% compared to 31% last year.

    Over recent years, the pass rates for A levels (and GCSEs) have continued to rise and now stand at 97%. As A levels can be one of the criteria required of job applicants, we asked panellists if they considered them to be a good indicator of ability. Although 57% of respondents said that they provide some useful indication, only 15% think they are a useful indicator and no one thinks they are a very good indicator. 28% think A levels are a poor or very poor indicator of ability.

    Just over one fifth, 21%, of respondents find that yob culture affects their business highly (category 1) or quite highly (category 2) but the extent of the effect of 'yob culture' on respondents businesses was weighted heavily towards 'none', with 58% either responding in category 5. not at all or category 4.

    This question was closely related to the following one on whether crime is being left unreported. For example, it was pointed out in a comment from a respondent that abuse by the public, verbal or physical, or intimidation may be both the result of yob culture and also be criminal behaviour.

    Businesses are frequently targeted by criminals but there can be disincentives to reporting crimes, for example in terms of the time taken to do so, the costs of future insurance premia, the feeling of well-being and safety amongst staff and customers. 29% of respondents admitted to deciding not to report a crime against their business.

    The recent England success in the Ashes cricket test series provoked much discussion and celebration around the country. 49% of respondents feel that significant national sporting success translates into a more enthusiastic and positive attitude to work to a high or quite high extent. On the other hand, 28% don't think such success has that effect at all, or hardly at all.

    Average constraints on business due to skill shortages, having increased slightly during the second quarter of 2005, were back close to the March level. By sector, the greatest movement was in the Production and Manufacturing sector which showed an average increase in constraint while those on Distribution remained about the same as last quarter and those on Services decreased.

    Similarly, average constraints due to lack of finance returned back down to March. The greatest downwards movement was seen in companies with annual turnover of more than 3M, while Production/Manufacturing sector companies experienced increases, unlike those in the Distribution and Services sectors.

    Overall constraint due to low market demand increased during the September quarter across business from all ranges of turnover and all activity sectors. The Distribution sector, which includes retailers and wholesalers, experienced by far the largest average increase.

    Average growth over the summer quarter was down compared to the previous quarter, across business from all ranges of turnover. More firms reported expansion than decline but also more reported growth as being static than in the previous quarter.

    Respondents are optimistic on average about the next quarter's growth, although not as optimistic compared to their expectations three months ago. Businesses with turnover over 3M p.a. have reduced their expectations the most.

    Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB88 September 2005.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

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

    Business Services

    Some graduate will make good entrepreneurs as will some young women currently on maternity leave. A university degree is not meant to train for or test entrepreneurship. God preserve us from University professors who think they know how to run businesses and can teach their students to make millions. Remember Horace Batchelor!

    GCSE and A levels in different subjects test different skills. Asking for a generic view of whether or not they are a 'good indicator' is like asking if a micrometer screw gauge provides 'useful measurements'. A level maths is a good indicator of mathematical skills and a number of academic and quasi vocational subjects fall into the same category. A level business studies is an entirely unreliable indicator of a young person's ability to thrive in a business environment.

    If you want to know whether I mistrust the 'matriculation' exams as a test of general intellectual capacity because so many people are doing well the answer is no.

    The real difficulty with A level and GCSE recruitment is that many students now have the opportunity to go on to university who would have sought employment at 18 in the past. This reduces the pool of talent available at this level of in take.

    1) Job applicants are often students who have dropped out due to overspending/lack of finance. 2) Most courses seem to be "media studies" based with little prospect of a job in media. 3) Literacy levels are very poor. 4) The University of Life seems to be frowned upon but is the best learning method for future entrepreneurs

    Red Tape is still a problem (i.e IR web site does not accept a NIL company return)

    Re: Question 4 ('A-Levels'- in Scotland we have a different exam system and we have rarely encountered A-levels as the academic qualification we rely on at that level we use standard Grades and Highers and certificates of Sixth year studies for people without degrees. An anglo-centric question if I may say so!

    Re the "yob culture" and "crime" questions. The answers would have been much worse if the questions were worded differently. I have come across many, many businesses who simply do not report crimes such as shoplifting, minor assaults, fraud, abuse by public, etc. Also many retailers are also affected by the yob culture - intimidation, verbal and physical abuse, shoplifting etc. These don't affect me, as I am not retail, but some of my clients are. >

    In the village where we live, yob culture is not apparent yet, thanks goodness. Being a small consultancy, trying to get a small amount of money out of larger clients is still extremely difficult.

    Production & Manufacturing

    Time for a change, too higher taxes, too little government support, very lonely in business, lets have new government, can't be worse than Labour

    Weird questions..... is this a government attempt to seek justification of their education and social policies ?