High levels of debt are causing significant concerns for decisionmakers at small and medium-sized enterprises around the UK, according to a new piece of research.
The costs of labour and the potential for the pandemic to continue posing problems long into the future are also high on the worry lists of SME bosses.
However, high levels of debt stood out as the foremost source of concern for decisionmakers at SMEs across the country, according to polling carried out by the insurance company AXA UK and the Centre for Economics & Business Research (CEBR).
Very close to one in four (24 per cent) of SME bosses cited high debt levels as a worry in response to questions about the circumstances they’re in as the economy recovers gradually from the huge impacts of the Covid pandemic.
Meanwhile, around 18 per cent said they have concerns about the extent to which the pandemic will permanently change the ways customers and potential customers behave.
Roughly the same percentage also told researchers that they worry about the prospect of having to deal with further restrictions related to Covid or other viruses that may cause disruption on a similar scale.
SMEs have indicated an eagerness to welcome customers back, to pursue opportunities presented to them by technological innovations and to continue with new ways of working that emerged to greater prominence during the pandemic.
But close to one in five of the SME bosses asked also said that they see labour shortages as a notable challenge and the same proportion fear that demand for their services or products domestically in the UK could be weak for some time to come.
Despite having to endue some difficult operational headwinds, SME bosses in general are believed to be highly motivated to succeed and to thrive in a post-pandemic economy.
Indeed, perhaps a little surprisingly, almost as many new SMEs were being founded in summer 2021 as was the case at the same point of the year back in 2019.
“The findings of our report demonstrate the extraordinary resilience, perseverance and motivation that drives the owners and leaders of these businesses,” commented Deepak Soni, director of commercial at AXA UK.
“They give us cause for optimism as we work together to make the most of the opportunities and face the challenges to come,” he added.