'Big business' giving SMEs a bad name, says survey

Mar 07, 2012 By Emma Thorne

(PhysOrg.com) -- Anti-business rhetoric, recently slammed as ‘dangerous’ and ’snobbish’ by the Prime Minister is more likely a reflection of the behavior of large corporations than a distrust of small firms.

The outcome of a survey of small business owners and advisers by The University of Nottingham suggests that the perceived recent backlash against business stems from anti-capitalist feelings and not a mistrust of genuine entrepreneurial activity. 

The UK Business Barometer (UKBB) and UK Business Adviser Barometer (UKBAB), run by the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation, asked participants for their views on the media storm surrounding so called ‘anti-business feeling’.

The survey followed the recent flurry of news reporting about multimillion pound losses by banks and their decisions on whether to pay bonuses to their top executives, sparking the comments by David Cameron at the recent Business in the Community Conference.

In his speech he warned that he had seen “some dangerous rhetoric creeping into the national debate that wealth and creation is somehow anti-social.”

Responding to the survey, 40 per cent of Barometer panellists agreed that the ‘anti-business feeling’ was more a construct than a reality, while 32 per cent remained neutral and 28 per cent disagreed. The pattern was similar among advisers — 43 per cent agreed, 27 per cent were neutral and 29 per cent disagreed.

Big business

If such a feeling does exist, UKBB and UKBAB panellists suggested that ‘big business’ and the financial sector were its source. One respondent to the UKBB made the following distinction: “I think there is a general confusion between anti-bank and financial sector feeling and anti-business sentiments.’ An adviser commented: “If there is an anti-business feeling around it may relate to some aspects of big business, it certainly doesn't relate to SME’s.”

Another broadened the debate by adding that: “Anti business feeling varies a lot depending on who you talk with. Much is being done to inspire young people to consider a business career. However in this country we could still do much more to clear away unnecessary employment regulation and free up businesses to develop, to grow, and to employ people without burdensome rules.”

Cameron urged people to fight this mood, adding: “Business is not just about making money — vital as it is — it is also the most powerful force for social progress that the world has ever known.”

As to how business is fairing at this time, on the back of the CBI Economic forecast for the first quarter of 2012 which suggested that growth will restart in 2012, but high levels of uncertainty around the economic outlook mean growth will remain subdued, the survey asked participants how their level of confidence in the economic outlook had changed over the last six months.

Economic reality

For more than half of businesses, the level of confidence remained unchanged (56 per cent). One-quarter (25 per cent) stated that conditions had improved and just under a fifth stated that conditions had worsened (19 per cent).

The confidence levels of business advisers were similar to businesses with 47 per cent remaining unchanged, 29 per cent improving and 24 per cent worsening.

One business adviser reports: “Several of my clients are seeing an increase in their work and it seems to be continuing.”

Another added: “(Members of ) the business community I work in are generally more confident about their workflows and are saying that the economic reality is that it seems to be business as usual.’

Also this month, panellists were asked if they could be persuaded to sign up to the government’s Youth Contract. Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called on businesses to do just that, reminding participants that employers are offered a wage subsidy of £2,275 if they employ an 18-24 year old from the Work Program.

Among businesses who are recruiting — 29 per cent are not recruiting for the foreseeable future — only 10 per cent are persuaded to sign up, 17 per cent are neutral, and a large majority of 74 per cent are not persuaded.

Among advisers 33 per cent will suggest this to clients, 30 per cent were unsure, and 37 per cent won’t suggest this to clients.

Business snapshot 

The UK Business Barometer (UKBB) and the UK Business Adviser Barometer (UKBAB) provide a snapshot of how small and medium-sized businesses are coping with the current state of the economy and aim to uncover the key issues affecting the small business market. Operating over the web means that results can be rapidly generated and the surveys have unique software that enables results to be processed and posted on their respective websites immediately they arrive.

More information, including results and analyses, can be found on the web at www.ukbb.ac and www.ukbab.ac. Businesses and advisers wishing to contribute as panellists on the project should visit the appropriate Barometer website to register.

Explore further: Facial selection technique for ads can increase buyers by 15 percent

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Snapshot of a recession

Jan 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A revealing snapshot of the effect of the downturn in the UK economy on the small business sector has been uncovered by an online survey produced by The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and ...

Fighting back against business fraud

Mar 26, 2008

Smaller businesses are increasingly taking action to protect themselves against business fraud, according to an internet survey run by The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).

Taking on Britain's 'sick note culture'

May 14, 2008

GPs should lend a hand to beat the ‘sick note culture’ that sees millions of working days lost every year, according to a survey of smaller business owners.

Retirement plans on hold in face of recession, survey finds

Mar 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Almost one-third of small- and medium-sized business owners will need to put plans for their retirement on hold because of the downturn in the UK economy, an online survey by The University of Nottingham ...

Recommended for you

Sharing = Stealing: Busting a copyright myth

Apr 11, 2014

Consumers copy and share digital files. This has been blamed for a potentially catastrophic decline in certain markets. But why do consumers copy? And is it as economically harmful as often thought?

How widespread is tax evasion?

Apr 10, 2014

Tax evasion is widely assumed to be an eternal problem for governments—but how widespread is it? For the first time, a new study, co-authored by an MIT professor, has put a cost on a particular kind of tax evasion, known ...

China looks to science and technology to fuel its economy

Apr 10, 2014

Maintaining stability in the face of rapid change and growth, and proactively partaking in cooperative global ties in science and technology fields will be key in helping China become an innovation-based economy, according ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Online reviews: When do negative opinions boost sales?

When purchasing items online, reading customer reviews is a convenient way to get a real-world account of other people's opinions of the product. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, negative review ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.