Entrepreneurs Survey: Heavy Investment Online

Kleinwort Benson, the UK and Channel Islands private bank and wealth management group, has published findings from a new survey of entrepreneurs. The research shows the extent to which confidence amongst small and medium sized enterprises has been dented by the recession and suggests that many SMEs are looking to build their online presence as they work to cut running costs and use marketing budgets more efficiently.

Seeking to identify their present day attitudes and the threats they perceive, the future opportunities they see for their business and the initiatives they are taking to deliver their objectives, the Kleinwort Benson UK Entrepreneurs Survey 2009 revealed that no less than 76% of SMEs intend to increase their use of e-marketing in 2010, more than half (53%) viewing an online presence as critical.

One of the most historic names in UK private banking – with roots dating back to the 1850s – Kleinwort Benson has always been associated with the entrepreneurial community, advising businesses across the country and today maintaining a presence in Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Newbury. Each quarter Kleinwort Benson stages their popular ‘Entrepreneurs Forum’, where entrepreneurs and business owners on the growth path to a successful exit meet to network and to hear other successful entrepreneurs present on the every day challenges faced by SMEs; the event is now in its 9th year. Recent speakers have included Sean Phelan – founder of Multimap, David Soskin – Vice Chairman at www.mysupermarket.com, Nick Lansley – Head of R&D at tesco.com and Mark Sebba – CEO of NET-A-PORTER.

The Kleinwort Benson UK Entrepreneurs Survey 2009 gives us some clues as to the mindset of entrepreneurs in the face of the recession and has given Derek Wright, Kleinwort Benson’s ‘Head of Entrepreneur Initiatives’ cause for great optimism.

“The entrepreneurial spirit is”, says Wright, “infectious. Whilst 72% of our respondents concede that their confidence in generating business growth has been dented by the recession”

With more than half (51%) respondents seeing no pick up until the final quarter this year or 2011, “they remain positive”. Some 51% believe Quantitative Easing will have a positive effect, whilst 55% say their business is likely to prosper after the General Election and in the wake of a change in Government policy.

The outcome of the Election is of course far from certain, as Jeremy Beckwith, Chief Investment Officer at Kleinwort Benson pointed out at the most recent Entrepreneurs Forum. An election producing no overall majority is 11/4 at Ladbrokes* and Beckwith himself predicts that the Conservatives will form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and that Vince Cable could well be the next Chancellor!

The Survey revealed that several measures have been introduced by entrepreneurs in a drive to sustain their businesses:

  • 75% have reduced operational costs
  • 53% have revised their business strategy, and
  • 46% have worked to develop new markets

With 23% perceiving capital scarcity and cash flow as the greatest threat to their business, 18% Government spending cuts and regulation, 60% of respondents are looking to expand in to other markets with new products and 56% in to new geographical markets – with some 32% investing for the future by increasing their headcount during 2010. But it is an online presence that most entrepreneurs see as offering the greatest opportunity, the importance of newly emerging social media readily acknowledged. 42% say they would use Linkedin, the same number Twitter, with Facebook and YouTube polling 38% and 36% respectively.

Drawing his conclusions from the Survey, Wright said,

“Through the generations, working to support those developing businesses, we have seen entrepreneurial people continuing to adapt to the challenges laid before them, and immense resilience in the face of adversity.”

“The widespread recognition of the need to build their online presence – underlined by our latest Survey – does not surprise us. The prevailing view amongst those attending our Entrepreneurs Forums has for some time been that the mobile not the laptop will be the preferred device for business communications in the future, led by Facebook and Apple Ecosystems. It gives us cause for optimism and shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is in rude health!”

(* at 16.00hrs, 25 January 2010)

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