Brexit is still the biggest concern on the minds of most SMEs (44%) but it’s worth noting that other issues are rising in significance. Rising costs are a concern for over a third of SMEs (36%) while cash flow is an issue for 32% of firms, says Aidan Gough, InterTradeIreland’s Designated Office and Director of Strategy and Policy introducing the most recent InterTradeIreland Business Monitor.
If there’s a war for talent, talent is winning
Attracting talent has been a persistent issue for larger companies (over 10 employees) over the past three quarters and shows no signs of abating. 1 in 5 are now struggling to recruit the appropriate staff. This has implications for business that want to grow and in the long run it could have an impact on the wider economy.
Brexit is impacting on investment levels
While Britain and the EU continue to negotiate the terms of a withdrawal agreement uncertainty is having a dampening effect on business investments. Only 14% of firms plan to invest in new plant or equipment. Worryingly only 4% are considering spending money on R&D or new product development. This is consistent with businesses holding back until the terms of the new trading relationship with Britain and the EU become clear.
Cross-Border Exporters fall back
Generally, businesses that export tend to the most resilient and more innovative and adaptable. The cross-border market is now worth £6bn/€7bn. However with Brexit dominating both the political and business landscape, many SMEs are operating in an environment of uncertainty. This is particularly true for cross-border traders and has been put into sharp focus by their performance in Q4 2018. Only 9% reported rapid growth in the period of Oct-December 2018, a 46% drop in growth from Q2 2018.
InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service
InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service offers bespoke help and assistance for SMEs, including a £2000 Brexit Start to Plan Voucher, which allows individual firms to work with an approved panel of experts to devise a tailored action plan.
About the Business Monitor
InterTradeIreland’s quarterly Business Monitor survey is the largest and most comprehensive business survey on the island and is based on the views of more than 750 business managers across Northern Ireland and Ireland since 2008. The Business Monitor differs from other surveys in that it is seen to be the ‘voice of local businesses’ feeding directly from telephone interviews conducted with firms of all sizes from across a range of sectors to track all-island economic indicators such as sales, employment, business outlook and other specific topical research areas on a quarter by quarter basis.