Catch up on the big issues in this week’s Small Business Bites. We cut through the noise to dig out stories that really matter to UK small business owners, from the last month. Here’s our roundup of things you need to know.
FSB urges small firms to take “immediate action” on cyber crime
If you didn’t hear the news that the NHS was hit by major cyber attack last week, have you been living under a rock? The incident caused mass disruption to hospital and GP appointments and was part of a wider attack affecting organisations globally – until one 22-year-old put a halt to it. As a result, there’s been a flurry of articles advising businesses on how to avoid cyber-attacks, with Dave Stallon, commercial director at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) issuing a statement of his own.
He said: “It [the digital revolution] is now such an everyday part of life that it’s easy to forget the risks. When you’re busy getting on with the job of running your business, cyber attacks probably aren’t at the front of your mind. But last week’s global cyber hack – including of NHS computer systems – is a stark reminder that there are dangers. And I worry that small businesses are particularly at risk.
“With a warning from the National Cyber Security Centre this week that further cyber attacks may be imminent, it is vital that small businesses take steps to protect themselves.”
He urged businesses to check for updates to their operating systems and anti-malware software and download them where needed.
“Small firms should also make sure their system or critical data is backed up to a storage device that’s not within the same network – if the worst happens, data cannot then be held to ransom,” he added.
FSB figures show that seven million cyber crimes are committed against small businesses in the UK every year, and, on average, costs a small business victim nearly £3,000.
Read the full statement here.
Managing finances makes one-third of sole traders and micro businesses feel stressed
Business management software specialist KashFlow carried out a survey to get a better understanding of the pressures self-employed people feel when it comes to managing their finances, something the UK’s sole traders and micro businesses are spending 19 million hours each month doing. The result? Almost a third (32%) say it makes them feel ‘stressed’ and half say it is something they lack confidence in.
On the flip side of the coin, 34% said they felt in control of their finances and 42% said they were “really good” at bookkeeping.
Respondents were also asked what they liked most and least about running their own business. 48% stated that being their own boss and “not having to answer to anyone” was the biggest perk, while 20% said not being able to switch off was the worst thing.
Oliver Shaw, CEO of KashFlow, said: “It’s clear that even those who feel confident managing their accounts still find it challenging at times, and that the overwhelming majority of sole traders and small business owners would like to spend less time on it.
SMEs missing out on £1.6 billion by not accepting “next generation” payments technology
Findings from a Barclaycard survey reveal that nearly half (46%) of millennial shoppers (18-34 year olds) are opting to pay for goods using a “next generation” payment solution including “invisible” payments, where card and shipping details are saved in advance of transaction (such as one-click ordering), and “conversational” payments, where digital personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa are used to make a purchase.
However, SME retailers are not adopting these new technologies fast enough, resulting in one in four businesses losing sales to competitors, when shoppers have abandoned their purchase because they couldn’t pay using these “next generation” methods.
The survey also found that almost three in ten (28%) of SME retailers have plans to update their offering in the next six months.
Greg Liset, head of small business at Barclaycard, said: “Our figures show that SMEs are losing sales by not adopting increasingly popular technologies that facilitate invisible and conversational payments. While it’s encouraging that many smaller retailers are becoming aware of the importance of these emerging methods, they need to turn this ambition into action to steal a march on the competition and keep up with consumers both now and in the future.
“Making these changes needn’t be complicated or time-consuming – with support from their payment provider, SMEs can ensure they have the right solutions for their business while satisfying the ever-growing group of tech-savvy, digitally-minded shoppers.”
Brexit still high on the priority list, on run up to snap general election
Brexit is still high on the priority list for UK managers in the run up to June’s general election, according to a survey from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
More than 800 UK managers took part in the survey, with 43% believing access to the single market and free movement of people across the EU should remain once the UK official leaves the European Union.
Their top five priorities from a new government are:
- Securing trade deals with non-EU countries (66%)
- Maintaining access to EU talent by guaranteeing the rights of existing residents (58%)
- Investing in capital infrastructure (53%)
- Maintaining investment in the Apprenticeship Levy (30%)
- Promoting UK higher education as an export (27%)
CMI chief executive Ann Francke said: “Political leaders looking for a strong mandate from this election must consider the views of the UK’s 3.2 million managers, who are key drivers of the UK’s productivity. Managers have serious concerns about continued access to skilled workers, and this is motivating the desire for free movement of people post-Brexit.
“All parties should focus post-election on the need to build an internationally competitive economy based on a world-class skilled workforce.”