UK business ambitions are stronger than ever.
Despite tough economic times, new analysis from Mastercard and Opinium shows that the number of micro-businesses (zero to nine employees) setting up shop in the UK has grown every year for the past decade.
However, smaller UK companies are the least optimistic about their future performance, compared to medium and large companies.
It’s no surprise that energy costs, staff shortages, supply chain bottlenecks, and liquidity concerns are so prevalent, hampering the ability of small businesses to grow and succeed. This adds to the already challenging task of running a business and keeping up with an ever-changing digital environment, and the impact this has on customer demand.
Schemes to address the unique challenges small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face, help them unlock productivity and build their resilience are a vital component of the UK innovation strategy and its economic development. After all, SMEs account for 99.9% of all businesses in the UK, employ 48% of the population and account for around 36 percent of the billing in the UK private sector. Without a healthy SME ecosystem, an economy risks slowing growth, stifling innovation, and depleting its supply of experienced talent.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the UK government’s digital strategy has a clear mandate to support businesses, particularly SMEs, to drive digital adoption in order to grow the economy as a whole.
To support this ambition and the government’s vision of long-term prosperity in the UK, Mastercard make britain grow The policy program brings together innovators, think tanks, business and consumer representatives to explore the role of digital payments in growing the economy.
The latest in his series of documents, published this week, calls on lawmakers to support the UK payments sector and promote technology that helps micro and small businesses not only grow but thrive by improving cash flow. and access to finance, unlocking productivity and opening access to markets outside the UK, all in order to drive sustainable growth.
The digital readiness gap
When it comes to digital adoption, the gap between SMEs and large companies is stark. According to the OECDSMEs lag behind in digital adoption in all technology areas.
SMEs tend to digitize general administration and marketing operations first, and the digital divide between small and large businesses is narrowing in areas such as e-invoicing, social media, and e-commerce. However, the adoption gap widens as technologies become more sophisticated and more difficult to implement.
This is worrying given the demonstrated productivity improvements for those companies that invest in digital technologies. In fact, UK SMEs using at least two business management technologies show productivity profits of about 25 percent.
The reality of digitization for UK SMEs
SMEs want to adopt more digital tools, services and other emerging technologies to help them grow and prosper, but there are a number of barriers.
However, while SMEs want to adopt more digital tools, services and other emerging technologies to help them grow and prosper, there are a number of barriers that prevent them from doing so.
Many feel overwhelmed by the number of options when it comes to choosing digital tools and not having the right experience. Indeed, 32 per cent of UK small business owners say they want to use digital tools but are not sure which ones are best suited to their needs, while 44 per cent of UK SMEs I think there is too much confusing information about technological solutions. Programs to support small businesses help address these challenges by filling an educational gap in the UK business ecosystem.
One of those programs is UK Mastercard Strive, which acts as a one-stop-shop for connecting UK small businesses with the right technology and digital skills. Strive UK provides support with everything from creating a social media strategy and setting up an online store to setting up a growth plan and accessing mentorship from industry experts. It aims to support micro and small businesses in the UK by providing free access to training and advice specific to the unique business challenges they face. Since its inception in 2021, the program has supported more than one million UK businesses.
Focus on minorities to unlock the potential of SMEs
Strive is especially focused on supporting businesses run by women or people from ethnic minorities due to the steep barriers these businesses experience.
Women entrepreneurs represent huge economic potential for the UK: £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. But women often face a wider variety of obstacles than men when it comes to starting and growing a business, in addition to having felt the impact of the pandemic. more sharply than their male counterparts, according to Mastercard research.
Meanwhile, other Mastercard findings show that ethnic minority business leaders in the UK are more likely to be unsure which digital tools are best for their businesses, as well as more concerned about the safety of using digital tools. In general, 49 percent were more likely to have concerns. about technology security than those from other backgrounds.
To overcome these barriers, Strive UK provides SMEs with access to various, most importantly, personalized forms of support through their partners. SMBs can create custom business action plans with Enterprise Nation; connect with experts in strategy, marketing, technology and finance through Digital Boost; and through Be the Business, access your own board of experienced business leaders and experts for 12 months, connect with a mentor, and get free technology advice.
Small business owners are not a homogeneous group, so various programs with personalized support are vital for these entrepreneurs, helping them open up new markets, drive growth and provide a wealth of employment opportunities across the UK.
SMEs are the backbone of any healthy economy. By working to support business owners and empower them to work even more effectively, sustainably, and at scale, we can build a more resilient future for all of us.