Half of UK SMEs feel optimistic for 2021 despite challenges ahead

Despite the challenges SMEs in the UK faced in 2020, over half of businesses are feeling optimistic about what lies ahead in 2021, new research reveals.

According to the research, 52% of UK SMEs have an optimistic view on the year ahead, with business, consulting and management, accountancy, banking and finance; and the hard-hit charity sector being positive about 2021.

Conversely, the least optimistic sectors were among those most affected by the pandemic, with hospitality and events management being the most pessimistic about the future of their industry.

As business leaders consider the road to recovery, more than two in five respondents predict they will be back to business-as-usual by the second half of the year.

But the data shows that 2021 won’t be without its challenges, as more than a third of SMEs foresee revenue generation as a key concern, along with employee mental health and wellbeing – both prominent issues of 2020.

Yet many SMEs have learned from the trials faced last year. Two-fifths of respondents intend to upskill in an area outside their expertise, with those in accounting, banking and finance and IT the most likely to diversify their skillset.

In addition, those businesses who diversified their range of services and products in 2020 were more likely to feel optimistic about 2021.

When asked why SMEs should stay optimistic during these challenging times Nick Telson founder of Horseplay Ventures and host of start-up podcast, Pitch Deck, said: “This really won’t go on forever and in most sectors, I think we will return to normal during 2021. If you can survive now there’s no reason why you can’t go on to thrive in 2021. Also, the tough times is when the real innovators come to the fore and spot new and exciting markets and opportunities. Uber and Airbnb came out of the last financial crash, for example.”

Peter Treloar, Hiscox UK Commercial Underwriting Manager, who commissioned the research, commented: “The level of optimism amongst businesses following such a turbulent 2020 is encouraging and a real testament to their resilience. With many already upskilling in new areas, this agility will allow them to tackle new challenges such as revenue generation and employee wellbeing, head-on this year.”