Downturn’s heavy toll on small firms

NEARLY a third of business owner-managers in East Anglia say they have seen their work-life balance deteriorate over the last 12 months, despite the emergence of the UK economy from recession.

The latest Small Business Finance Barometer survey, commissioned by Close Invoice Finance, found that 31% of small and medium sized enterprise (SME) owners in East Anglia feel their personal lives are suffering, with 85% reporting that they are working longer hours.

Andrew Curry, managing director of Close Invoice Finance in East Anglia, said: “Strictly speaking, according to GDP figures, the recession is over, but the reality is that its effects are still having a profound impact on the day to day running of SMEs throughout the country.

“During these leaner times, those who remain in employment, along with business owners, are having to work late just to keep afloat and try and make a success of their business. This is eating into important downtime set aside for friends and family.”

“SME bosses have been the unsung heroes of the recession,” added Mr Curry. “It’s clear that they have made enormous sacrifices and taken significant personal and financial risks to pull their businesses through the last couple of years, often to the detriment of their personal lives.”

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Mr Curry said the absence of any real thaw in the freeze on bank lending wasn’t helping businesses, with credit provision still proving limited or non-existent.

“Of those polled, 46% said they were finding access to funding more difficult than 12 months ago,” he said.

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“Interestingly however, despite having to meet increasingly strict lending criteria set out by their banks, 57% of businesses surveyed still turn to their bank as first port of call when they need finance.”

The research also found that 44% of SME owner-managers admit to having to delay their target retirement age in light of the recession with 26% of those surveyed expecting to continue working into their seventies.

“Low interest rates on savings and poor performing pensions mean that many have no choice but to delay their retirement,” said Mr Curry.

The research in East Anglia was part of a national survey involving independently conducted interviews with more than 500 owner-managers of companies employing up to 250 people.

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