2017 Q3: Government support for SMEs and entrepreneurs wavering

25 October 2017

65% of business leaders believe that they lack government support, according to the latest Enterprise Index research by Smith & Williamson, the accountancy, investment management and tax group.

Confidence of business owners and entrepreneurs for the last 12 months

Party conferences fail to bring confidence

There was a belief that the government was getting to grips with the scale-up business agenda, and the benefits this offers the economy, but progress appears to have stalled in an uncertain political environment. The party conferences have been a mainstay of the newspapers over the past few weeks, but there has been little mention of any plans or support in this core area.

Our Enterprise Index fell a further two points to 101.8 (January 2013 = 100), as the fears shown in Q2 continue to grow, despite (or because of) several rounds of Brexit negotiations and conference speeches designed to shore up confidence. Confidence has fallen by 10 points since the start of the year.

Confidence in government policy at an all-time low

Too much talk, not enough action

The introduction of a Scale-Up Champion, a Scale-Up Taskforce and the Patient Capital Review were all positive indicators of a government taking business seriously. However, as yet, there have been no meaningful developments for businesses.

Each individual appointment, or development, seems to be piecemeal and there appears to be no coordinated strategy or plan on how our entrepreneurs can be supported. This seems to be left to private sector organisations, such as the ScaleUp Institute, which has limited authority and influence.

Negative effect of political uncertainty


59% of respondents believed that the impact of Brexit is real and nearly two thirds did not expect the economy to improve over the next 12 months.

Brexit appears to be all-pervading. This appears to be to the detriment of all other policy and the health of the wider economy. We need strong leadership and coordinated activity to rebuild economic confidence.

Silver linings

Despite their lack of confidence in the government and ongoing Brexit fears, it seems that many entrepreneurs retain faith in their own business. More than three-fifths (62%) are optimistic about their own prospects in the next 12 months and 58% are still planning to increase headcount in the next quarter.

The global economy is experiencing a sustained period of growth. However, there are signs that Britain is beginning to lag behind. While business leaders tend to be a remarkably resilient group, they should take the opportunity of a benign world economy and Sterling weakness to explore export markets. It may not be for them but no business should overlook such an advantage.

In addition, businesses should continually be looking at the potential to drive efficiencies. A prime way of doing this is to embrace the opportunities that tech has to offer. Big data, AI and the cloud are becoming increasingly accessible to SMEs and it’s vital that a business looking to scale puts themselves in the best possible shape.

Contact us

Guy Rigby profile image
Guy Rigby

Head of Entrepreneurial Services, Partner London +44 (0)20 7131 8213

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