The 2017 DNA of an Entrepreneur report has found that two-thirds of small business owners say they are better off than a year ago, and seven in ten have expanded their customer base.
Now in its ninth year, the DNA of an Entrepreneur study by Hiscox is based on responses from 4,000 small business owners and senior managers in six countries - the UK, the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
This year's barometer of SME health shows a mostly positive picture. Key findings include:
- 67% of respondents report revenue growth;
- 71% have expanded their customer base in the past year;
- 16% of those polled have added staff;
- 27% plan to hire in the year ahead.
Revenue growth is slightly down in the UK (from 64% to 61%) but the proportion of firms reporting profit growth is marginally higher (62% vs 61% a year ago).
The most successful entrepreneurs appear to be millennials - half of under-30s (50%) and 46% of those aged 30 to 39 say they are better off than a year ago.
Over a quarter (26%) of all respondents currently operate more than one business. The report says they are part of a core of highly-motivated entrepreneurs that are focused on growing their businesses. They make up 35% of those planning to introduce a new product and 48% of exporters and are mainly under the age of 40 and running larger companies.
Bronek Masojada, ceo at Hiscox, said: "The report [shows] there is a new generation of risk-takers coming through who are clearly prospering. And it reveals for the first time there is a dynamic core of entrepreneurs, engaged in more than one business, who are likely to be leading the way with exports and innovation. These are the wealth generators on whom our future growth depends, and policy-makers should take note."
However, the research also identifies some small firms that are overly reliant on one customer. The report finds that 16% of SMEs are dependent on one customer for half or more of their revenue; the average respondent relies on its biggest customer for over a quarter (26%) of its revenues - and this figure is higher among sole traders (29%). The problem is most acute in the transport and business services sectors.
Other business threats include cyber crime and political instability - the number of UK firms saying political instability is having an impact on their business has jumped sharply from 22% to 31%.