Irish SMEs are cautiously optimistic about business revenues and job prospects going forward, a survey commissioned by O2 has found. Half of the 300 SMEs are more confident about the business climate in Ireland now than they were earlier this year.
The survey found that 19pc of SMEs are not as optimistic as they were at the start of 2003 and 27pc retain the same cautious outlook that they had at the start of the year.
“Cautious optimism and more confident than earlier in the year but no sign of a return to the boom times seems to be the mood of small-to-medium businesses in Ireland right now,” said O2 Ireland’s commercial director, Gerry McQuaid. “These firms are the backbone of the economy and the good news is that employment in the sector appears to have stabilised.”
The survey found that 27pc of firms surveyed intend to increase employment over the next six months. Some 68pc expect to have no change in employment figures while 4pc expect to be shedding staff over the next six months.
Asked which Budget move would most help small business, the most requested measure was for no increase in income taxes. Second in the survey was a call for no increase in corporation tax.
Some 51pc of SMEs were confident of increasing sales in 2004, with 41pc seeing no change and 5pc expecting a decline in sales.
The top challenge for companies is growing sales, identified by almost 40pc of respondents. Managing outside costs such as insurance and controlling cash flow were seen to be the most serious threats to business health and growth.
The O2 survey was conducted by Millward Brown IMS in November, involving 300 SMEs of which 66pc were based outside Dublin.
By John Kennedy