Over the last 12 months, small firms’ sentiment has improved and confidence in business has risen over the same period, according to a recent survey.
The findings of the SFA Autumn 2010 Business Sentiment Survey, conducted by the Small Firms Association (SFA), found that 50pc of respondents rate the overall business environment at the moment as “poor” or “very poor” – a drop of 9pc on the second quarter of 2010, and a drop of 17pc when compared to 12 months ago, according to the survey.
Some 19pc of respondent companies rated the overall business environment as either “very good” or “good”, an increase of 6pc on the previous quarter and a 12pc increase on Q3 of 2009.
The survey was conducted on 636 companies (employing 13,750 people) during September and almost three-in-10 companies (29pc) expect their business to be "very good" or "good" in three months’ time – an increase of 10pc at this point last year.
Many obstacles to overcome
Commenting on the figures, SFA acting director Avine McNally believes that despite the improvements, there are still many obstacles to overcome: “Sentiment levels for the current business environment have improved in this quarter and markedly so when compared to this time last year, however, confidence is weak among owner-managers and there are still challenges which they face.”
The survey found that access to credit remains a challenge, with the cost of working capital having increased for 21pc of respondent companies in the last three months and the cost of investment finance having increased for 13pc of respondent companies.
McNally added: “This survey shows that small business sentiment has improved, however their confidence remains weak and will remain so until greater clarity and certainty is provided by Government in regard to the economy and content of budget 2011. The Government needs to ensure that they assist small firms and build on this positive sentiment by creating a business environment conducive to small business survival and growth.
“They must put jobs and enterprise centre stage.”
Click here for full details of the survey.