The company’s UK Small Business Barometer found that across Great Britain 51 per cent of small business owners interviewed thought their business would grow in the coming 12 months, 37 per cent expected to be in a similar position, while 11 per cent expected a contraction in the size of their business.
It also found that seven in 10 small business owners expect growth to come domestically. Regarding the emerging markets sector, only one in 10 businesses will look to this region for opportunities.
Attracting new customers was the focus for 80 per cent of businesses with 62 per cent concentrating on maximising sales over the next 12 months, and only 14 per cent planning to cut budgets to ensure their business is in better financial shape.
The vast majority – 76 per cent – are heavily relying on word-of-mouth to attract new customers, therefore having a good customer service experience will be key in driving future growth. While 26 per cent are expecting social media such as Facebook and Twitter to help build their new customer base.
Strategy and planning for the future is the area where 56 per cent of the small businesses interviewed wish they could devote more time. However, most small businesses admit that they are operating on a short-term basis with 38 per cent saying they are only planning six months in advance and a third operating on a week-to-week basis only.
Stacey Sterbenz, director for American Express Small Business Services UK, said: “While previously the focus might have been on cost cutting or fixing cash flow issues, it’s encouraging that the majority of small businesses seem to be focused on growth, acquiring new customers and maximising any potential upturn in consumer confidence.”
“Our research shows that it is more important than ever for businesses to invest in planning, marketing and customer service.”
She continued: “With so many companies relying on word-of-mouth, going that extra mile for customers will be key in gaining a competitive edge and to take advantage of new trading opportunities.”
Worrying replies from the survey are that 44 per cent of small business owners say they are working ‘longer hours than ever before’ due to the pressure of running their business and 37 per cent have missed out on holidays in the last 12 months due to work commitments.
All reports and guides are available for registered American Express merchants to download through the American Express website.