Small business owners face some potentially serious challenges in 2019, particularly on the back of new legislation and the UK’s impending departure from the EU. Our founder and Managing Director John Woosey outlines some of the key challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the months to come.

challenges smes

Larger competitors waking up

A successful SME tends to be nimbler and more reactive than its larger corporate competitors. That’s often its USP and as an SME owner, you have to play to your strengths to gain any sort of advantage. Doing this has allowed us to get a head start and we’ve always embraced the digital world.

However, my main concern is that the larger corporations will eventually wake up. If they put their minds to it, they could make life very difficult for SMEs because they have far deeper pockets.

It’ll take them time because they tend to move more slowly, but small business owners have to be aware of this and remain up to speed with trends, particularly with regards to digital marketing.

Advances in technology

As touched on, if you don’t embrace digital trends, you’re in danger of being left behind, especially with more large companies jostling for space.

That’s why small businesses need to be smarter when it comes to data and machine learning. After all, an improved user experience not only means attracting more new business, it will also increase customer retention in the long run.

At Ripe, we’re utilising various forms of technology to achieve this and stay ahead of the competition. Working alongside researchers at the University of Salford, we’re investigating such new technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. As part of the collaboration, we are also looking to employ an in-house data scientist.

These are just some examples of how businesses can use technology to personalise their marketing and present themselves as tech-savvy, 21st century enterprises.

Regulation and data security

Regulation, for SMEs, is a real challenge – if you’re not careful, red tape can strangle a business. I know this first-hand as the owner of an insurance company, because it’s highly regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

A good recent example of regulation which every SME has to consider is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The introduction of this regulation presents a potentially big obstacle for SMEs, as not every small business owner has the resource to employ a law firm to look after data control on their behalf. They can’t just throw a cheque at the problem and make it go away.

Every business, large or small, needs to take GDPR seriously given the potential fines for non-compliance. If a business is unable to afford for a law firm to advise, then there’s lots of free guidance available online which I’d urge business owners to research and implement as many of the data guidelines as possible within their own businesses.

Those businesses that are “data hungry” will find GDPR more challenging but doing nothing is certainly not an option, whatever your line of business.

Brexit

Brexit is a bit of an unknown quantity for SMEs – no one really knows what to expect. There are some concerning signs – recent research has shown that SMEs could be the worst affected by Brexit.

In fact, a recent survey found that 94% of SMEs feel the Government is ignoring their concerns about leaving the EU. This is clearly a major issue when you consider that SMEs account for such a large proportion of employment within Europe.

There are several ramifications of Brexit for small businesses – prices are set to increase in terms of tariffs and importing goods, while companies which rely heavily on migrant workers from within the EU will also be affected.

The housing market will be less stable, which could impact owners of construction firms in terms of demand for their services.

The main tips I can give to small business owners in relation to Brexit are:
1. Keep your overheads at a minimum in anticipation of the increased costs
2. Cut controllable costs 
3. Review your workforce to ensure that you comply with the immigration laws.

 

Hopefully this article prepares you for some of the challenges your business will face going into next year! To protect it further against unexpected accidents, take out our small business insurance today.