Gareth Magee

Gareth Magee

Strength amidst uncertainty

With around 99% of Scotland’s companies classed as small or medium-sized (249 or fewer employees) it’s fair to say that Scotland’s economy is driven by SMEs, argues Gareth Magee.

For the second year running, Scott-Moncrieff has surveyed both the Scottish and UK-wide SME market, and gained valuable insights into how these, mostly owner-managed, businesses are faring and how they rate their prospects for the future.

Since last year’s survey, there has been a decline in business confidence – with 59% of SMEs in the UK and 69% in Scotland expecting their business to perform better this financial year compared to 2016. Last year, 77% expected 2016 to be better than 2015. In line with this assessment, confidence in meeting key performance indicators, such as revenue and profit targets, has fallen.

There are no prizes for guessing that the key concerns of SMEs are those also dominating the headlines. The strength of the UK economy and the potential impact of Brexit were the highest-ranking anxieties, with a continued shortage of skilled staff and the ability to extract profit from their businesses also affecting levels of optimism.

Despite this, growth is still very much on the agenda for many SMEs and Scott-Moncrieff’s survey reports positive results, with 40% faring better than expected last financial year. SMEs are well positioned to respond to a changing economic climate. They are generally well run, nimble, businesses that can swiftly capitalise on any opportunities that arise, even in uncertain times.

While other, larger businesses may take time to debate their next move, SMEs can seize the opportunity to take swift and decisive action.

Expanding their customer base, investing in staff, developing new products and services and investing in technology are the top priorities for businesses in 2017. So, it seems there are plenty of organisations out there seeking opportunities for expansion and investment.

While there’s no doubting that the future could test even the most optimistic business, the winners will always be those who respond with positivity and action. Opportunities will arise, and it is those who grasp them that will prosper. While some will experience positive benefits as a direct result of the current climate, others will choose to adjust their business model to create them – whether that means boosting exports, increasing domestic production, adjusting supply chains, or developing new products and services.

One thing is for sure – there are bound to be more challenges ahead. If we are pessimistic, there is a danger that we will be defined by that, and it will become our reality. It’s not the surprises that can make or break a business – it’s how you deal with them that counts.

The full results of Scott-Moncrieff’s latest annual UK-wide survey of SMEs can be viewed at

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Gareth Magee is a partner at Scott-Moncrieff, leading accountants and business advisers in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
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