Pivotal Report Commissioned by Theo Paphitis & #SBS Reveals that 72% of SMEs are Surviving Rather Than Thriving

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Retail Entrepreneur & Creator of one of the UK’s leading small business organisations #SBS Small Business Sunday Theo Paphitis, has today unveiled his much-anticipated #SBS SME State of the Nation Roundtable report – a strategic insight and mitigation report into some of the most acute trends, challenges and opportunities currently facing the UK’s 5.5 million Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).


Key Findings:

  • Artificial Intelligence: 46% of SMEs are already employing it in their business, 60% are excited by it
  • Business Investment: 58% of SMEs have refrained from investing in their business over the past 12 months directly as a result of macroeconomic instability
  • Cash: Fewer than 30% of SMEs have cash at bank or in hand to be able to keep their business afloat for more than 6 months
  • Rising Costs: 96% of SMEs have experienced rising costs in 2023
  • Decline in Turnover: 46% had a decline in turnover in 2022
  • Salary Cuts for Survival: 36% have had to take salary reductions to keep their business afloat
  • Access to Finance: 90% of SMEs think the process for gaining access to finance needs to adapt to the new world
  • Struggling to Thrive: 72% of surveyed businesses feel their business is merely surviving rather than thriving

This unique report, supported by NatWest Business, came to fruition off the back of a working lunch session in which six pioneering members of the #SBS Small Business Sunday network, from a wide array of sectors, were invited to share their experiences, insights and reflections on the current state of the economy for SMEs.

Through a comprehensive survey and analysis, the #SBS SME State of the Nation report gained a ground-up view of the current state of affairs by drilling into the impact rising costs and macroeconomic instability are having on SMEs in the United Kingdom.

#SBS Creator, well-known TV Dragon, Small Business champion & Retail Entrepreneur, Theo Paphitis said: “This eye-opening report has made me even more fervent in my belief that SMEs are the cornerstone and lifeblood of our economy, and that the challenges and opportunities they encounter impact us all. This report has illuminated just how much strain they are under – whether that be the result of across-the-board cost rises, unnecessary red tape arising from Brexit, an inability to access finance or a lack of confidence amongst entrepreneurs arising from the prevailing macroeconomic situation.”

The #SBS SME State of the Nation Report also found that despite the conflicting discourse surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI), 43% of surveyed SMEs are already employing it in their business, and 60% of them are excited at the potential it has to level the playing field between them and larger organisations.

On the opportunities AI presents, Theo Paphitis said: “Whilst it is clear just how much strain SMEs are under, it’s also clear that in times of chaos there is also opportunity. This study has demonstrated that the advent of AI provides an unparalleled opportunity to level the playing field between SMEs and their larger counterparts, ultimately fostering development and empowering small businesses to think big!”

Debbie Lewis, Regional EcoSystem Manager at NatWest, said: “To help entrepreneurship thrive, it is crucial that an environment where businesses have access to the right networks and tools exists.  Our own research and partnerships with #SBS offers the insight and the platforms to hear directly from those business owners and what they feel they need to address the challenges that they face in the current climate.


“Whether it is through our Entrepreneur Accelerator programmes or via tools such as Carbon Planner, NatWest offers a wide range of services designed to assist small business owners on their own journey. This collaboration with #SBS is an opportunity to allow more businesses to find out what is available to them.”

To read the full report, please click here 

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