By Emma Haslett Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Small businesses to make a success of Plc's failings?

A survey suggests small businesses are seeing opportunity where big businesses have fallen. Which could be excellent news for the unemployed.

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The downturn may have heralded a rash of purse-tightening by some of the nation’s largest business, but it turns out that’s actually been rather advantageous for SMEs. Because while UK plc has been busily closing doors on areas it views as unprofitable, small businesses have seen opportunities. Thus, a survey by Research In Motion (the company behind BlackBerry) has suggested that more than half of small businesses are planning to grow by wangling their ways into niches left by some of the largest organisations (and the public sector) when they decided to pull out.

According to the survey of 267 businesses, a fifth are planning to change their business strategies specifically so they are able to challenge their larger competitors. In all probability, they’ll make it work, too: because while large businesses often have the money to break into new markets quickly, they’re not as adaptable to changes as smaller businesses, which find it far easier to react to new trends.

If it’s as widespread a trend as RIM’s findings suggest, it could have an effect on unemployment figures: if businesses are looking for workers with experience in areas the public sector has pulled out of, it follows that they’ll need ex-public sector workers to help them understand the market. In fact, it may already have done so: the most recent unemployment figures, published last week, showed it had dropped in the three months to April (although, admittedly the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance was up).

Still: if the survey is anything to go by, that’s a trend that may well continue. Despite doom and gloom continuing to dominate the headlines, growth is very much the name of the game, apparently. Because while 66% of businesses admitted they still feel uncertain about the economy, 45% say they’re planning to spend the next few months focusing on expanding, while 37% are looking into new areas.

So a bit of encouraging news, for small businesses, at least. UK plc, on the other hand, had better watch its back…

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