Yes, despite all the pain and uncertainty of the last year or so, the Sage UK Omnibus report (commissioned, as the name implies, by business software firm Sage) suggests that when it comes to hard times, the nation’s entrepreneurs side with the splendidly-moustachioed Friedrich Nietzsche (above left). A whopping 77% of them say they expect to emerge from the recession - whenever that may happen - fitter, better and stronger than they were before it. (In case any of your memories need jogging, Nietzsche was the 19th Century German philosopher who coined the inspiring, if physiologically dubious, aphorism: ‘That which does not kill you can only make you stronger’).
As well as reinforcing the view that entrepreneurs are naturally optimistic types whose glass is half-full in all but the most dire of situations, the report does also highlight some of the difficulties that SMEs have struggled with in recent months. Nearly 70% of businesses don’t believe that the recession has presented them with new opportunities, while 63% think it hasn’t made it easier for their firms to respond to change, and 55% say that it hasn’t made it easier for them to hang onto their best people, either.
Given that these are three areas from which, according to the conventional wisdom, SMEs are supposed to benefit in tough times, there’s little evidence here of any upside to the recession to speak of.
Of course it’s only one survey, but with over 4,000 respondants drawn from Sage’s client base it’s a pretty representative sample, as these things go. So what exactly is it that makes these entrepreneurs so positive about the overall impact of the recession on their businesses?
The tighter disciplines, leaner processes and better cash control that hard times call for may be part of it. But according to Jo Ray, MD of Sage’s small business division, it’s mainly because they can at last see the light at the end of the tunnel. ‘For most entrepreneurs and company directors there has been little to smile about in recent months, but there is now an overwhelming sense that the businesses that come through this trial by fire will be better placed to exploit new opportunities and drive profitability.’
Amen to that, as Nietzsche almost certainly would not have said.
In today's bulletin:
France and Germany growing again - as UK trails behind
Soaring pension deficit threatens to cripple FTSE firms
Saving the high street - on a £50k budget
Nietzschean SMEs say they will be better for the recession
Investors doomed to declining dividends