Are the UK's small businesses being stifled?

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Are the UK's small businesses being stifled?

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, and they need all the help they can get to flourish for the good of the country and its coffers. 

But a new study suggests this isn't happening; in fact, it indicates small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being stifled at every turn by the outrageous - and ever-growing - cost of simply doing business, coupled with bully boy tactics from larger organisations and suffocating red tape.

The poll of more than 4,000 SMEs, conducted by the Forum of Private Businesses (FPB), revealed a worrying lack of confidence and positivity from the country's smaller firms, with many of the issues related to a lack of faith in the ethics of big businesses. 

In particular, utilities companies (79 per cent) and banks (69 per cent) were picked out as serial offenders when it comes to not taking responsibility for their actions. Larger private family-owned firms were named by 80 per cent of SMEs as the most trustworthy enterprises.

Sadly, this isn't the first time this year that the practices of large enterprises have been called into question. A separate ComRes poll commissioned by the FPB earlier this year discovered that three in four Brits believe big businesses are more likely to focus on generating profits than behaving in an ethical manner, while a similar proportion claimed these companies have no concern for the UK's small business owners.

However, it's not just the actions of large organisations that are threatening the prospects of SMEs. Many have also been left frustrated by the late payment of their customers, with 70 per cent stating this has been a problem over the last 12 months.

Furthermore, almost half felt their business partners weren't interested in fostering a long-term relationship or negotiating on payment terms.

All of which is highly disappointing - particularly given that SMEs came into 2015 in a largely positive state of mind. Just under two-thirds of firms polled by the Federation of Small Businesses at the tail end of 2014 said they expected to enjoy a strong start to the year, including hiring more staff, increasing exports and growing their business.

Sadly, the FPB's new research suggests early thoughts of a bright 2015 are proving to be little more than a pipe dream.