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UK SMEs find start-up process challenging

Close Brothers Business Barometer

Fewer than four out of every 10 (38%) UK business owners feel that the UK actively fosters and encourages an entrepreneurial environment, according to the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of over 900 UK SME owners and senior management across a range of sectors and regions.

When asked the question ‘do you feel the UK encourages entrepreneurs?’, 38% said ‘yes’; 42% answered ‘no’ and 20% were undecided.

“Business owners are telling us that more needs to be done to help encourage entrepreneurship in the UK,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “This is despite the UK ranking near the top in a number of global polls that measure entrepreneurlism.

“Only 31% of SMEs have stated that it’s ‘very simple’  or ‘simple’ to start a business in the UK, while 29% say it’s either ‘very difficult’ or ‘difficult’; the rest are undecided.”

Despite feeling that it’s not easy easy to start a business in the UK, more than half (53%) of business owners would still recommend starting a business to someone they know; the rest would not.

Neil continued: “The UK is a great place to do business, but SMEs are feeling that more needs to be done to encourage people to take the step into self-employement, and to de-risk the process.”

Regional analysis

Regionally, business owners in East Anglia found the process of starting a business the most difficult, with 21% finding it either ‘very simple’ or ‘simple’. Yorkshire / Humberside and Wales were slightly more positive, at 27%.

Conversely, Greater London businesses were by some distance the most positive, at 54%. No other region scored above 40%. 

Responses to the question ‘would you recommend starting your own business to someone you know?’were, overall, more positive, with Greater London again leading the way (61% ‘yes’). Welsh organisations (61% ‘yes’) – despite finding the process difficult – would still recommend starting starting a business to others.

Full list of responses:

  Yes No
Wales 61% 39%
Greater London 61% 39%
East Midlands 60% 40%
Scotland 59% 41%
West Midlands 58% 42%
Northern Ireland 56% 44%
South East England 53% 47%
North East England 51% 49%
South West England 49% 51%
East Anglia 48% 52%
Yorkshire/Humberside 47% 53%
North West England 42% 58%

Wales (18% ‘yes’) and Greater London (54% ‘yes’) recorded the largest variance in responses to the question ‘do you feel the UK encourages entrepreneurs?.

Full list of responses:


Yes No Don't know
Wales 44% 41% 16%
Greater London 41% 41% 18%
East Midlands 36% 50% 14%
Scotland 42% 39% 19%
West Midlands 43% 37% 20%
Northern Ireland 40% 46% 14%
South East England 54% 30% 15%
North East England 39% 44% 17%
South West England 43% 33% 24%
East Anglia 32% 59% 9%
Yorkshire/Humberside 18% 61% 20%
North West England 35% 46% 19%