Canon study reveals challenges and opportunities for SMEs and SoHos

LONDON, 10 March, 2015 – Canon Europe, world-leader in imaging solutions, today unveiled new research into current SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) and SoHo (Small Office Home Office) trends across Europe and Russia. The study, conducted by ICM, interviewed 1,251 small and micro-business decision makers from sole traders up to those with 49 employees from a variety of industries across Italy, Spain, UK, France, Germany and Russia. The research aimed to explore the current mood and state of play for these businesses, as well identifying their biggest challenges for the year ahead.

Some of the key findings from the research included:

Too little time and too much admin are the biggest internal pressures for SMEs
Over half of SME and SoHo owners (54 %) set up their business in order to be able to work for themselves. However, nearly a third (28%) of them believe they spend too much time on general administration and paperwork and not enough on generating new business (29%). In fact, 20% admitted that they spend most of their time on paperwork, which may leave them unable to concentrate enough effort on more profitable areas of their business. This was found to be especially true of Italian and Russian business owners, who spend the most time on paperwork and feel the least ‘focused’ on their business. 

SMEs and SoHos need a helping hand to kick-start their business
81% of SoHo and SME owners admitted to lacking skill or seeking advice on various parts of their business when they first started out. Among these, finance and accounting was the most common, with 50% of business owners unsure how to tackle it on their own. Legal bureaucracy and compliance was the second biggest hurdle for new start-ups, with 48% seeking out information or lacking skills when the business was initially set up. 

Bureaucracy continues to be a challenge for established businesses as well as start-ups
It is not only new businesses that seek help when it comes to tackling bureaucracy – 49% of small businesses today believe bureaucracy and red tape is a real ongoing challenge. This figure is significantly higher for Italian respondents – of which 76% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement – and significantly lower for Russians where the agreement level was only 37%. In addition, almost a third (31%) of all respondents complained of having too much paperwork or admin to do – a figure which was significantly higher for French respondents (44 %) and those that work in education or government sectors (52%). 

Efficiency is the most important aspect of technology
The majority of SMEs and SoHos fully manage their IT related functions in-house, with more than a quarter (26%) partially outsourcing to a third party supplier. Of all the markets, SoHo and SME business owners in France were the most likely to partially outsource (35%) and Germany was the most likely to fully manage in-house (63%). Unsurprisingly, efficiency plays a big deciding role in product choice, with 65% of respondents stating that their print hardware choices were based around this. As such, purchasing decisions are not just driven by the need to replace faulty or broken equipment, but also by the desire for additional features and functionality. 

Aritz Chouza, European Business Development Manager at Canon Europe said: “This eye-opening research demonstrates some of the biggest challenges being faced by SME and SoHo owners across Europe today. It is fascinating to see that even in the 21st century, so many of Europe’s small businesses and SoHos continue to be overwhelmed by bureaucracy and paperwork – which takes away valuable time they could be spending on growing their businesses and interacting with customers. 

“With such a large proportion of respondents starting their own companies in order to work for themselves, it’s clear that there is a desire amongst small business owners across Europe to leave behind the arduous monotony of filling in forms and basic administrative tasks, in order to concentrate on finding new customers and keeping existing ones happy. 

“We are enthusiastic about the future growth of small and micro-businesses across Europe and it is encouraging to see that the predominant mood among them today is that of positivity and optimism. Although many external challenges still exist that are beyond the control of business owners, such as political and economic climates, there is a myriad of technology solutions available to help deal with internal hurdles such as compliance, paperwork and IT management. With the correct support, advice and technology in place we strongly believe that SMEs and SoHos can overcome major administrative challenges and make positive steps towards a successful 2015.” 

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