Owner-managers look forward to better times

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NEARLY two-thirds of private companies think they will do better in the coming year, according to a survey of 1,000 owner-managers by Pannell Kerr Forster, the accountants and business advisers, and Director magazine.

Although two-thirds of respondents said their financial and material rewards had not improved, and three-quarters said their quality of life was no better, about the same proportion felt it had been fairly or highly satisfying to run their businesses in the past year.

However, 44 per cent described their bank managers as 'distinctly unhelpful' over the past year. Accountants were seen by 34 per cent of respondents as the best source of business advice. Consultants and other professionals were cited by 16 per cent and non-executive directors by 14 per cent.

On expenditure, more than half said they had injected fresh funds into their businesses in the past year. Nearly four out of five spent the same or more on training and just over half increased spending on marketing.

Profit-related pay was the most popular benefit for attracting and retaining staff. Some 25 per cent said it was the most important, while 23 per cent pointed to pensions and life assurance, and 20 per cent to company cars.

Tim Richmond, national managing partner of Pannell Kerr Forster, said: 'Many of these findings confirm our experience of working with owner-managers. Most have enormous commitment and in this climate have had to be extremely resourceful.

'Of course, we are seeing a high level of insolvencies and many of the survivors have had to cut costs dramatically. However, they appear to be recognising the need to continue investing in key areas such as training, marketing and quality service. This is for future growth as well as day-to-day survival.'

Tom Nash, managing editor of Director, said: 'The UK's private companies have borne the brunt of the recession, but they are not sitting back and complaining. Instead, they are working harder, and investing in their businesses and in training. Many owner-directors even seem to find the tough conditions a satisfying challenge.'