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The challenges facing small business owners in Surrey in 2023

This article is a collaboration from leading female financial advisor Rebecca Robertson, online visibility specialist Pamela Rae-Welsh and Surrey branding photographer Claire Wormley, all small business owners.

There is no denying it, the challenges facing small business owners in Surrey in 2023 mean that Surrey business owners are having to get more creative and ingenious when it comes to sustaining a successful business. In this article we will explore the 10 key challenges being faced by Surrey business owners, and what entrepreneurs are doing about them to mitigate their effects.

It’s a serious one, but we hope it will give you some insight and and inspiration if you are facing some of these challenges!

 

10 key challenges facing small business owners in Surrey in 2023

High op costs

1. high operating costs

 

The cost of rent, utilities, taxes, and other operating expenses can be high in Surrey, making it difficult for small businesses to compete. Often seen as an extension of London, Surrey has above average costs for property and related costs, making it a significant barrier to entry for small business owners, and a limiting factor when it comes to growth and scaling.

“Small business owners need to think carefully about the financial impact of making growth decisions in high cost areas such as Surrey” comments Female IFA Rebecca Robertson. “Expanding into new premises could have a seriously detrimental impact on cash flow – and with the cost of living increases this may become unmanageable.”

 

One of the ways that small business owners can look to overcome this is through using flexible office and storage spaces. More and more office buildings are incorporating flexible options such as co-working spaces into their model, and this could be a great option that doesn’t tie down a small business to huge rents and rates, but allows the room for growth and expansion.

Check out some of these co-working spaces in Surrey:

Be Well & Good in Godalming

The Cosy in Woking

Space Works in Woking and Guildford

The Coppa Club in Haslemere, Cobham and Guildford

Blue Desk, Woking

Find a co-working space through coworker

Ltd access to funding

​2. limited access to funding

 

Small businesses in Surrey may have difficulty accessing financing, as banks and other lenders may be hesitant to lend to small businesses. Since covid-19 the facilities available to small businesses in terms of funding have become even more limited. This is particularly felt by solopreneurs and freelancers who don’t necessarily have the turnover that more established small businesses have. One way to tackle this is to look at crowd funding options, which are becoming more and more of a popular way for small businesses to access funding for growth projects.

3. competition

Surrey and the UK is home to many small businesses, and competition can be fierce, making it difficult for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and other small business owners  to stand out. Online Visibility Specialist Pamela Rae-Welsh notes that “the online space has opened up opportunities for small businesses and competition from across the globe, where historically small businesses would have looked locally for suppliers, access to the internet has given them far more choice.”

To stand out from the competition and establish yourself as a local expert in Surrey, your brand must stand out and be truly representative of your ideal client and their needs. This is where developing a brand aesthetic, including good brand photography can make a real difference.

 

“Having a set of imagery that is representative of Surrey will establish you as a local expert in your field. People want to shop local, but they need to be able to trust and identify with your brand. Having a professional branding shoot based in Surrey, with local landmarks for instance can make a real difference” Claire of Surrey brand photography business Claire with The Camera, and has been privileged to work with some amazing local businesses to bring their brands to life with imagery for both online and offline marketing material. “In 2023 it is much more than just headshots, but having a living portfolio of visual collateral that can support your overall business goals.”

Competition
Skilled workers

4: finding skilled workers

If your small business is lucky enough to be looking to expand, you may struggle to find skilled workers in Surrey, particularly in industries such as technology and manufacturing. The shortage of skilled labour and the impact of Brexit has meant that recruiting for workers can be challenging.

To combat this, entrepreneurs can look to outsource elements of their business instead of recruiting internally. There is a growing trend for freelancer marketplaces – where all sorts of talents can be bought and sold by the hour or by project. This is a great way for small businesses to get support with their business when they struggle to recruit.

5. changing consumer habits

 

Consumer habits are continually evolving, and small businesses in Surrey must keep up with these changes to remain competitive. As small business owners it is essential that you stay connected with your ideal client so that you can anticipate and meet their needs.

 

A good way of doing this is to organise listening sessions, focus groups, or to create a community with your brand that provides you with the ongoing feedback on the challenges faced by your ideal client.

Visibility and brand expert Pamela writes “using social media or your email marketing platforms can be a great listening tool for understanding your ideal client and what is going on for them right now.”

 

It is also beneficial to join relevant local business and networking groups that can help you to navigate the constantly changing environment. Local groups in Surrey offer a great opportunity to meet face to face and build relationships, whilst joining online communities can help you with your development as a business owner at the same time. There are so many out there so you can really find a place that is right for you.

consumer habits
Regulatory

6. regulatory burdens

Surrey business owners face a number of regulatory burdens, including compliance with health and safety regulations, employment law, and other regulations that can be really restrictive when it comes to being entrepreneurial and agile in business. A good tip here is to look for support from your local LEP partnership – they have access to a number of resources and support that can help you to navigate this area of business management.

7. limited market access

 

This is the David vs Goliath scenario - small businesses in Surrey may find it difficult to expand beyond their local market due to limited resources and competition from larger businesses. What works well in a small village in Surrey may not translate further out in the county and beyond. Competition from those with a larger infrastructure or cheaper operating costs may make it hard for expansion and diversification – which can be a real problem for Surrey because of its proximity to London. “Being persistent with pursuing funding opportunities, looking for online expansion openings and being generally entrepreneurial can help you to break through with this challenge, but it is not for the faint hearted” writes Financial Advisor Rebecca.

Market access

8. economic uncertainty

 

Economic uncertainty can affect small businesses in Surrey, particularly during times of recession or other economic downturns. The current cost of living crisis is having an impact on spending and confidence, which makes it an even more crucial time to be focussing on your brand and what it means to people beyond the transactional.

Both Claire and Pamela agree that the role of your brand is vital during times of uncertainty. The emotional connection that people have to your business can mean the difference between it surviving – and thriving. This is why Claire is so passionate about branding photography for small businesses, and the impact it can have on building emotional connection so that businesses are more than just recognisable, but connect fully to their ideal customers.

Economic uncertaincy

9. digitalisation

 

It is a truth that no small business can get away from – in Surrey or beyond. Small businesses that struggle to keep up with the growing importance of digitalisation in the modern business landscape, including the need to maintain an online presence and compete with larger companies that have a significant digital presence will lose out to those that regularly invest in their online presence.

If you need help in this area then Pamela has a suite of resources ranging from free support through to managed services available – check out The Visibility Society as an example; a membership dedicated to getting your brand visible online.

Digitalisation
Business support

10. access to business support

Getting access to good support is a challenge faced by many small business owners. This is where networking and joining like minded communities can really help Surrey business owners with building collaborations and support with other local organisations.

Do check out the FSB network in Surrey to see how they can help support your small business.

Regardless of the challenges facing small business owners in Surrey in 2023 there is still so much opportunity to connect with your customers and achieve business growth. A solid strategy, clear brand identity and a consistent online presence that puts you in front of your ideal clients will help you to navigate the uncertainty – and thrive from it too.

Pamela, Rebecca, Claire

Where next?

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