FSB Cornwall Business Support & Funding Research highlights

1st March, 2016

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is the UK’s largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and small business owners.  In Cornwall, FSB has around 5,000 members and in 2015 it engaged PFA Research to independently evaluate views from local businesses regarding business support and funding in Cornwall.

277 businesses participated, representative of the Cornwall FSB membership, through an online survey and telephone interviews:

  • Average turnover is just over £250,000. 31% have revenues over £250,000 and with 43% under £100,000;
  • 84% have less than 10 employees (compared with 88% for Cornwall & Isles of Scilly as a whole).
  • The most frequently represented sectors were retail (19%) and tourism/ leisure (18%) (compared to Cornwall as a whole where agriculture, forestry & fishing is the largest industry group with 18% of all registered businesses, followed by construction with 13%)[1].

57% have been in business for at least 10 years and 5% for no more than one year; 53% employ part-time staff and 8% have no full-time staff; 69% are family run businesses; 43% run a home-based business or a business that includes live-in accommodation and a fifth of businesses are based in a town centre / high street location.

Research participants were invited to share their experience of what has and has not worked, what could be improved and what the gaps are for business owners when accessing support and funding for their businesses.

Plans for Growth

Participants were asked about their business plans, objectives and how they planned to achieve business growth over the next three years.

Asked to rate how well their business manages various functions:

  • The vast majority (87%) said they coped very well or quite well with the day to day business, 84% of those for whom it is relevant are happy with how they manage the supply chain, and 78% were similarly competent with cashflow management;
  • Most felt they managed very well or quite well with identifying skills needs (73%), financial planning (72%) and business planning (69%);
  • However, only 52% felt that they managed marketing well or very well (with 18% saying they don’t). In addition, just 56% are happy with how they manage to develop new sales, with 17% saying not well or not at all well.

Around 1 in 3 respondents do not have a business plan and do not feel that their business needs one.  More than half of participants are hoping to achieve rapid growth (5%) or moderate or sustainable growth (50%) in the next three years.

  • 23% overall have a plan that is referred to and revised regularly and a further 12% have a static document that they believe is fit for purpose.
  • Those planning rapid growth or moderate/sustainable growth are more likely to have a current and up to date business plan than others, however more than half (56%) do not;
  • Those planning rapid or moderate growth expect to do so with various strategies, but mostly (57%) through increasing turnover/sales with their existing product or market mix, as well as (for 44%) introducing new products/services;
  • The most frequently cited type of help required, by 51% of those with growth aspirations, is to implement or improve sales and marketing functions (aligning with the earlier self-evaluation of how well their business managed different functions, with marketing and sales development activities scoring least well);
  • Further, to address challenges in growth, 38% would welcome external support in the form of marketing advice and 22% would like help to access finance; however, 35% say they have no need for external support.

Q: What do you need to do to make your business growth happen?

 Figure 1 – Business Growth Facilitators


(Base: Rapid growth / Moderate / sustainable growth n=153)

Business Support

Participants were asked about whether they had received business support, their experiences of that support and whether they encountered any difficulties.

As is commonly recorded in business surveys, the most commonly cited first port of call for business advice is an accountant, cited by 38% of participants.  This is very closely followed by the FSB, with 37%, and to be expected among a survey with a significant sample of FSB members.  The wealth of information available online puts ‘the internet’ as a source in third place, with 19%.

Over half, 53%, say they have accessed business support in the past.

  • Just under a third (32%) paid for the support in full, while 68% received a financial incentive (21% partly subsidised, 47% received full subsidy);
  • For almost three quarters (73%) of businesses who received a subsidy, the subsidy was a key incentive to them taking the business support…
  • …and for over half, 54%, the subsidy (part or full) was the main reason they took advantage of the offer;

The majority, 71%, of those receiving support, were very or fairly satisfied with the support they received.  Those who received the support without any direct cost to themselves are more satisfied than those who had to pay either partly or in full (80% vs 63%).

When asked in what formats they would prefer to access business support, half chose ‘one-to-one specialist advice, mentoring or coaching’, and a third ‘resources on the internet’ followed by local seminars and workshops (27%) and online training (19%).

Q: In what formats would you prefer to access business support?

Figure 2 – Preferred Format of Business Support


(Base: All respondents, n=277 Top ten responses shown.)

Business Funding

Businesses were asked about how they have invested in their business, whether they have received grant funding and how satisfied they were with the process and whether they are disadvantaged when it comes to accessing certain types of business funding.

Participants have invested in their businesses using a wide range of financial resources, most commonly through cash investment with profits re-invested (82%), personal savings (62%) or debt finance through bank overdraft (42%), bank loans (34%) or credit cards (30%.)  22% are indebted to friends and family.  Just 14% have received grant funding and none in this sample have yet to use crowd funding.

Q: Which of the following have you used to invest in your business?

Figure 3 – Business Investment


(Base: All respondents, n=277)

One quarter of participants say their business is currently in need of funding:

  • One third of those with plans for rapid or moderate growth require funding now;
  • Only 35% of those needing funding are confident that they will secure the funding they need;
  • If they do not receive the funding they need, 23% say it will be difficult for the business to continue or they will make redundancies;
  • Businesses expressing the types of support that they might need to source and secure funding cited “advice on where/what funding is available” (32%) and “application support” (18%).

 The full research findings will be published by FSB in the Spring, and will be available on FSB Cornwall Region website: http://www.fsb.org.uk/regions/cornwall

[1] Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS) Business Activity, Size & Location 2015: see our interactive dashboard for more information.