Further lockdowns are the number one worry for the owners and directors of UK SMEs, but 53% are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead

What's more, 22% are very optimistic, according to a survey of 1000 SME owners and directors by Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance.

Worries about Brexit are also keeping SME owners and directors awake at night. This supports the latest Business Insights data from the ONSshowing that paperwork remains a top challenge faced by businesses for importing and exporting. Some 27% of those surveyed said Brexit was their top concern, while 18% ranked late payment by customers as their most pressing worry.

While 49% of SME owners and directors hope to keep their business on an even keel this year, 36% are planning for growth. Only 1% are considering closing their business in 2021 - these contrasts dramatically with the 46% who confessed they had considered closing for good in 2020.

When it came to any positives that have come from the pandemic, the biggest was the strengthening of employee relationships (34%) followed closely by improvements to business/customer relationships (31%). In all 29% said the pandemic had made them leaner and more agile and 12% said it had enabled them to find new income streams.

Todd Davison, MD of Purbeck said: “We are not out of the woods yet but with some certainty over the lifting of restrictions on 19th July, SMEs are generally in a better position to plan their finances based on what they hope to achieve in 2021 – over a third want to grow their businesses this year. The ability to plan and focus on the future after eighteen months of massive uncertainty is reflected in the reported levels of optimism amongst SME business leaders.”