Accountants most popular professional advisor with SMEs

Two-thirds of SMEs have hired an accountant – making them the most popular professional adviser with this group – but a quarter says they only did so when faced with a crisis, according to research from Direct Line for Business

The insurer’s survey of over 500 UK SME decision makers found 66% had hired an accountant, while 55% had brought in IT or web experts, followed by lawyers (52%), designers (43%) and HR experts (42%). In contrast, the least common professionals engaged were project managers (38%) and management consultants (39%).

However, 24% of SMEs admitted leaving it until they hit a crisis before hiring a professional adviser to help them, either because they were already experiencing issues (11%), were in the midst of a crisis that could not be remedied internally (9%) or because the business was actually losing money (7%).

Over a fifth (22%) of SMEs surveyed had not have not hired any professional adviser to help their business, largely because of cost, cited by 40%. SMEs said other reasons not to bring in an expert were because they learnt how to do that particular skill themselves (36%) or because they believed they had enough skills and knowledge to not require any external guidance (35%).

Of those who did call in external help, just a quarter (25%) did so before commencing trading. The average time taken to seek advice from a lawyer, accountant or IT expert is one year and five months.
Karneet Chowdhury, business manager office and professionals, Direct Line for Business, said: ‘SMEs are often expected to be a “jack of all trades” but it’s very difficult for a small or micro business to have enough knowledge and experience of law, accountancy, IT and/or HR to be able to manage these aspects of their business themselves.

‘While cost control is vital for SMEs, sometimes the DIY approach may be a false economy and in fact cause more problems. Fines for non-compliance with regulation or law could be substantially higher than the cost of an adviser.’

 Of those who did hire experts, 95% reported a positive impact on their business, with SMEs working in financial services most likely to call professionals. SMEs cite the main benefit of using advisers as ensuring compliance with regulations, with financial services businesses also listing their importance to improving the infrastructure of their business and making the business look more professional. 

By Pat Sweet

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