Business is never easy. In the UK, the landscape is in a constant state of flux: new threats to revenue and stability can present themselves every day, and as soon as one is dealt with, another is ready to take its place. Bigger businesses are more able to take a few bad months into their stride, but, for smaller businesses, a period of reduced revenue can sometimes represent an existential threat to the whole operation. 

The fortunes of small to medium sized businesses, or SMEs, can radically change from month to month. According to research from Direct Line, a whopping 1.6 million of these businesses in the UK report that it is normal to experience doubled revenue in some months, and halved revenue in others. 

Such fluctuations obviously present a major cash flow challenge. Budgeting has to be flexible and adaptive; ready to cope with the changing levels of boom and bust from month to month. But the UK’s SMEs seem to be rising to the challenge. Direct Line’s figures show that:

  • 53% of UK SMEs reported an increase in revenue over the past year
  • The number of VAT registered SMEs has grown by 23% in the past five years
  • In 2017, 381,885 new businesses were created in the UK – an increase of 10% compared to 2013

For further facts and figures, you can read the full report below:

Growth spurt: 1.6 million small businesses double their revenue in a month 

  • 1.6 million small businesses say they double their revenue in some months 
  • 53 per cent of Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) reported an increase in revenue in past year 
  • There has been a 23 per cent growth of VAT registered SMEs in the last five years 
  • London is the UK’s small business birth capital, with almost a quarter of all new small firms formed in 2017 registered in the city 

New research published by Direct Line for Business1 reveals that for 1.6 million of the UK’s small businesses it is normal for their revenue to double or halve in certain months of the year. These large fluctuations in revenue make business and cash flow management difficult. Businesses and the services they use need to be flexible and willing to continually adapt, as more than a quarter (26 per cent, or 1.5 million) state their revenue fluctuates wildly month to month. Controlling employee numbers is one way to manage these fluctuations as businesses scale staff up and down to cope with changes in demand and income at different points of the year. Twenty-three per cent of small businesses have had to employ more staff because of rapid expansion. 

However, these uncertainties don’t seem to be putting entrepreneurs off as the UK SME industry continues to grow. In the past year, 53 per cent of SMEs reported an increase in revenue, with one in 20 of these (three per cent) experiencing revenue growth of more than 50 per cent. 

There has been a 23 per cent growth of VAT registered SMEs in the last five years, with 2.7 million now operating within the UK2. This has been driven by the 25 per cent increase in the number of microbusinesses (those that employ fewer than 10 employees), which now stand at 2.4 million. In 2017, there were 381,885 business ‘births’ in the UK3, an increase of 10 per cent on the figure recorded in 2013. This was largely driven by the number of new businesses registered in Northern Ireland (41per cent increase) and the North West (35 per cent increase). London continued to see the highest number of new business start-ups, with 92,300 SMEs registering in the capital 

in 2017, accounting for almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all those formed in the UK. 

Jazz Gakhal, Managing Director at Direct Line for Business, said: “Small company owners and operators are amongst the most resilient and adaptable business leaders in the UK. Fluctuating revenues and demand can be difficult to manage, but British SMEs continue to thrive. It’s important, however, that if revenues and employees fluctuate that businesses ensure they have appropriate insurance cover and are making updates to their policies as needed to prevent them being under or over insured. With some insurers this can be expensive because they charge admin fees to make changes to the policy. “We recognise that insurance needs to keep up with the changing needs of businesses and operators shouldn’t be penalised for progress, so we don’t charge our customers an admin fee to make mid-term amendments meaning they can make as many changes as they need to ensure they’re properly insured.” 


Notes to Editors 

1 Research conducted amongst a panel of 500 SME senior decision makers between 24th September and 2nd October 2018 

2 Analysis of SME count, employment and turnover 2010 to 2017 (most up-to- date data available) , published 1st November 2017 

3 Analysis of ONS UK business demography data from 2013-2017 (most up- to-date data available), published 21st November 2018