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New technology could spell the end for many SMEs

(Image credit: Image Credit: MNBB Studio / Shutterstock)

For many small business owners, these are difficult times and some don’t expect their business to survive in the long run. This is according to a new report by small business platform Xero, which says that 46 per cent of SMEs have a “genuine” concern about the future. That amounts to 2.6 million SMEs.  

A quarter (roughly 1.3 million) don’t expect to survive for longer than five years. Their biggest concerns are late payments, cyber-attacks and tax rates. Brexit, employee recruitment costs and keeping productivity high are also concerns, albeit lesser compared to the big three.  

For almost two fifths (37 per cent), this is the most turbulent period they’ve ever experienced, and a quarter says the business is “leaving them out of pocket”.

But it’s not just the business that’s hurting – business owners’ mental health is also impacted. They work an average of nine extra hours a week, and it’s leaving a mark on them.

However, business futurologist Gerd Leonhard believes the dark times are behind them, mostly due to the advances in automation and artificial intelligence.

 “Humanity will change more in the next 20 years than in the previous 300. We will see the biggest technological transformation in human history – impacting where, how and why we work.”

Automation is reducing the need for humans to undertake routine tasks and the world of work is heading towards a dramatic reset. Everything we assume about work, jobs, training and education is being challenged by exponential scientific and technological progress. Whether you’re a small business owner, an accountant, bookkeeper or advisor, these emerging trends will affect you very soon.”

He believes AI will cut working hours by half, and that the 30-day payment model, which is the main culprit of late payments, will die.