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A new survey, conducted by the Small Business Service, has found that small business owners are nearly universally admired by the British public: the survey found that 93 per cent of us admire "business brains".

Good news indeed for the country's independent IT vendors and contractors, who are often painted with an "Arthur Daley-esque" brush.

The survey also hinted at some other positive trends: although it is tough being a small player, there is still plenty of growth in the sector. Those not expanding reported that this is a choice taken because their present size and structure suits them, rather than that they are constrained by the economy, for example.

Of the country's entreprenuers, forty per cent reported that they were hiring staff. This same group also said they had recently launched either a new product or service. The SBS suggested that this growth was directly driven by the intensely competitive marketplace in which companies striving to differentiate themselves.

Things are still split along a fairly traditional North/South divide, however. The South East has the highest proportion of self-employed people, with 15 per cent working for themselves. By contrast, in the Midlands and the North this figure is just nine or ten per cent.

Most people said that the biggest challenge they face is competition from other businesses. Other barriers named were red-tape, business rates and access to finance. But despite all the difficulties, 64 per cent of small business owners said they would encourage others to go it alone. ®

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