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Small businesses fear revenue falls and digital challenge despite Covid-19 recovery

The Grant Thornton Irish Business Voice Programme report identifies inefficient business processes and access to a skilled workforce as key challenges to growth.

Irish businesses across the country have reported a continued decline in revenue, with process inefficiencies and access to talent posing the biggest challenges to their post-Covid recovery. The concerns were revealed in the inaugural Grant Thornton Irish Business Voice Programme survey of local business, carried out in partnership with local Chambers of Commerce across Ireland, published today.

Some 51% of businesses surveyed for the Irish Business Voice Programme revealed they expect their revenue will decrease this year, with 32% of those expecting revenue to decrease by 20% or more. The fall-off in revenue comes in spite of an extension to Government supports such as the Wage Subsidy Scheme and a better-than-expected rebound forecasted in the wider economy in the second half of the year.

In addition to the expected drop-off in revenue, a number of areas of key concern were identified in the analysis of the survey responses gathered across June and July this year. Business process inefficiencies, access to a skilled workforce, and the implementation of sustainable development goals were all cited as significant issues.

Technology & Digital Transformation

More than three-quarters (76%) of survey respondents indicated business process inefficiencies were a concern. These range from Brexit regulatory changes; challenges of business automation; and streamlining new technologies required to support remote working.

The responses to the Irish Business Voice Programme echo similar figures gathered in research carried out on mid-size Irish businesses for Grant Thornton Ireland’s International Business Report (IBR) in the first half of 2021. The IBR data found 48% of mid-size Irish businesses planned to invest in technology over the coming 12 months, while 38% also said they would invest in automation and digital ways to do business as a priority.

Speaking on the findings of the Grant Thornton Irish Business Voice Programme, Aengus Burns, Partner in Financial Services Advisory at Grant Thornton Ireland said, It is becoming more and more clear that the impact of Covid-19 will be felt long into the future. Different business sectors have experienced varied pressures during the Covid 19 Pandemic.

“Technology and digital transformation are rightly being identified as central to the sustained growth of businesses across Ireland.”

“Talent attraction features a significant hurdle to growth in the Grant Thornton Ireland Business Voice Programme. With new technology, and the now widespread hybrid working model, new opportunities to attract skilled workers can also be realised.”

Access to Skilled Workforce
Almost three-quarters (74%) of businesses had some level of concern about accessing a skilled workforce, while of those 25% indicated a serious concern on the issue. With the continued drop in unemployment month-on-month in the third quarter of this year, analysis shows businesses will need to be flexible on how they recruit talent, and strategically manage their internal employee communications and future of work practices.

Furthermore, implementing and managing sustainable development goals was cited as a challenge by 70% of respondents, recognising the drive for sustainability being felt across all industries.

On a more positive note, more than half of businesses said they had no concerns about tax compliance and regulatory requirements in the Business Voice Programme survey; 50% also said they had no concerns about supply chain complexity despite widespread delays in supply chains over the past 12 months.

Following on from the Irish Business Voice Programme, Grant Thornton Ireland will host a number of events for small businesses in partnership with Chambers of Commerce across the country in the coming months.

For more information and to access the full Grant Thornton Irish Business Voice Programme report, please visit