Global Business Monitor

Global Business Monitor 2019

Quarter 4, 2019
Global Business Monitor

Insights from SMEs around the world

This year’s research surveyed 2,300 small and medium-sized businesses across 13 countries: Canada, USA, Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The report presents the opinions of owners and senior decision-makers of SMEs across the manufacturing, construction, wholesale, transport, and services sectors.

The Global Business Monitor reports business sentiment on topics including confidence, sales expectations, the economy, access to finance and business challenges, including the causes of cash flow problems.

Download the Irish report  to discover where SMEs see their best opportunities and challenges for the coming year. Or download the international edition for insights into how Irish businesses compare with their global counterparts.

Download the report

Key findings

  • Overall SME confidence in local markets has fallen from 54% in 2017 to 48% in 2019
  • One in three SMEs struggle with cashflow
  • Over two-fifths of SMEs are finding it difficult to collect payment from customers on time
  • 69% of SMEs in the US are confident that their local economy is currently performing well
  • 29% of UK SMEs are concerned that current economic performance in their country is poor
  • SMEs in Ireland (53%) are the most upbeat about sales performance over the past year
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"It’s clear that SMEs around the world are becoming accustomed to global uncertainty and many are taking matters into their hands, investing in capability and expansion."

Mark O'Rourke

The view from Ireland

In the report, Mark shares insights on the Brexit challenges facing businesses across Ireland: “When asked for the top three threats to the global economy, over two-thirds (72%) of Irish SMEs cited Brexit, followed by US politics (42%) and declining international trade (19%).

“The significance Irish SMEs place on Brexit as a threat to the global economy is unsurprising as it will fundamentally change the way that they are able to interact with global markets, the expenses associated with trade, and the freedom to access goods and services."

Global Business Monitor

SME business sentiment

The report found that while business confidence has taken a hit, down five points to 63.66 on the Confidence Index, business ambition remains robust in the face of a fickle global economy. This seeming paradox may be explained by the relatively higher significance of domestic trade compared with global trade.

Business Challenges

SMEs around the world are struggling to access the cash they need to boost their growth, with one in three citing cash flow management as their greatest challenge. Late payment from slow paying customers was identified as one of the chief causes of cash flow problems by over two-fifths of SMEs.


Global trade

Domestic trade accounts for 86% of SMEs. When it comes to trading overseas, 28% of businesses are exporting, while 20% are importing. Singapore has the highest proportion of SMEs that import (41%), while Hong Kong has the highest proportion of SMEs that export (48%).

Access to finance for SMEs

When it comes to small business finance, one in three of the surveyed businesses said SME access to finance is excellent/good. Overall, around a third of SMEs are currently using external finance for their business and cash flow planning. Meanwhile, one in five SMEs have been rejected for external finance.

Payment practices

The research reveals that collecting money from customers remains a challenge for many SMEs wanting to improve cash flow. Thirty-one per cent of SMEs have experienced a bad debt in 2019, only a slight improvement on the 35% in 2017. Of those who have suffered a bad debt this year, 44% said it has affected their growth and profit margin.


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