Over a third of small businesses have used, or are considering using, AI according to new research that underlines the growing appetite for the nation’s 5.5 million small businesses to embrace the cutting-edge technology.
However, the research also found signs that entrepreneurs will need support to upskill in this area, as only 22% say they understand how to best deploy AI within their business.
And although there was a strong interest in AI, the research gave few indications that people will be less central to Britain’s small businesses in the future. Only 6% of business owners say they have cut staff due to new technology, a statistic that is more than balanced out by the 10% who have created new roles to manage digital.
The research from Small Business Britain and the jobs platform Indeed found instead that small businesses are increasingly responding to demands for flexible and remote working post-Covid, with four fifths now offering flexible roles.
Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain said: “It is really encouraging to see this high engagement around AI amongst business owners. This type of technology can be a positive force to boost small businesses – but it relies on enhancing the knowledge, understanding and confidence of entrepreneurs to make the most of it.
“Ultimately the small business experience is so fundamentally human, driven by passion and community, I think that the opportunities from AI will be exactly that: supercharging an existing personal experience, and helping firms to become more efficient, agile and flexible.”
Business owners themselves were quick to agree.
Cheryl Laidlaw (pictured top) who set up the London Web Girl platform, specialising in web design and branding said that, whether someone is new to AI or a seasoned user, “there’s always room to grow and benefit. At this point, using AI in business isn’t just a trend; it’s a tool that genuinely helps operations run smoother.”
Sanjay Aggarwal, co-founder of Spice Kitchen, a business that has grown considerably since it started in 2012, said: “As a small business, we see AI as an ally, not a challenge. We are in the very early stages of implementing it into our operations, particularly within our marketing and communications team and recruitment.
“In time, I do want to learn about its full potential to streamline our operations and drive process improvements, make our decision-making more informed, and create an experience that’s not just efficient but also innovative.”
Bala Croman, Founder of The Chocolate Cellar in Birkenhead said: “Over the past year, we have gradually been building our team at the Chocolate Cellar and taking on seasonal staff regularly.
“Hiring the right people for our business is essential, and we have been offering as much flexibility as possible, which has turned out extremely helpful for everyone in our team and potential new joiners.
“We have core hours that need to be covered but staff can be flexible around those hours, which means that staff can fit in their other commitments and still maintain a focus at work.”
Indeed’s UK MD Bill Richards, said: “Artificial Intelligence is on the lips of almost every business we speak to as the boom in interest in AI continues and the opportunities it presents become more tangible than ever before.
“While many small businesses have already adopted the technology, our research suggests that millions of business owners lack the understanding to harness its potential and therefore risk missing out on efficiency and productivity benefits.”
Small firms embrace AI – a trend that’s growing
Unlocking productivity with AI