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Irish SMBs refuse to be dampened by challenging economic backdrop and display optimism

• Irish SMBs are shouldering challenging economic conditions by embracing emerging technologies and focusing on increasing productivity
• Nevertheless, 68% of businesses report that increasing costs are contributing to a lack of confidence in their business’ success

5 May 2023 – Sage's annual survey of almost 12,000 business leaders globally - ‘Small Business, Big Opportunity’ - finds that despite a challenging 2022, Irish small businesses have increased their productivity and managed high costs well, in comparison to other European countries.

The findings reveal that Irish SMBs feel stronger about the importance of increasing productivity to overcome the barriers faced in the past year than their European counterparts. Findings also reveal that Irish SMBs are generally satisfied with their understanding of their company’s data, particularly surrounding the business’s productivity, further implicating productivity as a major area of focus for Irish SMBs. Perhaps relatedly, Irish SMBs have also shown a keen interest in AI technology compared to SMBs globally.

However, the cost-of-living crisis is still hitting the region hard, with 69% of Irish businesses reporting that increasing costs are contributing to a lack of confidence in their business’ success.

Increased productivity and looking toward emerging technologies

Irish SMBs have focused on raising productivity levels to overcome challenges in the last year, with 34% stating that increasing their productivity allowed them to overcome barriers that they faced in 2022, compared to 29% globally. Small Irish businesses were also among the most likely of SMBs globally to state that they were satisfied with the data they have on their productivity (63% vs 59% globally).

Irish SMBs have shown more interest in using AI than SMBs in any other country, with 9% of Irish SMBs stating that they used the technology in the last 10 months, compared to 6% globally. This could indicate a marked willingness among Irish SMBs to embrace emerging technologies and utilise them for the benefit of their business.

Irish SMBs are managing rising costs comparatively well

The cost-of-living crisis has harmed morale among Irish small businesses, with 68% of those surveyed reporting that increasing costs are contributing to a lack of confidence in their business’ success. Despite strong attitudes toward productivity, these findings indicate that Irish SMBs could be facing slightly depleted morale among staff which could be echoing general feelings of economic hopelessness, regardless of the respondent’s particular business.

However, small Irish businesses have managed these costs well - they are more likely than most SMBs globally to say that rising costs have been managed well and haven’t impacted on business profitability (11% vs 8% globally) and are less likely to state that rising costs have had significant impacts on business profitability (30% vs 34% globally).

Sage Group CEO Steve Hare commented: “SMBs have faced the complex economic challenges recently with commendable success, and their resilience and relative flexibility have proven crucial to economies throughout the world.

Although we see Irish SMBs affected by rising costs, we’re hopeful that this blow to confidence is temporary and SMBs will maintain the resilience and longevity they’re known for.

To support SMBs and drive economic growth in Ireland, the Irish government needs to continue supporting their workforce, particularly within the current tumultuous economic conditions. A happy workforce is essential for maintaining the level of productivity on which small Irish businesses pride themselves.”

The study, which reveals insights into SMBs’ business sentiment and predictions for the next twelve months, involved an online survey with nearly 12,000 SMB business leaders in Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, the UK and the US.

Notes to editors]

Sage, in partnership with Strand Partners, conducted an online survey of 11,986 SMB business leaders in February 2023. The markets included as part of this study are Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, the UK and the US. In each market, except the US (where a specific sample was included for those employing 250-500 people due to a different official definition of SMB), decision makers at businesses employing fewer than 250 people were targeted.

To download the full research report, visit

The sample included a diverse range of SMB decision makers globally, with the sample size for each market being as follows:

Country  Sample Size 
 Canada  1,200
 France  1,221
 Germany  1,068
 Ireland  1,067
 Portugal  1,032
 Spain  1,002
 South Africa  1,111
 UK 2,138 
 US  2,147

About Sage Group

Sage exists to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive, starting with the millions of small and mid-sized businesses served by us, our partners and accountants. Customers trust our finance, HR and payroll software to make work and money flow. By digitising business processes and relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, banks and governments, our digital network connects SMBs, removing friction and delivering insights. Knocking down barriers also means we use our time, technology and experience to tackle digital inequality, economic inequality and the climate crisis.

Media Contacts

Natalie Falkous
E: [email protected]
M: +44 7587 175991

Katie Thomas
E: [email protected]
M: +44 7852 961996

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