SMALL and medium-sized firms in the East are confident about trading conditions and are looking to scale-up in 2013, according to a new survey.

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More than a quarter (27%) of business owners in the region are looking to expand their business operations this year, the new edition of Aviva’s bi-annual SME Pulse report says.

Business owners in the East cite boosting revenues (93%), benefiting from economies of scale (50%) and generally feeling that it is the right time to grow (20%) as the main motivators.

This renewed optimism has also translated into more ambitious targets, with 42% of businesses based in the region having set themselves new goals and objectives at the start of the year.

More than a third (38%) of these SME owners felt they had met or achieved their goals last year with a similar number (46%) predicting more ambitious business plans in 2013.

The report reveals that twice as many SMEs (65%) expect average to strong sales in the first half of 2013 compared to jthe same period last year (32%).

Firms with 11 to 25 employees are most optimistic out of all SMEs with nearly three-quarters (74%) expecting average to strong sales in the first half of the year.

The report by Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, also reveals that nearly twice as many SMEs (30%) diversified their business in the past six months to maintain business profitability, compared to 17% during the same time in 2011.

In the East of England, a fifth of SME owners (21%) questioned are planning to continue diversifying in the first six months of 2013 to keep their businesses healthy.

David Bruce, commercial product manager at Aviva, said: “It’s promising to see such positive attitudes for the start of the year across the SME market.

“There is a growing focus and importance on the sector in driving economic recovery and this optimism is further substantiated by the number of SMEs predicting ambitious growth plans for 2013 These are the very businesses that are vital and lie at the very heart of Britain’s economic recovery.

““The ‘Jubilympics’ year has certainly driven a renewed sense of optimism in the UK, and SMEs are carrying this positivity into 2013. The size and nature of small to medium-sized businesses allow owners to be more flexible and nimble in responding to market conditions and to make those business decisions that can have a great impact on success.”

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