The Industry sectors which will offer new start-ups odds on changes of success

The UK Domain analysed the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which shows the number of micro, small and medium-sized businesses to be established since 2007.


The report helps understand which SME sectors are the most and least successful, and therefore which ones are the best to venture into if you are thinking of planning, building and starting your own business as well as those that appear to struggle.


The UK Domain, the online resource providing free small business advice, looked at statistics across more than 2.6m micro, small and medium-sized businesses which exist within 18 core industries. 


The examined data provide information on how likely these businesses were to thrive over certain periods of time, from less than 2 years up to 10 years and over.


Summary of the key findings:


  • With a total number of 478,070 businesses started between 2007 and 2017, the professional, scientific and technical sector enjoys the most success.
  •  Coming in second was construction with 319,555 businesses, third was business administration and support services with a 227,120 total and fourth was information and communication, standing at 216,640.
  • Languishing at the bottom of the table with a total of 6,780 organisations was public administration and defence.
  • The next lowest number of enterprises came from the mining, quarrying and utilities sector with a total of 13,470.
  • The third lowest sector was education with a total of 47,055 and the fourth was financial and insurance with 55,350 businesses in operation.

Micro businesses (one to nine employees)

The industry with the greatest number of micro-businesses is found within the professional, scientific and technical sector. 451,740 micro-businesses are currently in operation, having been set up in the past decade. Of those businesses, 117,110 have successfully stood the test of time and surviving 10 years or more.  

The next highest total in the micro category was construction at 301,065 of existing businesses, 113,500 of which are 10 years or older, followed by sectors such as:

  • Business administration and support services with a total of 206,450.
  • Businesses and information and communication came in with 205,580.
  • Retail saw modest success roughly in the middle of the table with 177,075 businesses.

Unfortunately, the public administration and defense sector took bottom position of all industries across small businesses, with a grand total of 6,285 micro businesses having formed over the past decade.

Small businesses (10 to 49 employees)

The sectors with the highest number of small businesses were:

  • Accommodation and food services with a 32,670 total.
  • Health with a total of 27,125 businesses.
  • Production totals at 24,005 businesses.
  • Professional, scientific and technical has 22,785.
  • Retail totals at 17,165.  

The industry sectors operating as small businesses that are most likely to make it to the 10 years or over threshold include:

  • Health at 20,203.
  • Production at 18,480.
  • Accommodation and food services at 14,880.

A total of 231,715 small businesses currently operating in the UK, 152,890 of which achieved survival for 10 years or more.

Medium-sized businesses (50 to 249 employees)   

Production takes the lead here when it comes to medium-sized businesses, with a grand total of 6,395 of enterprises.

Other medium-sized business models enjoying success are:

  • Health 5,135.
  • Education 4,165.
  • Business administration and support services 3,940.
  • Professional, scientific and technical 3,545.

Across all micro, small and medium-sized businesses, the industry which has the highest total of enterprises (147,730) is the professional, scientific and technical sector.

In fact, in 2017, this sector accounted for the largest number of companies, with 17.9 per cent of all registered businesses in the UK.

The professional, scientific and technical sector also had the largest growth in numbers between 2016 and 2017, an increase of 20,000 businesses.

Coming in second was construction (319,555), third was business administration and support services (227,120) and fourth was information and communication (216,640).

In the small business arena, the accommodation and food services, health and professional, scientific and technical industries all provide a good place with which to start.

Production, education, health, business administration and support services and professional, scientific and technical sectors are thriving medium-sized businesses.

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