The Federation of Small Business' Voice of Small Business Index found the private sector had already lost momentum in 2010, then the generally horrid pre-Christmas weather plus the VAT increase knocked small businesses' buoyancy. Restaurants, hospitality and retail sectors and transport businesses were particularly badly hit.
John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, says: "A number of pressures on small businesses are beginning to come to a head, such as the increase in VAT and fuel duty, placing more strain on cash-flow."
Walker warns that higher-than-targeted inflation and expected slow economic growth in 2011 should keep small businesses' heckles up.
But we say: let's not get too depressed by the findings of one survey. Small businesses are a resilient lot, and on this bluest of days it's more important than ever to keep your spirits high. And there is some good news - the Bank of England is likely to keep interest rates at 0.5%, and the government is still actively encouraging banks to lend to small businesses (and we know from our partners RBS they are doing just that).
2011 is by no means going to be a breeze for the majority of small businesses. The economy is far from robust. But, slowly, the government's cuts should help heal the deficit, the markets' confidence will increase, and business should, we hope, start recuperating accordingly.
Hope is the key word in that paragraph.
You need to hang on in there with the deep-down belief you know you've always really had that your business can make it.
If you've started a business, you're the type of person who's not afraid to take a risk rather than settling into a boring nine to five. You're the type of person who believes enough in their own ideas to make things happen, to turn ideas into a hard reality. Remember that when newspapers across the land huddle together in a depressed raincloud of moans about the awful state of the country's economy. You've put in the long hours, the life savings, the blood, sweat and tears to get your idea this far - and you can ruddy well sit out their negativity and find ways to thrust ahead now.
We suggest starting with Carly Ward's blog on setting yourself targets for the year ahead, and with our feature on setting detailed targets for your business. Structure is key. With month-by-month goals you can keep your business on track, and keep your head while all around you are losing theirs.
Read this case study on how Kerry Swinton jiggled her business model to survive the recession for inspiration. Read our editor Matt's blog on how some of the best businesses started out or grew during bleak economic times. And talk to other members of the Smarta community, many of whom will be facing the same nail-biting apprehensions as you about the year ahead, so you can offer each other strategies and solace.
You can survive and even expand in 2011 - you just have to shrug off the doubts of negative newspapers and reports, work hard, think innovatively, and, most of all, believe you can do it. Corny? Yes. But belief in what you're doing will give you the drive you need to make it through the dark times. And you can do it - after all, you've already made it this far.