Four out of five businesses across the island of Ireland say that the economic downturn is having an adverse impact on them.
That was the key finding from a survey of 1,000 companies, north and south, commissioned by trade and business development body InterTradeIreland.
But according to InterTradeIreland chief executive Liam Nellis, the majority of businesses surveyed remain hopeful about their business performance over the next three years.
He said: “Perhaps surprisingly 75% of businesses were still optimistic which demonstrates a degree of self-belief in their ability to survive the downturn.
“However, they are realistic and have cited the need for advice on access to finance, managing their cash flow and speeding up payments.
“Managers want to learn how to become more efficient in areas such as energy, waste and transport.
“They also expressed a desire for information on new potential cross-border opportunities with 67% stating they wanted to see more co-operation between both parts of the island in the future. “
The All-Island Business Monitor survey reveals that the severity of the impact was higher among small and medium sized enterprises, with businesses in the south particularly hard hit.
The two biggest problems facing businesses are cash flow (68%) and a fall-off in demand for goods and services (66%).
Some 87% of businesses had noticed a tightening of expenditure by their customers over recent months, while 53% reported a decline in their turnover.
This was more marked in the Republic than in Northern Ireland, (61% v 44%) and was most prevalent in the construction and retail/distribution sectors.
The research, undertaken last month by Millward Brown, covers the three months to December.