Boosting enterprise in Britain
This feature is sponsored by Smith & Williamson
In today’s disruptive business climate, entrepreneurial businesses are the driving force of dynamic growth. Innovative, agile and forward thinking, the new wave of tech, digital, media and service companies are essential to keeping Britain at the heart of global enterprise.
While the path from start-up to mid-level corporate is never without obstacles, are we doing enough in the UK to ensure that these businesses have what they need to navigate this tough terrain?
At this year’s Dynamic Enterprise Summit, London Loves Business and Smith & Williamson brought business owners and financiers together to find out how the UK can boost enterprise and make Britain an economic powerhouse. Chaired by Shruti Tripathi Chopra, the editor of London Loves Business, the Boosting Enterprise roundtable asked what hurdles UK business owners face from start-up to scaling up.
Here are their seven biggest challenges…
1. Accessing support
When it comes to government business policy, the problem is not so much a lack of support from decision makers, but a lack of clear direction. Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services, Smith & Williamson, explained: “The UK government has its heart in the right place, but they don’t have a business plan. They need to pull everything they’re doing into one coherent strategy to really offer businesses the support they need.”
Many SME owners have a vague idea that help is available, but don’t really know how to access it. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the government-backed schemes and financial support that is available.
2. Finding the right staff
The talent and skills gap is affecting recruitment from entry level to senior management, and that gap only looks set to grow over the next 10 years. While changes ideally need to be made at school and college level, businesses are now taking matters into their own hands and tackling the skills shortage in-house.
Apprenticeships, buddy programs and internal training schemes are all great ways to create a loyal workforce with the exact set of skills your business needs. Mike Dalloz, founder and managing director of Performance in People, said: “We’ve taken the approach of recruiting at low levels then training and developing those staff.”
3. Holding on to skilled workers
Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end at the recruitment process. Keeping talent that has been nurtured in-house from being poached by larger businesses, with larger salaries to offer, can be tough.
Luckily, it’s not just about money. It takes much more than a pay cheque to inspire staff loyalty. Flavilla Fongang, founder of 3 Colours Rule, noted: “If the story of your brand is strong enough, employees will see the true value of it and understand just how much they can benefit from working for you. If you want higher retention rates, share your vision and never forget to value your staff.”
4. Women in the workforce
Women occupy 47% of the UK workforce, yet many feel blocked from senior – or simply rewarding – positions. Shruti Tripathi, editor, London Loves Business, highlighted the need to welcome more women into UK business, from employment to entrepreneurial level.
Bob Meadows, Owner of Saxonbury Ltd, asked, “There are so many talented and skilled mums who have left the workplace because it’s difficult to juggle a job with childcare. More employers need to recognise that these are great staff that just need some flexibility. If we’re going to close the skills gap, we need to think creatively about employment.”
5. Public Sector contracts
The public sector accounts for a huge percentage of business in the UK, but when it comes to public sector contracts, smaller businesses are often left out in the cold. Tales of 40 page tenders for low-value opportunities, bids rejected for minor spelling errors…it’s not exactly a welcoming environment for SMEs, especially when pitted against larger firms who have the infrastructure to cope with mountains of unnecessary paperwork.
Cutting some of the red tape that surrounds public sector contracts could be one way for the UK government to offer practical support to businesses and boost home-grown enterprise.
6. Bureaucracy and red tape
Public sector contracts aren’t the only thing wrapped up in red tape. Bureaucracy can tangle entrepreneurs whether they’re starting out, scaling up or selling their business. For the UK to boost enterprise and become an even more attractive destination for start-ups, we need to offer greater guidance on how to navigate the rules and regulations. Even better, cut the red tape altogether.
7. Funding growth
Start-up funding isn’t as difficult to come by as you might think. According to Christopher Chave-Cox, partner at Optimity Ltd, “seed funding is relatively easy; getting hold of fast growth finance is the difficult part”.
Over the last decade, the UK has focussed on supporting entrepreneurs and entry level SMEs. To drive the next stage of growth, more needs to be done to help those firms as they expand.
A good starting point could be to promote understanding between banks and businesses. It can be difficult for bank managers to see the viability in a business’ growth plan, particularly when it comes to the new wave of disruptive tech and digital businesses. Likewise, companies are often unaware of what information financiers need to see to make their funding applications attractive.
A huge thanks to Smith & Williamson for supporting the Dynamic Enterprise Summit 2015, and to all our guests for their thoughts and time:
Here’s who took part:
Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services, Smith & Williamson
Sancho Simmonds, partner, Smith & Williamson
Christopher Chave-Cox, business development and partner, Optimity
Jon Slinn, director, CACI
Roger Grimshaw, NED, Feritech Ltd
Flavilla Fongang, founder, 3 Colours Rule
Michael Benson, international business development manager, UKIBC
Paul Southern, managing director, Central Hall Westminster
Bob Meadows, owner, Saxonbury Ltd
Danny Ragavaloo, business consultant and serial entrepreneur, CTW Enterprises
Mike Dalloz, founder & managing director, Performance in People
Anna Barnard, senior relationship manager, Royal Bank of Scotland
Mark Lewin, managing director, Zano Controls
Terry Chisholm, regional manager,The East India Co
Cara Bennison, city stores & corporate sales manager, The East India Co
Hercules Fisherman, head, Constant Commerce
John Summers, relationship manager, RBS
Julie Fletcher, business development executive, Kerry London Ltd
Chris Backhouse, regional managing director, FD Solutions
Shruti Tripathi Chopra, editor, London Loves Business
This feature is sponsored by Smith & Williamson