The majority of regional mid-sized businesses (MSBs) attending Grant Thornton’s ‘agents of growth’ summit in Birmingham cited the skills shortage as the biggest barrier to growth.
In a poll taken at the event, 58 per cent of delegates said that a ‘talent gap’ is holding their businesses back, followed by market competition cited by 31 per cent and access to capital by 30 per cent.
Grant Thornton’s growth summit featured a speaker panel comprising Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council; Gordon Johncox, managing director of Aston Manor Brewery; Jason Wouhra, director of East End Foods; Charles Davies, director with the Centre for Economics and Business Research and Bill Parfitt, Grant Thornton automotive sector specialist.
Dave Munton, regional managing partner at Grant Thornton, said: “Members of our speaker panel and summit delegates returned several times to issues relating to attracting and retaining the right people with the right skills and the right attitude to help create growing, sustainable businesses.
“With our research highlighting the importance of mid-sized businesses to both the regional and the UK economy it is absolutely critical that the skills issue is tackled head-on. I believe there must be a more collaborative approach between businesses and education to ensure that we have a pipeline of skills to move our businesses forward. It is in all our interests to inform policy makers of this vital and urgent issue if we are to seize the opportunities ahead.”
In a keynote speech, Lord Paddy Ashdown highlighted the shift from vertical to flat business structures and the role that networks will play in business success from now on. Munton continued: “Lord Ashdown asserted that the ability to develop contact points both internally and externally to get closer to the strategies of key stakeholders is the critical business structure of our day and that creating such ‘docking’ points is where business focus should lie.
“From discussions with delegates other key success factors include avoiding complexity, keeping business plans simple, transparent and agile so that businesses can unlock their potential for growth.”
New research commissioned by Grant Thornton working with the Centre for Economics and Business Research, shows that the number of MSBs in the West Midlands has grown by 5.5% in the last 12 months, the largest increase of any region in the country. There are now 2,880 businesses employing between 50 and 499 people in the West Midlands, with a combined turnover of £46bn, up 7% from 2012.
Other issues highlighted at the growth summit included the need to accurately identify and then for government to support the mid-sized business sector and how to capitalise on export opportunities presented by ‘brand Britain’.