Fifth annual report from Business Growth Hub reveals businesses are cautiously optimistic - but highlights challenges around skills and access to finance
Business Growth Hub’s fifth Greater Manchester Business Survey has revealed that a majority of local firms are cautiously optimistic about the 12 months ahead - but many recognise there are still barriers to growth:
- Almost half of businesses (45%) expect turnover to increase in the next 12 months, while 40% expect no change
- Fewer businesses reported they had increased employment in the last 12 months – but more than nine in 10 (93%) anticipate employee numbers will remain the same or increase in 2018
- Nearly a third (30%) see business finance as the top barrier to growth, up from 22% in 2016 – yet just 15% sought investment and funding in 2017
- A fifth of GM businesses (20%) reported that they exported (up from 12% in 2016) - however only 5% of GM businesses reported planning to export in the future
- Fewer businesses believe a lack of staff or skills was a barrier to growth in 2017 (down to 19% from 30% in 2016) and more respondents said workforce and skills were the main driver of growth (32%)
- Four out of five businesses (81%) report no barriers to innovation (up from 71% in 2016), reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit of the city region
The research focused on business performance over the last 12 months and the outlook for the 12 months ahead.
Richard Jeffery, director of business growth, Business Growth Hub, said: “It’s very encouraging that Greater Manchester firms are, on the whole, cautiously optimistic about the future, but it’s also important to address the things that are stopping businesses achieving their full potential. There seems to be a disconnect between perceived barriers to growth, and what companies are doing to overcome them.
“For example, a third said business finance is the top barrier to growth, yet just 15% sought investment and funding in 2017. And while it is encouraging that 22% of companies would consider seeking finance through a government-backed loan or investment scheme, , turning to the bank still remains the first-place businesses think of going to for funding. In contrast very few businesses think that venture capital or angel investment could be an option.
“Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company have specialist advisers, mentors and programmes which can help firms overcome these barriers - many of these services are fully funded, meaning there is no cost to the business receiving the support.”
Donna Edwards, Managing Director of Business Support and Business Finance at The Growth Company, said: “This year’s survey is the first completed after the referendum result on Brexit. It is interesting to note the key findings broadly reflect insights and feedback we are getting from a lot of the businesses we work with relating to Brexit. Businesses are becoming more cautious.”
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