Aside from certainty on how we will leave the EU, and frankly, we all want this, how can the government drive the UK economic engine? We posed this question to the people running the top 100 fastest growing mid-sized businesses in Surrey, Sussex and Kent as part of our Best in Business research and received some interesting responses.
Collectively these top performing businesses grew sales in excess of £4.5bn, increasing their revenues by 34.5%, and employed more than 23,000 people last year. No mean feat under any circumstances, but especially when set against a seemingly never-ending backdrop of economic uncertainty and plummeting business confidence. To put this in context, business confidence is at its lowest level since December 2016 and UK business output has reached a five-month low, according to BDO’s latest Optimism Index.
Yet the fastest growing continue to defy the odds and contribute to the South East region being the UK’s second largest market outside London, worth over £252bn. They represent the rich diversity of businesses located in this dynamic and vibrant part of the country. From well-established family-owned companies in traditional industry sectors, such as retail, manufacturing and construction, to AIM listed companies and market disruptors in creative media technologies.
Despite their obvious differences, there was consensus across the board. Whether it is simplifying taxes, regulations, processes, or creating a more level playing field, all the companies we spoke to had one thing in common: a plea for simplification.
Here are just a few of the many things business owners and management teams said when asked what single thing could the government do to help their business grow:
- Tackle the ‘Benefits’ trap by reviewing the system of tax credits. Many companies employ people who would work more hours but refuse to as it has an impact on their tax credits
- Change the way business rates are calculated to make it fairer, particularly to retailers. Business rates do not correlate to a company’s ability to pay and consequently hit smaller companies harder than larger ones
- Make the planning process easier and quicker to allow companies to maximise opportunities
Several also called for more support and incentives, such as relocation grants similar to those offered by the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the introduction of better apprenticeship schemes.
Not surprisingly, these strongly held views chime with the top five policies for change we have put forward following extensive consultation with high growth companies up and down the country.
Our Best in Business research seeks to recognise the exceptional performance of these fastest growing businesses, while initiating dialogue to increase awareness of the challenges they face, and how together we can overcome them.
The Top 100 not only showcase these businesses’ entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to strive for success but also provide a barometer for growth across the region – and it’s inspiring to see that the future is looking bright for many, despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit.
Download our latest Best in Business report for more information about BDO’s research for Surrey, Sussex and Kent.
Kevin Cook is a Business Assurance Partner in BDO Gatwick and Guildford.