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Is a lack of confidence holding your SME back?

Much has been said over the years about scaling businesses being crucial to boosting the UK economy. However, it seems SME growth ambitions often come to a halt due to a lack of confidence.
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Back in 2014, Wired’s Emiko Jozuka published the aptly named article, UK needs “scale-ups”, not just startups. The piece was based on an event – and consequent research – around helping business leaders grow their companies. Silicon Valley comes to the UK, co-founded by Sherry Coutu, hoped to impart advice from successful US counterparts.

Coutu explained in the report, according to Jozuka, that scale-up companies could “contribute a million new jobs and additional £1 trillion to UK economic growth by 2034.” Boosting the amount of scale-ups by just 1%, Coutu further added, would mean the creation of 238,000 new jobs.

Adamant to keep the spotlight on scale-ups, Coutu released a review on the subject in 2016, suggesting it was far more challenging to scale a company than start one – and so help was needed to get such companies over weighty hurdles.

One of the key challenges cited by the review’s analysis of 300 policy makers, 365 CEOs and 75 initiatives, was recruiting talent with the appropriate skills. Leadership development was crucial to the ability to manage rapid growth, respondents claimed, as was the need to increase customer revenues by tapping into new markets.

Fast-forward the clock to 2018 and we’re still seeing reports about a scale-up gap. Exclusive research from brand strategy consultants Future Kings, however, found that while some hurdles did persist, it was more to do with the confidence needed to undertake such a task.

Lacking the confidence to jump hurdles

The research asked 200 UK early stage scale-up bosses about their greatest concerns while preparing for growth.

Over two thirds of bosses hoped to increase revenue by at least 50% in the next two years, the research claimed, but they were unsure how they would achieve that goal. Some 89% were the most concerned about creating the right customer experience to reflect the brand. However, only 66% felt they could meet the challenge head-on.

Other concerns involved communicating a consistent brand – cited by 88% of bosses –  with 86% concerned about creating a clear vision.

Expanding on the research, Andy Snuggs, managing partner at Future Kings, explained that while the number of start-ups increased to over 634,000 in 2017, the five-year survival rate remains low, with four in ten failing to become five years old.

“Employers may not be fully confident in their abilities to meet their greatest business concerns, whether due to a lack of experience, knowledge, or changing market conditions,”Snuggs said. “The scaling businesses are the backbone of Britain though, especially as we move closer into Brexit.

“For there to be such a gap between concerns for navigating the future business environment and confidence in meeting these challenges, suggests additional help and support is not only needed – it may be crucial to their survival.”

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is the deputy editor of Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business