Whenever I put my head above water and network with other entrepreneurs, I am horribly aware that I am out of sync. Not because the ‘techie boys’ talking of business growth leave me dumbfounded, but because more often than not I am the only lunatic round the table still attempting to run a manufacturing business in Britain.
The UK’s manufacturing sector has shrunk by its fastest rate for more than three years in July, according to a Markit survey. One reason is the huge fall in export orders as the euro zone looks almost universally sick. Growth is generally stagnating, which isn’t helping with the UK economy contracting and doing worse than in many parts of the world.
Many areas outside manufacturing do not have the unions to content with. Despite having seen the fruits of their labours, British manufacturers fled their bases to foreign parts and the extremists persist in fostering a culture that dismisses any factor of business viability for winning points at any cost.
Contrary to the propaganda machine, I don’t think that the London Olympics have helped at all. Much of normal activity is interrupted for a two to three week period. Companies who, like myself, operate deliveries in London have lived in dread of this period for months. Ironically, the reality is that the sell on how crowded the city will be has over-reached itself, and the capital is said to be almost deserted, retailers tearing out what is left of their hair as tourists and locals alike avoid the entire area like the plague.
Manufacture gloom is more widespread. The whole of the euro zone has hit a three year low, though, with a policy of austerity, it is difficult to see how this was not a likely result. Across the board, companies are cost cutting and job cutting, ensuring the cycle continues. Traditional strongholds such as Germany are one of the worse affected.
None of this is good news for our current government, who have waived the flag of British manufacturing being the way out of the current recession zealously.
The only exception to this contraction was the Republic of Ireland, who actually managed to expand despite their otherwise economic crisis. Growth in orders for Irish manufacturing has hit a 15 month high and resultantly the country has seen a rise in employment, exactly the reverse of everywhere else. The Irish are crediting lower commodity prices and a more competitive market has enabled lower input costs and more competitive sales. These, however, are all factors that other countries including our own should surely be able to take advantage of.
This leaves me forced to wonder what the Republic of Ireland is doing that is so different from the UK. I then realised that Ireland has a minister in Richard Bruton who is jointly responsible for Enterprise, Innovation and Employment. We in the UK split these up, as though there is no link between them at all. Small wonder, then: If the UK government doesn’t see the connection between jobs and enterprise, it will be lost on the country as a whole.
Jan Cavelle is founder of the?Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.