Opinion

Do you plan to rub shoulders with scale-ups in 2018?

4 min read

02 January 2018

I don’t believe many entrepreneurs hold much stock in the concept of New Year’s resolutions, but I’m pretty sure they love to set themselves a challenge – and here’s one they can take on board.

Perhaps in 2018, it could be to join the growing pool of companies that can proudly call themselves scale-ups.

A scale-up is a business with an average annual growth in employees or turnover greater than 20 per cent each year of over a three-year period.

According to a report from the end of last year published by the ScaleUp Institute, there are 31,400 businesses that fall into this bracket of scale-ups. They generate in the region of £900bn in turnover and support between three and 3.5 million jobs.

While this is quite respectable, when it’s set against a backdrop of this country being home to more than five million SME business, it gives a stark picture of the distance that needs to be travelled before more firms can be considered to be scaling up their operations.

Some of the barriers preventing businesses becoming scale-ups are highlighted in the Institute’s report, such as finding talented and skilled people, accessing new markets, finance, infrastructure and building leadership capability.

I also think that there needs to be a shift in thinking from government towards helping existing businesses grow as much as encouraging startups.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate for encouraging and nurturing new entrepreneurs and seeing them get their businesses off the ground is very satisfying. It has also been a priority of policy makers over recent years and is reflected in the fact that in the last 12 months more than 600,000 new businesses have been created.

However, as we all know, the economic and political landscapes are going through unprecedented change, which therefore means we must make sure the established businesses we have in the UK can not only survive, but also be encouraged to grow and develop as scale-ups.

But this doesn’t just come from throwing money at the problem. Yes, access to finance is important for companies that want to take the next step on their growth journey be investing in anything from kit and equipment to expanded premises.

It’s also important to understand the challenges and opportunities of scale-ups and being able to draw on the experience and expertise of others how have been there and done it.

I’ve often talked about entrepreneurs not having an island mindset where business owners find themselves isolated from their peers. This should never be the case and being part of a strong network of likeminded, aspirational, and experienced entrepreneurs can be a valuable weapon in a business owner’s arsenal.

Access to these sort of networks can offer one-to-one mentorship or the opportunity to share experiences and ask questions of a large group of entrepreneurs.

There are organisations like the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and the Entrepreneurs Network, both of which I have had the pleasure of working with, which bring business owners together and provide the support they need.

The benefits of working together, both within the business community as well as with government, to close the scale-up gap are huge. As businesses grow they create more jobs and make a greater economic contribution, which is more important than ever as the country continues to sail through uncharted waters.

I hope that entrepreneurs up and down the country take up the scale-up challenge for 2018 as it will be their businesses that will provide optimism, confidence and give the economy a boost.

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