Business confidence at record high amongst UK’s growth companies

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The UK’s growth companies are shrugging off Brexit worries to expand their business through investment and exports, and believe that a strong company culture is vital to success.

Brexit boost as high-growth companies seize on cheap pound to stimulate exports

Record number of firms predicting 20% revenue growth

85% of companies say strong culture and employee engagement are essential to success: fun, family and flexibility are key

Two thirds of entrepreneurs say imminent recession is their biggest fear

ECI Partners’ 2017 Growth Survey, the only annual survey in the UK focused solely on high growth companies, reveals today that the UK’s growth companies are shrugging off Brexit worries to expand their business through investment and exports, targeting new markets in the USA and Europe.

The annual survey, now in its eighth year, polled c. 350 high-growth businesses, over July and August.

This year’s survey has a specific section on how company culture and employee engagement can help drive growth. It is clear that there is a strong correlation between companies that create a positive culture to engage their work force and growth.

Sir John Timpson, Chairman of Timpson and writer of the foreword for the survey, advised managers to build, “a company culture based on kindness that puts people first.”

Record revenues

This year’s survey demonstrates the overwhelming optimism and resilience amongst high-growth businesses, with half of respondents expecting to grow their revenues by 20% or more. This is significantly up on last year and marks the highest ever reading since ECI began polling companies in 2010.

Brexit boost

A cheap pound is turbo-charging exports, with seven in ten companies looking to sell overseas, the highest in five years and significantly higher than the 11% national average of all companies that export estimated by the CBI. As the CBI notes in their 2005 report, exporters add three times the value of their exports to GDP making them vital to the UK’s economic success.

Europe 53% remains their top destination, despite concerns about access to the Single Market post Brexit, followed by North America 52% and Asia Pacific 40%.

“We’re in one of the great rail centres of Britain, and it’s a powerful association. We’re now targeting customers all over the world, and we’re winning lots of business in America and Australia.”

Peter Liney

CEO of Yorkshire-based travel company Great Rail Journeys

“We’re forecasting turnover of £50m by 2020. The main flow of the tap will be exports- that will represent 60% of the business in three years. We currently sell into 65 countries and that is rising to 72”

Eldon Robson

CEO of drinks company Fentimans

Company culture is key to business success

The overwhelming majority of respondents agree that a strong company culture and employee engagement are vital to the success of their organisation. Companies say it helps them to retain staff, improve customer experience and most importantly for the UK economy boost productivity.

As Sir John Timpson who wrote the foreword for this year’s survey notes: “You can do good and do good business at the same time.”

Brexit & recession top concerns

High growth businesses may be benefitting from a cheap pound, but they are concerned about the longer term impact of Brexit: they want more clarity from the Government on what will come out of the EU negotiations and that the economy won’t be trashed in the process.

Almost two thirds of companies fear a recession in the UK, and a quarter are concerned that EU trade negotiations will go against them.

Poor schooling to blame for skills gap

High growth companies continue to be plagued with skills shortages: while some say the Brexit vote has made it harder to attract EU workers, most blame the UK education system for the skills gap. Respondents say that schools tend to put off young people from entering their industry or produce students with poor skills.

For a second year running the survey has been supported by The Supper Club, an exclusive membership community of inspirational founders and CEOs of high growth businesses.

Survey respondents:

“The culture at Flat Iron is hugely important to our success. We want to drive an emotional response, and that takes staff that are naturally hospitable and welcoming. We see the culture of the business as attracting that kind of person. These people ultimately drive how busy we are and the overall success of the business.”

Charlie Carroll

Founder of restaurant chain Flat Iron

“We are a music company first and foremost- creativity and innovation is part of everything we do. Even 17 years after we launched we still feel like a start-up. We have to make sure the back office people don’t destroy that creativity.”

Robert Hurst

Co-founder of music licensing firm Audio Network

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