In our survey of 264 business owners, 72 per cent of respondents reveal their intent to grow their business through the means of recruitment, increased marketing spend, launching new products and acquisition.
It’s a telling statistic that only 28 per cent are focused purely on survival and paints a picture mercifully at odds with accountants BDO’s Business Trends rock-bottom optimism index.
More than a quarter (26 per cent) of total respondents identify launching new products as their principal growth strategy. Online gift shop Spotty Gift Boxes started with one website but split it into two to cater for demand. The company, currently with just two staff, is also set to take on an extra person to ramp up marketing plans. Managing director Caroline Blatchford says: ‘Whatever the economic conditions, you need to invest in a small business to ensure growth.’ Sales for the first half of 2010 for the company were over double that of the first half of 2009 (£75,000 compared with £35,000) and, with the new websites, staff member and marketing drive Blatchford expects sales for 2011 to exceed £300,000. Not bad for such a small team.
Broadband and mobile phone comparison website Top10 is another example of a company’s being aggressive about its expansion plans. CEO Tom Leathes says: ‘For us, expansion is all about moving into new markets and taking on the bigger guys.’ Rising to compete against the multimillion pound budgets of some of the well-recognised names in the price comparison field is a hefty challenge, but the company facilitated its rise by investing in staff, poaching top talent from the likes of Yahoo and Vodafone, offering invaluable skills and knowledge for growth.
It goes to show there are companies out there with bigger and better things on the horizon, and the recent news that UK banks are responding to lending concerns can only help the expansion plans of small businesses. Whereas just weeks ago we were faced with the news that small business lending from UK banks had been cut by £28 billion since the collapse of Lehman Brothers two years ago, now banks are proposing a £1.55 billion fund to invest in small and medium enterprises (although the details of this scheme need to be ironed out, of course).
So while it’s encouraging to see companies growing through their own initiative and guile, it’s no secret that the availability of expansion capital – on reasonable terms – is essential if our smaller businesses are to keep moving forward.
As both Blatchford and Leathes show, no business owner is happy to just be treading water.