British businesses being throttled by growing pains

More than three quarters of UK businesses reported growth last year, but many came up against significant problems caused by this increased growth.

Only 20 per cent of 200 UK business leaders surveyed recently were highly positive about meeting their future growth targets. Despite recent successful expansion and ambitious future plans, the rest are suffering from a wide range of ‘growing pains’ including nearly half not having a grip on costs and spending.

The independent survey from eProcurement company Wax Digital maps the hopes and fears facing mid-sized, £50 million to £250 million turnover firms. Three quarters (74 per cent) have grown over the last three years and 55 per cent have become more ambitious about growing over the last two, but 80 per cent are juggling up to 15 growing pains – or things within the business that need radical change if they’re to achieve their goals.

Just two per cent say that they were not actively looking to expand and 92 per cent have strategies looking beyond ‘organic’ growth. Of these, 43 per cent intend to adopt new channels to market, 38 per cent will expand their existing product and service range, 28 per cent want to sell into different geographies and 24 per cent plan to innovate new products and services. A fifth (17 per cent) are also seeking growth through acquisition, nine per cent are looking for investment and eight per cent are exploring digital markets.

However, these businesses are at a tipping point operationally; when questioned about six key growth challenges, they considered five of these more relevant to their business today than in the past or in the future. On average respondents cited these growth challenges as ‘relevant today’ 42 per cent of the time, compared to ‘relevant in the past’ 28 per cent of the time and ‘relevant in the future’ 16 per cent of the time.

‘It’s a critical time for Britain’s business engine room amidst Brexit and other disruptive forces, but its performance is being throttled by the fact that these companies often end up running before they can walk,’ says Paul Ellis, managing director, Wax Digital.

Skills and talent shortages was the top growth risk cited by 39 per cent, followed closely by global political disruption for 37 per cent and Brexit for 36 per cent.

Ellis continues, ‘A symptom of rapid expansion is that internal systems and processes and external relationships are not designed to keep pace with change. Whether that’s being able to appeal to investors, optimising your supply base and production or knowing what cash you’ve got to work with, it’s vital to get the right scalable foundations in place.’

Further reading on growing pains

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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