“What are the critical factors that will unlock growth in the UK and create a more resilient economy in the long term?” That was the question we asked four senior business leaders whose companies have beaten the market to achieve impressive growth during the downturn. Here are the factors they view as essential to growth.
These short interviews were filmed at a recent Top Track 250 event, as part of Grant Thornton’s association with the Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 250. For text readers, we’ve also transcribed the responses. We’d also like to thank our interviewees for taking the time to give their views.
1. Simon Sherrard, Non-Executive Chairman, Bibby Line Group
“The growth of the economy in the UK is purely dependent on small businessmen. What we need to do is to give greater encouragement to the entrepreneurs to enable them to employ extra people and to use the full breadth of the skills that people have in this country.
“We have far too much regulation; we have over-burdensome tax regulations. If we were to eliminate a lot of that and to make a genuine tax-advantageous environment for the entrepreneur, I have absolutely no doubt that the economy of this country would start moving very quickly indeed.”
2. Jim McCarthy, CEO, Poundland
“The availability of debt for companies that wish to grow is really important – at a cost that is affordable. Some of the recent taxation reductions in corporation tax, and things like that, will help but we need to create demand so we need to manufacture or supply great products and services as an economy.
“We have to look forward to the days when perhaps earnings are not behind retail price inflation so that consumers have more money to spend – we need demand, we need consumption – to generate and stimulate industries and to create jobs.
“The confidence needs to be restored so there has to be investment in our future, in the young people. They need access to that workforce at a rate they can afford. They need to be able to retain more of their profits to invest because to compete nowadays you have to be efficient, you’ve got to invest in equipment, you’ve got to market properly and you’ve got to pay attention to growing industries, like tech.”
3. Thomas Martin, Joint MD, Arco
“We were waiting for those factors to be demonstrated in the Budget. I didn’t see them. Is the UK open for business? Perhaps not.
“Companies are still sitting on cash – they’re frightened to invest. For me, I’d like to see a more overt statement in terms of manufacturing and building success, and engineering success, at home.
“I’d also like to see people work harder at making sure that school-leavers have the right skills for industry. We’re doing something about it. We’re opening up the UK’s first academy for apprentices in Hull in September. We want the Government to sit up and take notice. We can make a huge difference and we want to show others how to do it.”
“If we look at what’s happened in the UK, in Europe, internationally globally, historically all of our brightest and cleverest young students have had this gravitational pull towards banking, or law, or the big accountancy firms. We have to try and show those students that there is an alternative path, another way.
“I get very evangelical about the entrepreneurial side and certainly the benefits of what that can do. We need to get some of those students into business and show them that you can be an entrepreneur and not be scared to be an entrepreneur, that you can be successful as an entrepreneur – and that will be the engine that will drive the economy and get it going again.”