While consumer sentiment is unpredictable, there is plenty SMEs can do to prepare for changes that will come over the next two years as the UK hammers out trade deals with 27 EU states. “Businesses should check financials first. Second, make the most of things staying the same. Third, prepare to look further afield. The big thing about Brexit is planning.” said Emma Jones, the founder of a small business network called Enterprise Nation.
However, small to medium sized manufacturers do not seem convinced that the Government had yet put together a cohesive vision that matches business owner’s requirements. This not particularly startling news comes from the UK’s Industrial Strategy that was the special focus of a National Barometer recently.
An insight into the thoughts of SME manufacturers
The National Barometer survey was conducted to gain insight into SME manufacturers attitudes towards business in light of Brexit and the start of the negotiations. It was to analyse business confidence and provide insight into the support processes the Chancellor can put in place to build that confidence over the next few years.
Here are some of the key points gathered from the survey which would suggest even with uncertainty surrounding Brexit, manufacturing in the UK is general buoyant, with businesses willing to expand their operations to cope with current and anticipated demand:
- Since the referendum small to medium sized manufacturers in the UK have remained strong in the face of ‘Brexit’ uncertainty, with 57% of firms recording an increase in sales during the last six months.
- Conducted by SWMAS Group in partnership with Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), The National Manufacturing Barometer found strong optimism for growth, with two thirds expecting sales to grow again.
- From across the UK, 270 senior company decision makers provided a comprehensive observation into life on the shop floor as part of this latest report. Half of those questioned revealed that they plan to invest in new capital equipment and technology going forward, whilst 46% plan to increase their workforce to cope with demand.
- Another key finding is that a surprising 42% of those questioned say that they don’t know whether the UK Industrial Strategy is built to deliver their business needs, clearly showing there is a lack of visibility and understanding amongst SME manufacturers.
- 9% of SME’s reported an increase in sales from a previous Barometer and it would indicate that orders are still being received although there was evidence of a spike in exports due to the fall in Sterling.
- According to the latest report, there still appears to be a strong appetite to invest in technology and also people, in order to drive growth and productivity and this will be critical should SME’s fulfil their ambitions.
- Just 17% of respondents agreed that the direction of the industrial strategy would work, which highlights the need for much better engagement with SMEs and stronger communication about the plan and what it involves.
- When asked what should be the main focus for the UK Industrial Strategy, R&D and Productivity were high on the priority list, closely followed by access to growth opportunities within the UK, export and operational skills.
Lorraine Holmes, CEO of Economic Growth Solutions and the recently launched Manufacturing Growth Programme, added her support.
“Our SMEs are giving a strong message to Government. They need to feel that the new strategy reflects their aspirations and will support them in making the most of new opportunities and overcoming some of the challenges they are and will continue to face.
“The budget – with additional money for disruptive technology and new T-Levels to boost technical skills – showed there is an appetite to support manufacturing and we’d urge Government to listen to SMEs as we move forward.”
The Manufacturing Barometer is the largest survey conducted of SME manufacturers in the UK and asks senior decision makers for their views on business performance, future trends and Government policy.
Time will tell as the Chancellor Philip Hammond launches his campaign to put business concerns at the heart of Brexit. This will undoubtedly come with new opportunities for businesses to plan and look at growth as the key strategy moving forward.
The Manufacturing Growth Programme which is already well underway, I see as the starting point for business support in the UK, and would expect to see a number of programmes and funding mechanisms to support that growth right across the business framework.
If you need help with business growth, long-term plans and being one of the strong and ready business for Brexit, contact me today!