Technological developments mean that today it is ‘easier than it has ever been to start a business, and quicker than it ever has been to grow’, a report into SMEs claims. The report, by Lord Young – enterprise adviser to the Prime Minister- is the first of its kind since the Bolton Report of 1971, when office technology consisted of the three Ts – the telephone, typewriter and telex.

A new £200 million coaching programme aimed at helping up to 26,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to reach their full potential, has been launched by the UK Government. The Growth Accelerator scheme is aimed at companies with opportunities for rapid and sustainable growth, hoping to create 55,000 additional jobs and boost the economy.

Business secretary Vince Cable launched the new partnership, which will see private sector business experts working alongside the Government and businesses to identify and overcome growth restraints. Ten local partners have been selected to deliver the scheme which will be funded by the Department for Business Innovations and Skills (BIS).

Good to see that business confidence has improved in the last three months, suggesting the UK will return to growth in Q2 2012. Despite a strong rebound in the Confidence Index, BCM (Business Confidence Monitor)supports the view that the UK’s economy will continue to ‘zig-zag’ over the next 12 months, with economic recovery still very fragile. Key findings from BCM Q2 2012 report include:

  • The BCM Confidence Index stands at +12.0, up from -9.3 in Q1 2012 and the highest level since the second quarter of 2011;
  • This strong improvement in confidence suggests the current recession is likely to be short-lived, with quarter-on-quarter growth of 0.6% forecast for the second quarter of 2012;
  • Businesses expect capital investment to grow by just 1.4% over the next 12 months. Improvement in confidence does not mean they plan to start spending cash surpluses accumulated in recent years; and
  • Companies report that exports are 4.1% higher than a year ago, up from 3.3% last quarter and the strongest growth since Q3 2011.

Did you know that there is a wealth of UK data on the Government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) site? Searching by theme is a great way to explore some of the data available. For example, at the end of 2011 there were 5.94 million people working in the public sector and 23.173 million in the private sector, out of a population of over 62 million.

In the recent Breedon report’s “Boosting finance options for UK business” paper, it was interesting to see that external equity funding is significantly under-utilised by small UK businesses. Only 3% of small businesses use equity finance whereas a staggering 55% use credit cards.

Source: Small Firms in the Credit Crisis: Evidence from the UK Survey of SME Finances

25% of businesses do not have a policy in place for employees to work remotely via their own personal devices. Concern focuses towards IT departments where 96% of IT managers fear security risks, highlighting an ostrich approach to security that is counterproductive. Bring your own device (BOYD) is perfect as it is both cost effective and enables employees a more flexible working day. By establishing a secure policy within a company will enrich the ability of successful mobile working, uphold compliance and strengthen the security of business data allowing employees the ability to choose between office and home. Source: SecureData Europe

  • Data storage
  • Data security
  • Data transmission
  • Cyber security
  • Exploiting social media
  • “Big data”

Have you thought about how your business is addressing these opportunities?

According to research from UBS, 50% of 2011 global GDP growth came from Asia Pacific excluding Japan and more than a fifth from Latin America. In short, emerging markets were responsible for almost 70% of 2011 global growth with China alone contributing almost 30%. Put that another way, without emerging markets world economic output would have grown less than 1%.

"Can Do" badge

One of the most important rules I set myself is to employ or do business with people who wear the “Can Do” badge. Why do I say this and what do I mean? To generate and grow a business requires a positive approach, an ability to come up with solutions and be constructively critical. I will avoid people who find reasons not to do things. Those who wear the “Can Do” badge are the first to embrace technology.

Embracing Technology

Are you embracing technology in your business? Are you thinking about the growth opportunities the internet will provide? Here are some facts and forecasts to help you address this fast growing, global marketplace.

Individuals looking to invest and support early stage growth companies in the UK should take a close look at a recent UK Government initiative designed to incentivise such high risk investment. Think of Seed EIS as a tax incentive to invest in a company’s first funding round and which could be a prelude to a later, larger funding round where EIS tax relief would be available.

The key terms are summarised from HMRC’s website below:-
Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) – relief effective on or after 6 April 2012. For the first year of the new scheme, the Government will offer a capital gains tax (CGT) holiday – gains realised on the disposal of assets in 2012-13 that are invested through SEIS in the same year will be exempt from CGT.

It is well known that the FTSE 100 index of the 100 largest quoted UK companies by market capitalisation is no longer a barometer of the UK economy. Here is a quick reminder why.

  1. 45% of the index is just 3 sectors, 19% is oil and gas, 15% resources mainly mining and 11% banks.
  2. Just 26 stocks account for 45% of the index.
  3. If you add in the pharmaceutical and household goods sectors then 5 sectors account for nearly 60% of the index.

Finally, remember that 70% of the index’s earnings are generated overseas.

The number of devices in use around the world is forecast to increase to 22 billion by 2020. That’s almost 3 devices per person on the planet with forecasts predicting a global population of 7.6 billion by 2020. This is a huge business opportunity. Here is just one example. The digital storage required will need to grow by some 30 times to fulfil forecast demand.

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