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Research: Agents of Growth, The Power of Mid-Sized Businesses, Grant Thornton 2014

Third party research collated in one place

· Research

Published in 2014 Agents of Growth, by Grant Thornton, offers a broad overview of the UK mid-sized business landscape from 2007 to 2013 and recommendations to both Government and MSBs.

What does the UK’s mid-market look like? How is it performing, and what are the challenges it faces? Our extensive research, conducted along with the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr), paints a comprehensive picture of UK medium-sized businesses (MSBs) and how they are outperforming the market on many fronts. Yet the research, as well as our recent summit events for MSB leaders, also highlighted significant obstacles to further growth and expansion.

Foreword from Scott Barnes

CEO, Grant Thornton UK LLP

The UK mid-market – around 34,000 firms of 50 to 499 employees – is a vibrant and dynamic business segment, the unsung powerhouse of the economy. It is often overlooked by policy-makers, whose initiatives are geared either toward large corporates or small enterprises, yet plays a pivotal role
in employment and innovation. This is why we have conducted, for the second time, extensive research into the behaviour, performance and attitudes of the UK MSBs.

The outcome of our research, summarised here, reveals that the mid-market was the most resilient segment during the economic downturn. In recent years, these businesses have shown an impressive rise in productivity – placing them on a par with large corporates – and their employment growth now beats that of smaller and larger firms. They have also outpaced larger and smaller firms in R&D and
capital spending growth. What’s more, they are optimistic about the future, generally expecting to increase their workforce and turnover.

Our research gives insights into maturity, ownership and debt gearing, and also reveals the challenges and obstacles to growth perceived by MSB leaders. What emerges is a generally conservative attitude to risk and a low appetite for international expansion. The challenges identified by shortage of skills and expertise, and excessive red tape.

These challenges were echoed by delegates at our recent Agents of growth summits for mid-market leaders, held in Reading, Birmingham, Manchester and London. Often,
solutions to these challenges may be found on a local level – a fact underlined by the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) at our summit events. To help overcome challenges and support mid-market ambition in their region, local authorities need to continue to develop their understanding of the needs of MSBs in their area and target resources in response, in alignment with their overall strategies for
economic regeneration and driving business growth.

Given the potential of the mid-market as an economic powerhouse for the UK, I hope this report demonstrates how vital it is that challenges are addressed both nationally and locally. That’s why we have made recommendations to both MSBs and the Government on how we maximise growth opportunities for the mid-tiers, and create a stronger economy for all.

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