By Marcus Leach
A delegation of mid-sized businesses (MSBs) will accompany Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green and John Cridland Director General of the CBI to Turkey in April — the first-ever UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) trade visit to focus exclusively on the opportunities for MSBs in an emerging market.
This is one of a number of actions to unlock growth among the UK’s 10,000 mid-sized businesses. They have been described as a “forgotten army” of businesses, yet they account for one fifth of the private sector. And with the right conditions they could unlock up to £20bn annual GDP in the next ten years, according to the CBI.
Government, business and representative groups are working together to:
· Providing tailored support to MSBs to target new export markets, through an additional £10m funding for UKTI;
· Working with Local Enterprise Partnerships to help MSBs develop local networks and improve their export potential and leadership and management capability;
· A task force on non-bank lending, led by Tim Breedon of Legal & General, has been set up to help explore the issue of access to finance. Mark Prisk today announced new members of the industry-led group which will report in time for budget. Dame Helen Alexander of the CBI, James Douglas of Deloitte, Julian Franks of the London Business School, Brian Robertson of HSBC, Xavier Rolet of the London Stock Exchange, Christopher Rowlands formerly of 3i, and Charles Roxburgh of McKinsey will all be part of the taskforce;
· Launching an new website to act as an information portal for MSBs;
· The Institute of Directors (IoD) is creating a directory of potential Non-Executive Directors (NEDs). The directory will help MSBs to learn more about NEDs and the expertise they can bring, and to find the right NED for their business;
· The Government is working with large businesses, including Microsoft, Centrica and Diageo, to support and strengthen their supply chains of which MSBs are often a vital link. (In December 2011, Vince Cable announced that £125 million will be set aside to improve the global competitiveness of the UK’s advanced manufacturing supply chains.); and
· The Institute for Family Business will provide countrywide seminars dedicated to MSB, including on entrepreneurship, succession planning and professionalising the board.
“Mid-sized businesses are a powerful force in their local economies and nationally, employing one in five private sector workers. MSBs have immense potential and we want to help them to be recognised for what they do and to raise their sights to the opportunities that exist," Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk said.
“So I’m very pleased that the Government and organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors, Institute for Family Business and others are working together on a series of practical measures to promote the support available for MSBs.
“I’m also delighted that John Cridland of the CBI will accompany Lord Green to Turkey. Britain could be £20 billion a year richer if MSBs reach their full potential exporting to fast-growing markets.”
The campaign follows actions for MSBs in the Growth Review, announced in the Autumn Statement:
· £10 million to make available to 500 mid-sized businesses each year the bespoke export support services of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)
· A package of credit easing measures to protect the flow of credit to smaller and mid-sized businesses
· £1 billion through a Business Finance Partnership, which will invest in smaller and mid-sized businesses in the UK through non-bank channels
“Helping our mid-sized businesses to grow, export more and create new jobs will be vital to creating sustainable growth in the years to come. This new campaign and the exciting forthcoming trip with MSBs to Turkey are a welcome first step on this journey," John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said.
“To support our MSBs, we need to boost their confidence, raise their ambitions, and help scale-up their capabilities. If we do this, and plug the current gap in long-term finance available to MSBs, we think they could contribute an additional £20bn to the economy by 2020.
“As well as being a strong voice for MSBs, in 2012 the CBI will launch its own programme of activity, offering firms practical help through a series of new regional clubs. These will give business leaders of MSBs the opportunity to learn from each other and hear from experts about the challenges of exporting, financing growth and scaling up their business.”
Andrew Main Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of the IOD said this was welcomed news.
“In the current economic climate, one of the greatest enhancements MSBs can make to drive growth and improve board performance is the appointment of skilled and experienced NEDs," he said.
“Our ambition is for the IoD’s NED directory to be a game-changer in terms of MSBs business performance, encouraging and supporting more mid-sized businesses than ever before to skilfully leverage the vast wealth of experience talented NEDs can offer.”
Whilst Grant Gordon, IFB Director General, said the growth already seen must be supported and developed.
"Family firms make up almost half of the UK's mid-sized businesses and the IFB wants to see them continue to play a powerful role in growth," he said.
"The review identifies areas where family businesses can enhance their performance and the IFB is launching a comprehensive initiative that will break down those barriers to growth in MSBs, including UK-wide seminars highlighting best practice and practical online guides targeted at business owners."
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