He pointed out that since the end of August, the OECD nearly doubled its expected growth in the UK economy for 2013 to 1.5 per cent. The services sector is recording levels not seen since 2006, with August showing the eighth consecutive month of growth recorded by the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI). And local manufacturing has reached its highest level in two decades.
“This resurgence of confidence and activity among businesses in the UK is outpacing improvements seen in major Eurozone countries such as France and Germany. It appears that the UK’s refocus on export markets beyond the Eurozone, by both the Government and individual businesses, is now paying dividends”, said Charles.
He continued: “Exports to the troubled Eurozone have fallen significantly as a proportion of total British exports, with destinations including the US, Brazil, Russia, the Middle East, China, India and Australia all picking up markedly.”
“Despite the years of hardship at the hands of the economic downturn, now is the real make-or-break time for Britain’s legion of small businesses. Those that have retained key skilled workers and made efficiencies in their operating costs and processes will be the best placed to take full advantage of the increase in new orders.”
Charles also pointed out that conversely, businesses that reduced staff numbers too harshly, abandoned investment in growth opportunities to conserve cashflow and overlooked the longer term needs of the business amid difficult trading conditions will likely now find themselves struggling to keep up with, let alone ahead of, their competitors.
Yet all is not lost, as the economy is still a long way from sustainable trend growth. Charles added: “There are many things that can be done now which will help position a business to better grab opportunities once the economy gets back into full swing, such as:
• Secure talent – as business activity picks up, so too does the demand for skilled staff to complete new orders. Having adequate staffing levels and employees trained in your particular operations means they can get straight down to fulfilling new orders once they come in.
• Allocate appropriate budget settings – target resources to where they will generate the biggest returns on investment. This includes budget, staffing and supplies.
• Lock in favourable invoice terms – most businesses offer substantial discounts during a downturn in a bid to retain existing “bread and butter” clients as well as to entice new customers. With the economy beginning to pick up, these discounts may well begin to disappear, so locking in favourable terms now can deliver substantial cost savings once prices begin to rise.
• Update currency risk strategy – Importing and exporting goods and services always exposes you to currency rate fluctuations. A risk strategy allows you to identify the risks applicable to your business when transferring funds and plan how best to deal with them.
• Keep abreast of competitors – knowing what your competitors are doing and planning to do will give you a substantial advantage in securing new business opportunities. So while looking to grow your own business, be sure to analyse what your competitors are doing.
• Research eligibility for government assistance – grants, incentives and tax breaks are all available to support businesses to grow, so be sure to see if you qualify. You may be surprised how much funding is allocated to supporting small businesses, and even more surprised at how little of it is actually claimed!”