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Businesses Determined to Grow Despite Brexit But Finance Environment Won’t Cut It

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New report from national law firm Mills & Reeve highlights the defiant ambition of the mid-market despite serious challenges, and demands for sustainable growth finance.

Mid-market businesses remain ambitious and confident in their growth prospects despite an unstable economic landscape, the impact of Brexit and an unsupportive funding environment, according to new research from national law firm Mills & Reeve.

The study, ‘Defying Gravity’ – based on the opinions of 500 leaders of medium-sized businesses in the UK – reveals that 83% of mid-market businesses plan to increase turnover in this financial year (2017/2018) by an average of 22%, and two thirds of leaders aiming to grow (62%) are willing to bet their house on meeting this target. This is not unrealistic, with the new research also revealing that two thirds (66%) of medium-sized businesses grew turnover last year, at an impressive average of 20%.

However, mid-market businesses face serious challenges to growth. Three fifths (59%) of mid-market business leaders do not believe that the economy is strong and stable. Two thirds (64%) of mid-market boards are concerned that there is now a real risk of recession, and that economic uncertainty will disproportionately affect the mid-market (66%).

With single market access “critical” for three fifths (60%) of mid-market businesses, Brexit looms large on leaders’ list of concerns. Three in five (61%) mid-market leaders are concerned that the UK failing to reach an agreement with the EU would cause “significant damage” to their business, and 60% are concerned that regions outside London will be disproportionately affected by Brexit. More than half (55%) of leaders are concerned that implementation of Brexit is a serious threat to their ability to recruit both specialist and low-cost talent.

The external funding needed to supercharge growth is also found to be lacking: almost three in five mid-market leaders (58%) say that their company can’t achieve its growth potential without better long-term finance options. More than half (56%) of business leaders stated that mid-market finance is not “fit for purpose”, with two thirds (63%) believing that the UK funding environment is great for start-ups, but not for mid-market firms.

Claire Clarke, managing partner at Mills & Reeve, comments: “Despite very real challenges, it is encouraging to see mid-market leaders remaining defiantly ambitious about growth, determined to beat market conditions and to hold their position as the driving force of the British economy.

“But these businesses are being hindered in their efforts to realise their ambitions. Accessing growth finance suited to mid-market needs is a significant challenge, and the unstable economic and political landscape is causing some businesses to refrain from making the investment necessary to grow.”

The findings are released today ahead of a series of reports from Mills & Reeve championing the mid-market and exploring the current challenges faced by business leaders.

The research goes on to reveal a perceived lack of support from Government, with two thirds (65%) of medium-sized business leaders frustrated that the Government “keeps presenting obstacles to mid-market growth”. Three-quarters (74%) cite a lack of targeted policy support, with 61% concerned that Brexit will distract Government from supporting regional development and infrastructure.

Jayne Hussey, head of mid-market at Mills & Reeve, adds: “The mid-market is the unsung powerhouse of the UK economy, and we are hopeful that medium-sized businesses can continue to overcome the barriers to growth formed by uncertainty. The events of the recent past may have rocked the nation’s confidence, but the resilience, strength and ambition of mid-market business leaders appears to remain intact.”

(Source: Mills & Reeve)

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