Double, quit and then double again

BHP headquarters on Rutland Park
BHP headquarters on Rutland Park

The latest Rapid Growth Survey again shines a spotlight on the fastest-growing companies in the Sheffield City Region.

On average this year’s Top 30 companies doubled their turnover over a two-year period, which is without doubt a superb achievement. The challenge now for many of these businesses is maintaining this momentum.

I commented in last year’s survey about the importance of access to finance to support rapid-growth businesses and this very much remains the case.

This year there are also a number of external factors at work. The upcoming US presidential elections, the performance of China’s economy and OPEC’s strategy all have the potential to shape the prospects of our region’s businesses to a greater or lesser extent. The daddy of them all however is, of course, Brexit.

Financial markets rarely react well to such insecurities, as we saw immediately after the referendum result when the FTSE lurched and large parts of the news agenda were dominated by gloomy surveys predicting a recession.

Two months on and the same surveys tell of renewed confidence and the FTSE hits a yearly high. Proof if it was needed that investor sentiment is a fickle mistress.

Notwithstanding the capricious nature of financial markets, the reality is that the next 12 months have the potential to be characterised by uncertainty and volatility as we feel our way to the new normal. However, by their very nature, entrepreneurs are individuals who thrive on such conditions; spotting opportunities where others see problems. Additionally, our region has a long track record of adapting to structural economic change and making the most of what is in front of us. This ingenuity and resilience gives me confidence that whatever short-term curve balls arise from Brexit, Sheffield City Region is well placed to prosper.

As the dust settles, the key is for individual businesses to evaluate what Brexit will mean for them.

This involves working out how they can capitalise on the opportunities it presents and protect themselves against the potential risks.

Our region’s fastest-growing companies have already shown they can shoot the lights out as part of the EU and now the question is whether they can maintain this from outside - a case of quit and double rather than double or quits? Given the strength of our region’s business leaders, I’d put money on the former.