Help for the "forgotten army" of a thousand West Midlands mid-sized businesses
John Cridland, CBI Director General called mid-sized businesses (MSBs*) "a forgotten army" saying that "now is the time to unlock their potential".
Up until recently, most of the public debate has been about SMEs or multi-nationals - and for good reason. The success of our large companies, like JLR and JCB in international markets is vital to the success of our economy.
While at the other end of the scale, SMEs account for around 53% of UK exports - another cornerstone of our future growth.
But what about this "forgotten army" of middle sized companies?
In the West Midlands we estimate there are around one thousand companies who fit the MSB description.
Both BIS and CBI have undertaken research into MSBs.
The research shows that these companies are major players in the domestic economy but fare less well in international terms. Research shows:
• MSBs perform less well in terms of exporting than either large or small firms.
• UK MSBs perform less well than their European counterparts in terms of international trade
• 40% of MSBs are 'low intensity' exporters and 55% export less than 25% of turnover.
In Germany, the same strata of companies, famously known as the 'Mittelstand' are the foundation on which that country's outstanding export performance is built.
In the UK, there is a feeling that business support from the government and elsewhere has been focused on large companies in terms of strategic and policy support, and on SMEs in terms of business development support.
Along the way, MSBs have missed out.
But now things are changing. The CBI is creating 'M' networking clubs to help identify what support is needed and to encourage peer to peer learning networks. The West Midlands network will be launched in mid-September.
UKTI is appointing specialist MSB advisers to engage with MSBs, to both identify opportunities in key markets and to work with them on developing plans to address their needs. In the West Midlands, we appointed two such advisers in July.
UKTI is also developing 'virtual' teams of sector specialists drawn from UKTI, both in the UK and overseas, as well as from partner organisations. The teams will identify the high value project opportunities for businesses in key markets.
Of our thousand West Midlands MSBs, not all of them will be in sectors where there is a potential for exports, but our two new advisers will talk to as many of these companies as possible to establish their needs in international trade terms and drive up exports from the MSB sector.
If you would like to join the discussion, or find out more about how UKTI may be able to help you, please feel free to contact our MSB advisers Eric Brown firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0121 607 1752 or Cheryl Astley email@example.com Tel: 0121 607 1749.
*Definitions vary, but the BIS definition of an MSB, is a company that has a turnover between £25m and £500m.