Guest Editorial from Dan Harrison, Head of Media and Communications, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.
SMEs are the bedrock of our economy and make up an overwhelming majority of businesses in the UK.
They are entrepreneurial, agile and, in many cases, have huge potential to grow.
As a region of creators and innovators, the West Midlands has a long-standing reputation as the start-up capital for the UK regions.
And data from Companies House and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last year demonstrated the robustness of the region’s creative and entrepreneurial landscape.
A total of 39,355 new companies were registered in the West Midlands during 2022 - 18,128 of those in Birmingham.
Many businesses may still experience trouble
Yet, while every founder aims to succeed in business, the possibility of failure is an inherent part of the entrepreneurship experience.
Depending on which source you believe, the failure rate for UK start-ups is anything between 60 per cent and 90 per cent.
The ONS says 40 per cent of all new UK businesses will have closed after three years.
Cashflow issues, bad planning and a lack of customers are cited as the primary causes.
Indeed, the possibility of failure during the uncertain first few years is one of, if not the biggest worry facing entrepreneurs and start-ups.
So, it has never been more important for new organisations to have the right tools and resources to help them survive and flourish.
There is SME support out there…
Initiatives such as Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce‘s Start-up and Small Business Academy – run in collaboration with Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse – are increasingly vital in terms of equipping new firms with high quality advice and insights from those who have ‘been there and done it’.
Since launching last year, 50 businesses from a variety of sectors have attended the Academy, gathering at STEAMhouse for sessions based on key pillars such as business planning, financial forecasting, marketing strategies, productivity and processes, people management and how to close sales.
They’re also given the opportunity to tap into the knowledge and experience of guest experts from companies such as accountants SME Outsourcing, change consultancy firms Entec-Si and Curium Solutions, sales strategists Elite Closing Academy and marketing agency Leopard Co.
The Academy is a goldmine of information and wisdom that could be the difference between success and failure.
“It has really stretched my understanding of how best to structure the business so that we are focused on the product, people and end users/customers,”Vivean Powell of Lolonyo, one of the Academy’s members.
An ever-growing list of challenges emerging since the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 sparked fears of a “lost generation” of entrepreneurs.
Yet, here in the West Midlands we continue to see many great examples of innovation and entrepreneurialism during times of economic hardship.
Every year, the Chamber is asked to contribute to news website Business Live’s ‘Ones to Watch’ feature, highlighting companies who are expected to shine in the 12 months ahead.
The 2024 list featured entries from the worlds of tech, hospitality, sports equipment and motorcycle manufacturing – many of whom are still in their relative infancy but are already demonstrating business excellence.
The region’s standing as a fertile ground for start-ups was further demonstrated last year when we joined forces with NatWest and British Business Bank to host a competition showcasing women-led businesses.
More than 40 SMEs and start-ups entered the Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Competition, which unearthed a number of hidden gems and helped to highlight some of the barriers to growth for female businesswomen.
So, it is evident the talent, ideas and spirit of innovation are alive and kicking in the West Midlands.
As Chamber, we will continue to play our part in championing entrepreneurship and connecting businesses to our networks, expertise and partners to ensure their potential is unleashed.