Optimism has been in short supply as 2011 comes to its end and businesses will need to be even more innovative and proactive if they are to survive and grow in the face of the gloomy economic predictions of stagnation for the next few years.
The ONS says industrial production fell by 0.7% in October in contrast to a rise of 1.7% in October 2010. The OBS downgraded its growth forecast for this year from 1.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent and from 2.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent for 2012 and the OECD predicted that the eurozone economy will shrink by 1% in the fourth quarter of 2011 and then by 0.4% in the first quarter of next year.
By contrast to the above, HMRC’s latest figures for UK exports show non-EU exports grew in September by £0.4 billion (3.4%) more than August while exports for the EU increased by £1.6 billion (13.4%). September’s non EU exports were worth £11.3 billion and the month’s exports to the eurozone were worth £13.6 billion.
Although both figures show a slight improvement on August 50% of UK exports go to the eurozone. Given the ongoing turmoil in the eurozone it would be foolish for UK business to continue to rely so heavily on Europe being able to continue taking such a large share of UK exports, let alone support any growth.
Currently the UK imports more than it exports and the trade gap with areas both inside and outside the eurozone is increasing both monthly and year on year.
Investing in UK businesses has become too much like bank lending. Instead we need a culture that rewards risk-taking and celebrates those who profit from risking their own capital. Most people in the UK want to invest in land and property as a long-term safe haven for their capital. Neither the culture, nor the tax incentives encourage us to invest in exciting business ventures. We are not encouraged to be adventurous for the future of UK plc. Ideally set up some meetings before travelling but you really do need to get on a plane if you want to find new customers.
UK businesses in both manufacturing and service sectors have become too reliant on the domestic market and need to look overseas, well beyond Europe. We should revive some of the spirit of our Victorian forefathers.
In an echo of former MP Norman Tebbitt’s famous advice to the unemployed to “get on your bikes” K2 says businesses should “get on a plane”.
We need pioneering Business Heroes prepared to explore foreign lands and open up new markets to sell our goods and services to countries that have potential for real economic growth. Are we still hoping that business will come to us? The world has changed and we must go out and start finding it.
Regime change in North Africa and the Middle East offers some terrific opportunities, while elsewhere, such as the BRIC countries, people are thirsting for the standard of living that we take for granted.
To those readers who are saying “yes, but…” to this argument, the reply is: “our forefathers conquered the world. They took risks and it’s time we started taking some ourselves. We need to rediscover our spirit of adventure.”