UK businesses are setting their sights on growth, according to a six-monthly business confidence report, based on the views of 3000 business owners and senior managers.
The eighth edition of the report from Regus, reveals that 25 percent of all firms – and 28 percent in the small business sector – plans to increase headcount by over five percent in the remainder of 2013. A further fifth plans an increase of between two and five percent. Over half of firms state that their recruitment drive will focus on sales and marketing staff, displaying a determination to sell their way out of the downturn.
The Regus Business Confidence Index, which is heavily based on actual performance over the last six months, remains unchanged from six months ago (94 points) and still significantly lags the April 2011 peak (125 points). However, the positive recruitment intentions expressed by respondents run counter to current business confidence and indicate to a rosier outlook. Steve Purdy, UK Managing Director at Regus comments: “Businesses are finally gearing up for growth after the protracted downturn. Managing this stage of recovery is crucial, as it carries the huge risk that firms will overextend themselves. Indeed one of the major causes of financial distress in previous downturns was property, with 45 percent of firms having their fingers burnt by expensive and lengthy leases.
“This time round, companies are far better equipped due to the availability and acceptance in the business world of flexible working, especially in terms of physical workspace. Full-time, permanent office space is no longer the only option. Keeping overheads low and remaining agile are vital to making recruitment affordable and achieving sustainable business growth.”
Like many firms, Rick Ashton, Director of Manchester-based hospitality recruitment agency HTE Recruitment, had to move out of his own leased premises to a home office when the downturn hit. He says: “We recruit staff for high-end hotels and restaurants, and the market virtually dried up in 2009. The only way to survive was to keep costs as low as possible, which meant working from home.
“When the market started to rebound in 2011, I needed proper offices again to project the right image, but I couldn’t risk taking on another traditional lease, particularly with the economic picture still uncertain. “For a small, growing business in today’s economy, a five year contract is totally out of kilter with sensible business projections.” Rick has taken on several members of staff since the market picked up, and uses flexible workspace in Regus centres in Manchester and London. “Aside from flexibility, using managed offices and on-demand services has actually turned out to be a more productive way of working,” he adds. “2012 was our best year so far, and the recruitment market for chefs in particular is booming. Paying only for the space that we need has been a major contributor to our growth, helping us keep overheads low, upsize without the hassle, and take on staff.”