A new report* reveals that almost three quarters (70%) of UK SMEs are prioritising growth in the next 12 months – with 44% saying their strategy will be to raise new capital, and a third (33%) to acquire businesses through mergers and acquisitions.
However, for businesses to truly capitalise on this period of renewed optimism, finance teams that are leading this charge have to be agents of change, driving agility and innovation throughout the business.
Josh Bell, General Partner at Dawn Capital said: “For businesses aiming to get back on the growth track following the pandemic, either by raising capital or acquiring businesses, first and foremost they need all financial confusion simplified – whether it is budgets, credit cards, expense report – to focus on what is important elsewhere in the business.
“Another key challenge is working out how to spend money for growth wisely. The biggest challenge we see is where companies raise huge sums of money and then don’t spend it appropriately on vital ingredients such as talent and then can’t deliver on the growth side.”
Demonstrating the long-term operational changes brought about by the pandemic, 77% of finance leaders say they are planning more frequently, with 73% saying these plans are now more forward looking, emphasising the need for a holistic view of spending across businesses.
Nodding to the importance of constant planning and measurement, Claire Wain, CFO at Monsoon and Accessorize said: “We are having to be a bit more robust in the way that we measure what we’re doing, to try and isolate where the performance is coming from. We’re having to forecast much more regularly to keep on top of that performance, and really try and isolate where the benefits are coming from.”
The report also highlights that (72%) believe greater visibility, control and oversight across expenditure has a positive impact on revenue growth. In preparing for this, finance teams are turning to investments in technology, and specifically automation tools. Two thirds (66%) cited investments in IT tech and automation as key drivers of profitability, while almost three quarters (74%) have invested in automation to manage employee expenses, and 71% have done so to manage marketing and advertising expenses.
But they also recognise the challenges to growth can’t be solved by technology alone – with 60% of finance leaders citing a lack of effective communication within an organisation as a key barrier to success, and 64% stating they need to improve communication and collaboration with their company’s executive team.
Mariano Dima, President of Soldo said: “With so many UK SMEs gearing towards growth, the pressure is on finance teams to deliver a holistic view of spending, control costs and implement systems that provide the business with a level of data insight that is essential to driving growth – in whichever format that takes. But without the right tools in place, finance teams will undoubtedly be wasting precious time that could be better spent on initiatives that aid strategic growth.”
However, the research also found that only 30% of UK businesses plan to give employees more flexibility when it comes to expenses – an unfortunate, yet not surprising outcome if many are still operating with manual systems that cannot track spending in real-time.
*Report from Soldo