Feb 2012 - Smart thinking and an international reach the key to success in 2012
Business has been cut to the bone by a challenging 2011, according to Hampshire industry leaders at the latest Wilkins Kennedy Round Table, but there are opportunities for well run, forward thinking firms in 2012.
The panel of regional business leaders agreed that high numbers of firms had been operating on borrowed time likely to run out in the coming months. SMEs with solid business plans and a willingness to diversify are strongly placed but many others could become part of a long-anticipated wave of insolvencies that may finally materialise this year.
Because their risk criteria lending has been tightened, banks are less prepared to prop up businesses without thorough investigation and personal guarantees. Although once satisfied of a business' prospects, lending is potentially more extensive today than at any time previously, the forum was told by senior regional bankers.
With key trading partners in the Euro-zone and elsewhere enduring hard economic times, the need for Hampshire firms to develop links with new markets was hailed as paramount. Delegates were quick to highlight the value of tapping into booming markets in China and India and reported that assistance from the Government and banks was on hand to help companies do just that.
The spotlight then turned to grassroots education as the group argued the need to re-instate initiatives such as the Young Enterprise Scheme and raising the status of business GCSEs to help develop the business leaders of the future. Many business owners were described as expert at their trade but poor managers of company finances, who would have benefitted from some early balance sheet lessons.
When it came to hypothesising what the Chancellor should do come budget day, there was unanimous support for a major programme of public sector infrastructure projects, such as the High Speed Rail Network to kick start growth in the economy. A raft of measures to boost the SME sector through the difficult times was also universally backed.
Although 2012 may prove to be a challenge too far for many businesses, delegates thought the fleet-of-foot will be left to capitalise on opportunities at home and across the globe.
Gareth Lewis, Polymedia
Matthew Waghorn, Wilkins Kennedy
Colin McPhail, Wilkins Kennedy
John Natt, Wilkins Kennedy
Simon Smith, HSBC
John Walker, The Place 4 Mortgages
Nicky Oliver, E3 Consulting
Jane Bond-Webster, Santander
Dennis Pym, SME Invoice Finance Limited
Geoff Onoufriou, Eric Robinson
Julie Mutton, Smith & Williamson
Ross Jordan, Lloyds Commercial Finance