High Growth Vs High Business Birth Rate

by Colin Bell Email

I am increasingly being engaged in conversations/debate on which approach is right - a focus on High Growth businesses or High Business Birth rate.

My response: it's like the chicken and the egg - which came first?

Taking onboard research from the last 10 or so years, it's estimated that between 6% and 10% of the business population are what you could call High Growth (figures are largely determined by the way the numbers are cut and the definition of High Growth used rather than an actual % change in the number of High Growth businesses).

For ease of demonstration I will stick with 10%. If taking a market view, 10 out of every 100 new business will experience High Growth. Encouraging a High Business Birth rate therefore would impact on the number of High Growth businesses due to an increase in the total population of businesses.

On its own, a High Business Birth Rate would offer a real boost to the economy, but imagine if we could also increase the number of High Growth businesses as a % of the business population. This would really kick-start the economy.

So the tricky question is - how do we increase the total number of businesses in an area whilst simultaneously increasing the % of high growth businesses?

So, how do we do it?...... that's my next blog!


Stoke needs an enterprise revolution

by Adrian Davies Email


Potteries Enterprise Revolution



The gap between the economic performance of Stoke and other areas in the region and in England is huge. Just to give you a feel for how huge this gap is, take a look at the information produced by the West Midlands regional observatory, which produces and publishes economic data for the region.

  • Stoke has the slowest economic growth in the region (a region which, incidentally, has the slowest growth in England).
  • The size of the business base in Stoke is 30% below the national average. We have only 210 businesses per 10,000 of population – nearly 100 below the regional average.
  • Levels of self-employment are the lowest in the region.
  • 19% of the working population are on benefits.
  • And to top it off, in the last decade, local business productivity has fallen from 2% above the regional average to 12% below and 20,900 jobs have been lost

We simply cannot continue as we are!! Neither can we lack ambition. If we aim to match the rest of the region going forward, i.e. perform at the average (which, right now, sounds ambitious) in absolute terms the gap gets wider because we start from a lower base. In fact, the gap is so wide now, that if we outperform the regional average by 100%, it will take us 10 years for the size of our business base to catch up. Let me say that again, because this is really important: if twice as many businesses are created in Stoke relative to the rest of the region, in 10 years time, we will just be average. Wow!

There is a simple reality to this: unemployment is high and the economy is weak because there aren’t enough businesses! It’s okay talking about job creation, but where are the jobs going to come from? The reason there aren’t enough jobs, is because there aren’t enough businesses. Period.

I hear a considerable amount of emphasis placed on ‘high-growth’ businesses or ‘knowledge-based’ sectors. The reality is that high growth businesses are rare, almost impossible to spot, and contrary to popular thinking, they are NOT responsible for the majority of new jobs. Equally, knowledge-based businesses – and mine is one – cannot create jobs on the scale needed. The simple reality is that volume (of businesses) is more important than the type of business. So for Stoke, increasing the business birth rate is critical to the economic growth of the area.

What is often overlooked in Stoke is the importance of new businesses in creating jobs. Research by the Kauffman Foundation, the World’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship (so hopefully they know a thing or two), shows that established businesses destroy jobs. Think of the 20,900 jobs lost in Stoke. The good news is that for every job lost by existing businesses, 3 are created by new businesses (in a functioning economy).

Other research from the Hunter Centre in Strathclyde shows us that there is a very strong correlation between business birth rate and job creation. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone; it makes common sense. It is equally no surprise that higher employment levels are correlated to economic success. And, just to complete the picture, areas that have successful economies also have lower mortality rates, longer-life expectancy and a greater sense of wellbeing.

If you’re in the business of economic development, business birth rate or the level of business start-ups is often referred to as ‘enterprise.’ So Stoke needs to be more enterprising.

In fact, I would like Stoke to aim high here; let’s set ourselves the goal of being the most enterprising city in England.

Some people are critical of this kind of vision for Stoke; in large part because Stoke has failed to achieve any of the ‘visions’ stated in the past. But having a vision for our collective future is a very powerful thing. It guides us; directs our decisions; and excites people.

So, like others, I am really excited about the prospect of Stoke (and Staffordshire) having greater influence on local enterprise through the Local Enterprise Partnership. According to the Stoke in Staffordshire LEP, it wants to “… accelerate our transformation to an economy based on enterprise and innovation.” This sounds like a vision to me and is entirely consistent with my own thinking. The challenge is for everyone to understand what ‘enterprise’ really means. Enterprise isn’t about supporting existing businesses; or about supporting old industries; it is about providing the conditions for people to start and grow their businesses here. It is about creating an unprecedented level of enterprise activity and a level of business starts not seen since the heyday of pottery industry. We need to inspire people; support them; and find champions to help spread the bug. Stoke needs an enterprise revolution. I say, “let’s go for it.”



So what do we do in our spare time?

by Tina Boden Email

The beauty of working for a company like Winning Moves is that you get nearly as much support for the positive things you are doing outside of your working day as you do for the contributions you are making during it. For me this is important and I believe other companies and organisations should take the same approach however large or small; it is the most effective way to ensure you have a happy 'want to work' team and is a great way to fulfil any Corporate Social Responsibility policy you may have within your organisation.

Check the definition of hobby in the Oxford Concise English Dictionary and you will find; hobby 1. A favourite leisure-time activity or occupation and the Winning Moves' approach has allowed me to take up not one but two of my favourite hobbies; charity support & fundraising and helping people I care about develop their businesses. For those of you who are recovering from practicing for a marathon or who have just spent two hours Salsaing around a church hall I am sure you are questioning my definition of hobby; for you it is no different to work but for me there is a HUGE difference and Winning Moves understand this though would support any of their staff in any of the above.

Two weeks ago I was allowed 2 days away from work to attend the Brain Tumour Research Conference in Southampton. I recently became Trustee of Ellie’s Fund http://www.elliesfund.com/, a brain tumour charity set up to support young brain tumour patients and raise money for brain tumour research following the death of 14 year old Ellie Othick-Bowmaker in February this year. At dinner I sat next to one of the workshop facilitators, the type of thing I do in my day job, and when she asked me what I do outside of work I told her I was a Trustee of a charity and I was mentoring friends who live in Spain and have an Olive Oil business. ‘No’ she said ‘ but how do you spend your quality time?’ ‘With my husband and children eating a meal around the table, on holiday with my family or walking on the Yorkshire Coast where we live’. The facilitator didn’t think I was giving myself enough free time but in our house we all lead busy lives and when you are a lady living in a house full of sport addicted men you soon come to terms with the fact that the television is never going to be yours!

Two years ago we went on one such family holiday to a place called Mother’s Garden in Catalonia http://mothersgarden.org/ . It was a case of read the book (written by Martin), seen the film (well ok less of a film more of a Channel 4 television series) and followed the life story thanks to monthly features in the Yorkshire Post Magazine on a Saturday (again written by Martin). Martin, Maggie, Ella and Joe Joe had up sticks from Norfolk leaving behind their hectic lives and gone to live on an Olive Farm in rural Catalonia. Though this seems like an idyllic way of life for many of us we soon discovered that it brings other challenges. Martin and Maggie had restored the cottage on the farm for holidaymakers like us but had made their own sacrifices to do this; none of which are apparent to those enjoying a tranquil week in beautiful walking country surrounded by olive groves, vineyards where the most delightful wine is produced and relaxing by the cottage pool. Mothers Garden Olive Oil is the most beautiful you will taste but the olive trade could be better. Martin and Maggie are so creative but they will admit they are not the most focused on the business side and this year, when we returned for our second holiday, I made some suggestions that I have supported them with since - business support is not easy to find in the hills above Tarragona. On December 6th at 6.30pm Martin, Maggie, Ella and Joe Joe will be at the Blake Head Bookshop, 104 Micklegate, York to launch Martin’s new book Shaking the Tree, offering olive oil tastings, sharing the almonds they have grown and chatting about the highs and lows of life in Catalonia as well as selling aprons and bags carrying the marvellous Mothers Garden logo (an idea of yours truly).

Last night I had 12 lovely young ladies who are now the official Ellie's Fund Youth Committee at my house for some training (whilst my men folk watched a re-run of Top Gear!) what great fun we had and this morning I opened the Yorkshire Post Magazine to find an article by Martin and a mention for the support I had given them.Being involved with Ellie's Fund and supporting Martin and Maggie brings me great pleasure and you know that what you are doing is making a difference for others as well. Working together to support others is all part of forming a 'Big Society' one that can work together to develop better communities and that brings me back to my day job.


Potteries Pound is launched

by Adrian Davies Email

Potteries Pound

Very exciting news!!  We have today launched our campaign for the Potteries’ Pound.  The Potteries Pound is about supporting regeneration from within; it is about capitalising on existing resources, local talent and the passion of the local community to drive real change.

With the Potteries’ Pound, we will boost the local money supply by not just promoting but providing real incentives for money to be spent locally. Too much of the money spent by people and businesses in North Staffordshire goes on things that have no local presence.  In fact, up to 80% of money is spent on such items.  The Potteries’ Pound aims to support local businesses, and in doing so, boosting the local money supply by over 8 times (when compared to a normal pound).

The Potteries’ Pound will act like real money that can be spent locally with many participating businesses, the local universities and other local organisations.  Once it has been handed out and spent 3 times, it will be swapped for real cash. This will support the sale of goods or services by businesses in the area and provide an important boost to businesses, jobs and the community.

We are in discussions with Keele University, Staffordshire University, Stoke on Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council and hope that the scheme will be supported as part the Local Enterprise Partnership's bid for Regional Growth Funds.

Enterprise - Do You Get It?

by Tina Boden Email

Enterprise is the only way to provide jobs lost to the credit crunch, recession and public sector cut backs; the Government are very clear that the private sector will be the driving force moving the UK economy forward. It is therefore vital to ensure people are given the respect and understanding that will enable them to unleash their talents and become self- employed. The enterprise support and training market is skewed by how enterprise is understood by Self improvement gurus, Academics, Politicians and Senior Civil Servants; those who have often had no experience of being their own boss, understand little of what is needed to succeed in business and only comprehend enterprise by the definition given in the dictionary. Most small business owners are too busy running their own enterprise to offer mentoring to those who are new to business; people who have passion and strong ideas to start a business that will ensure their life will take on a positive meaning.

Do those 'getting enterprise' positively influence policy and practice in the UK or are those 'not getting enterprise' the people who lead and influence changes that have an impact on business support and the help entrepreneurs and enterprising individuals are given?

The Government see the private sector acting as Mentors for pre-start and start up businesses in the future replacing some of the work Business Link has done; Mentors will be expected to do this for free, Business Link were funded by the Government to offer this service. How are the thousands of private sector business owners going to find the time to support those starting out whilst being relied upon to bring the UK out of the red and back in to the black. This is a perfect example of those driving the vehicle not knowing how the engine works and in this case that is just not an option; it is vital that those making a decision about how business support is delivered understand enterprise and when asked the question Enterprise - Do You Get It? can answer yes we do.

Tony Robinson, Co-Founder of SFEDI, and I would like to invite those attending the International Enterprise Promotion Convention in Harrogate to come along to our workshop on Monday 8th November where we, along with special guests, will use the combined research and experience of both Winning Moves and SFEDI, organisations that have worked with many hundreds of start-ups and small business owners, to challenge the way 'enterprise' is promoted, supported, taught and mentored.


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