Business management

How SMEs can access regional support to grow their businesses

We recently kicked off our Regional Growth Conference at the iconic Wolverhampton football stadium in the West Midlands. Here are 10 top takeaways for businesses.

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As well as giving a financial boost to the UK, SMEs can deliver half of today’s carbon reduction ambition, highlighting their crucial role to both level up the country and support the drive to net zero.

Being focused on different types of growth, i.e. scaling up as well as starting up, is essential. Collaboration between universities, businesses and the government can be dynamic but there needs to be better signposting to grants and incentives, and clarification between government and investors. How many companies in the private sector know about these ambitious scale-ups in the West Midlands?

“Providing opportunities for business success is a team sport,” points out Dame Alison Rose DBE, group CEO of the bank, which has set up a nationwide network of entrepreneur accelerator hubs.

Read on to find out how to find your pathway to growth.

1. Be clear about the long-term vision of interested investors

What do you want from an investor? Is it just money? The right input and fresh ideas can be a big boost for your business, but make sure investors fit your culture and are aligned with your strategy. They might want to move faster along the growth trajectory by introducing more products and services that don’t sit well with you, for example, so clarify this before committing.

  • Be true to your culture and don’t be afraid to wait for the right match.  

2. Put people first: Build purpose and resilience into workplace culture

Ensure all of your employees understand your company’s aim. Concentrate on the messaging. Promote a feedback culture. Support your team, take them on the journey, involve them. You need the right talent in place, and the right team management tools. Client management tools are important too; it follows that a great customer experience encourages people to spend.

  • Listen to people at all levels, build the right environment to get the best ideas.

3. Are you the kind of company that attracts the top talent?

Give some thought to your sustainability agenda . Scale-ups need to focus on communicating these values to attract and retain staff . Potential employees may want to know more about this side of your business. Be transparent about your environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework, or if you’re working towards B Corp status.  

  • Make it more than a box-ticking exercise; consider working with your local community.

4. Start looking at options early in your funding journey

Funding activities, events and hubs such as British Business Bank finance finder and British Business Investments can be a route to investment. Aim to build relationships with potential lenders to showcase what you offer. Be investment-ready to approach equity, debt or grant providers. Use your business plan to impress: What’s your idea? How are you going to fund it? What are your markets?

  • Talk to customers and suppliers so that you can articulate exactly why you fit into the market.

5. BEAT: An energy and net zero roadmap for manufacturing SMEs

Work smarter, not harder to reduce energy bills. We have teamed up with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) of the University of Warwick, to give customers the opportunity to join BEAT – WMG’s Business Energy Aid Toolkit. Customers have so far reported reduced energy consumption of up to 90%.

  • Use this programme to help pinpoint how much energy is expended in your production process.

6. Keep pace with the cleaner transport revolution

If you’re managing an electric vehicle company, think about how you can develop the tools to evolve into the opportunities of the future; sustainable technologies may mean staff numbers shrink, so you’ll need to be ready to pivot. Family-owned companies may struggle without guidance, and businesses further down the supply chain don’t always get signals as to where the market is going.

  • Solidify your leadership decisions by accessing up-to-date tech and skills to plan ahead.

7. Forge partnerships to make the most of a circular economy

Businesses could pick up a secondary revenue income stream as we move towards sustainable technologies. For example, a manufacturer could resell packaging into other markets. Partnerships with global companies could mean a device like a vehicle battery starts life in a developed economy like the UK but ends life in an emerging economy.

  • Look further afield to team up with larger companies that steer a course towards low-carbon initiatives.

8. How to access finance and support as a minority founder

Providing the relevant support for ethnic minority firms  could release £100bn into the economy. We’re working with other institutions to help you fulfil your ambitions with access to mentoring, training and networks. In a drive to improve access to funding, there’s a shift towards increased financial focus for starting or scaling your business.

9. Innovation is the gateway to future success and security

Try to work closely with other businesses to foster ideas and opportunities – so as an established brand you might benefit from working with start-ups to innovate and stay relatable. The West Midlands has access to experts who provide innovation-led insight that is sector-specific, promoting growth, networks and investment.

  • Be part of an innovation ecosystem; look to develop ties with innovative companies. 

10. NatWest Group to provide £1bn manufacturing energy efficiency fund

Aimed at stimulating growth in the manufacturing sector and helping companies invest in cleaner energy use, this aligns with our drive to halve the climate impact of our financing activity by 2030. Funding comes in the form of access to loans, asset finance and overdrafts.

  • Look into these different options so that can you invest in more efficient-energy generations.

“The fund will stimulate growth in the sector and help manufacturers invest in cleaner, more efficient-energy generation,” says Dame Alison Rose DBE.

With thanks to the speakers:

Dame Alison Rose DBE, NatWest

Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP

Maxine Laceby, Absolute Collagen

Darcy Laceby, Absolute Collagen

Irene Graham DBE, ScaleUp Institute

Andrew Andrea, Marston’s

Steve Hewitt, former Gymshark CEO, founder of The Whanau Advisory

Billy Hutchinson, Lesters

Professor David Greenwood, Warwick Manufacturing Group

Dr Amrit Chandan, Aceleron

Richard Hill, NatWest

Pam Sheemar, NatWest

Ahmed Ejaz, Cambridge Spectacle Co

Professor Monder Ram OBE, Aston Business School

Josie Morris MBE, Woolcool

Tracy Sherratt, British Business Bank

Natasha Pennant, Dept for Business and Trade

Surjit Kooner, Midven

Nick Holder, BGF

Dr Pam Waddell OBE, Innovation Alliance

Martin Russell, The Prince’s Trust

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This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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