How Far and Fast Do You Want To Ride?

It’s a simple process riding a bike, although my stabilizers stayed on a lot longer than I wanted (over cautious parents, who knew I would try to go too fast and quickly fall off). Both wheels going at the same speed and in the same direction, a gear shift for challenging terrains and the ability to readjust your direction depending on the climate. You feel in control and motivated.

I was reviewing the latest insights from multiple SMEs, across different sectors, in a very revealing survey and validating these with recent conversations I’ve had with regional businesses.

The insights & data reminded me of the challenge of learning to ride. The need to choose the right bike, keeping it maintained, and where necessary, making modifications for difficult terrain, increased speed or longer journeys.

Now I’m an accomplished rider, let’s just go for a slow relaxing ride around the block, – it’s been quite a while – and listen to what the businesses have to say:

The overall feeling is that 70.9% feel that the economy and their sector will grow over the next 12 months, although some still think it will be a slower ride during the next 12 months.

After a while of gently riding along again, you start to get motivated and want to go further and faster. This also shows up in the survey.

38.3% of SMEs expected to expand in the next 12 months.

Unfortunately, the bike I’m now riding is not picking up the pace. The back wheel is constraining my speed due to a slight buckle and the tyres probably need replacing.  I don’t think I can make the most of this ride, even though the conditions are good.

This is a feeling half of the SMEs feel as well.

50.6% of SMEs thought their business would be static during the next 12 months.

Their main concerns that kept them frustrated and feeling a bit deflated were:

46.9%  Cash Flow and access to extra Working Capital

8.5%    Lack of skilled staff

6.7%    Managing expansion

4.0%    Access to good advice

I noticed that riding was more pleasant during the COVID quieter times on the road, there is now a sudden overcrowding, and my space riding starts to feel congested and limited.

14.3% were concerned about competitors. Listening to regionally SMEs, most had noticed a lot of marketing and commercial focus from their competitors. Was this just SME’s keen to put on their most outrageous lycra to get noticed and show that they were still in business and ready to go?

I researched this more in the Yorkshire & Humber region to see how fast companies were changing business models and becoming more competitive. I found that many are still redefining their strategic and business models. Most are spending time advertising and marketing their current business offering and are still early in the process of developing growth strategies and plans.

The survey did validate this when SMEs were asked about their current priorities and focus:

41.1 %  Planning to achieve growth over the next 12 months

16.2%  Wanting to develop new products and services

20%      Are consolidating their businesses

5%        Investing in staff.


As we ride along, I’m now discovering that strength and energy will make or break this journey.

What resourcing and reskilling is needed in the next 12 months?

38.6% Have invested in training, but still feel they lack the required skills

28.3% Want to develop staff and introduce training but lack the funds

33.1% Don’t think that training is the answer for existing staff

I explored this more with some regional businesses, with most feeling their staff had been the backbone of the business. However, training hadn’t really delivered the longer-term value they expected. Some were frustrated that plans developed for key members of staff could not be achieved. This was due to limited funds now switched to more commercial activities.

Buying in temporary skills seemed a good option, however, 32.9% SMEs were concerned about skills gaps in their sector

So, as we approach the end of this 10-minute ride, what do the insights tell us if we want to go faster and further next time?

There is a common view, from a wide spread of companies in different sectors, that growth is probable during the next 12 months. Quite a lot of businesses are developing plans to grow, but feel constrained by available cash to invest. 50.6% think their performance will stay the same, even though there is more than optimism that the markets and multiple sectors will grow, albeit at a different speed. Good strategy around products or new services and solid advice about expansion, so SMEs can deliver what is necessary today, but build capability to grow in the next 12 months are key. Most recognise the limitations within their organisations, especially around current capabilities & bandwidth if they want to grow and capture a larger piece of the market.

So, the question is, which bike do you want to ride in the next 12 months and beyond?

A bike with the capability to take you on the same regular route. It’s safe and you know what energy and power is needed to complete that route. However, others might start using the same route and it might become overcrowded, reducing your road space and eventually diminishing your route. Will you feel frustrated that you missed the opportunity to make those changes that would have made you go faster or further?

Do you modify your current bike, which still has solid fundamentals and strength to deliver a more challenging, but rewarding route? Maximising the power you have, making modifications to give you bursts of speed and investing in capabilities that will keep you ahead of the pack, so you can travel down longer and unoccupied roads.

If you’re unsure of which bike suits you during the next 12 months, drop me a line so I can help you build something perfect for your business.



Gary Cox        November 2021

Business Growth and Individual Capability Building Coach

Official Business Mentor – Help to Grow Scheme

Data Source- Many thanks to Close Brothers Asset Finance & Kantar for the data.