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14 November 2017

Hertfordshire businesses focused on growth and recruitment despite Brexit uncertainty

Despite continued uncertainty over Brexit, the majority of Hertfordshire businesses expect to increase profit levels, make significant capital investment and grow or at least maintain staff numbers over the next 12 months, according to a new survey from financial and business advisers Grant Thornton.

 

The poll has been conducted to mark the launch of Hertfordshire Limited 2017, Grant Thornton's annual health check of the local economy which looks at how the top 200 businesses in the county are performing.

Results of the launch survey reveal that 53% of firms questioned expect profits to increase over the coming year while a further 20% said they will remain steady. Almost half (41%) also plan to take on more staff with less than 7% anticipating headcount to decrease. A further 55% also said they were likely or very likely to substantially invest in their business.

However, the findings suggest this growth will be achieved against a more challenging backdrop with 60% of businesses stating businesses conditions are currently more difficult than this time last year. A further 55% said Britain's decision to leave the EU is already having a negative impact on their business.

Commenting on the poll findings, Jeremy Read from Grant Thornton St Albans who is leading Hertfordshire Limited 2017 said: "Last year's Hertfordshire Limited report revealed a strong performance by the 200 largest businesses in the county with substantial growth in sales, profits and employment alongside optimism for the future.

"Our initial poll to mark the launch of this year's study suggests businesses remain confident about their growth prospects despite a more challenging environment with uncertainty over the final outcome of the ongoing negotiations with the European Union."

However, following the trend seen across the country, Hertfordshire businesses continue to express concern over skills shortages with 55% stating they have found there is insufficient talent when recruiting to help move their business forward.

A further 68% said this talent gap was by far the main challenge to Hertfordshire's economic progress, although positively local firms are proactively addressing this with 40% planning to take on an apprentice over the coming year, supported by the new Apprenticeship Levy.

Further barriers to growth identified were limited supply of commercial property (43%), inadequate transport infrastructure (39%) and insufficient government support for businesses (21%).

Steve White, also from Grant Thornton's St Albans office, added: "Having the right people with the right skills set is a key ingredient for business growth. Whilst Hertfordshire firms are optimistic about the year ahead, the skills shortage could hamper productivity particularly as the UK reaches 'full employment' creating a more competitive recruitment market.

"Once again businesses have highlighted a lack of talent as a significant challenge but it's positive to see many are taking advantage of the new Apprenticeship Levy as a way to upskill future talent at a greatly reduced cost. Whilst there is still a long way to go, businesses can really reap the benefits of investing in younger talent, and we hope more firms will be inclined to follow suit."

Grant Thornton's Hertfordshire Limited study has become a recognised benchmark of the overall health of the county's economy. In addition to the annual analysis of Hertfordshire's largest privately owned businesses, the report will also identify how larger corporates have influenced the county's performance.

The results of Hertfordshire Limited 2017 will be revealed at a special breakfast event on Thursday 30 November at The Old Palace, Hatfield House and will include guest speaker Will Hobhouse, the high sheriff of Hertfordshire.

To register your interest in attending or to sign up to receive a copy of the full Hertfordshire Limited report, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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