While Hertfordshire business leaders are being kept awake by current uncertainties, many are also ready to invest in the future. Yvonne Chappell summarises their views from our recent event.
Of the 65 business leaders who attended our recent Hertfordshire Limited panel and audience discussion, 82% said they felt more positive about the future now than they did in April. Only 8% felt less positive.
And despite the many ongoing business critical issues, 93% of business leaders told us that sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) remained high on their agenda – with 60% deeming it important and 33% saying it is a top priority.
What do Hertfordshire businesses want from government?
The immediate future is becoming less predictable and out of business leaders' control, however. Nearly a third (31%) of employers across Hertfordshire said the pressure of multiple, high-impact, business-critical issues, such as Brexit, recession and another national lockdown, keeps them awake at night. The causes of this angst were fairly evenly split: 21% said the unknown impact of Brexit is the main cause of their angst, 18% said keeping people safe, motivated and able to do their jobs, 18% said the impact of another lockdown and 12% cited the recession.
When asked how the government could help businesses more in the region over the next 12-24 months, 50% said they would like to see the low tax regime maintained, 36% said investment in regional infrastructure, 7% asked for additional support in funding and the remaining 7% said additional grant support through the winter would be most beneficial to them.
In an exciting poll result for the future of the region’s industry, 79% of business leaders said their attitude to investing over the next six months is to be brave and take calculated risks. Meanwhile, 45% said they are more likely to consider an M&A transaction and 48% said there has been no change over the last six months to their position on this.
The appetite for investment is encouraging news for the region as businesses look to reset or adapt business models to deal with the significant impacts of 2020.
Matthew Gregory, FirstGroup CEO and panellist at the discussion, said: “There is a huge amount going on in the market at the moment. While it is still a difficult time for many, it is also a challenging and interesting time where opportunities can be sought out.
"I really see this as being another watershed moment similar to previous economic crises such as in 2008 where some of today’s most successful businesses were created. It’s a time for business owners to look forward five or 10 years and think how are they going to grow, change and develop their businesses, in a sustainable way. I think many people will be really up for the challenge.”
Stay connected and informed
It's been a stressful period for business leaders but it's great to see that they're feeling more positive and looking at future investment.
With so much uncertainty and little information, particularly regarding Brexit and the economy, it's understandable that people are concerned about the number of decisions out of their control. But based on the data and comments from local business leaders, I believe there are plenty of reasons for Hertfordshire companies to be positive about the future.
To help build resilience in Hertfordshire over the long term, we invite local businesses to join our Business Leaders Forum, which has been set up to help leaders connect and share ideas with each other during an informal roundtable.