Strategies for growth

Sacha Romanovitch: Manufacturing fights back

Grant Thornton’s UK Chief Executive believes companies that take a new approach to growth can thrive in the post-Brexit business environment.

By Dan Matthews

Sacha Romanovitch says the UK does a lot of things extremely well and has a strong legacy of industrial prowess, talent and innovation. Yet, she adds, there are caveats to the pervading sense of optimism. The most important one is that business must re-evaluate what it means to succeed.

‘One of the things we consistently get right as a nation is our ability to adapt; when we innovate we can achieve brilliant things. Businesses must continue to evolve to meet the new realities of a post-Brexit world,’ she explains.

‘I have seen evidence from our clients of a shift away from short-term, linear measures of growth to something a lot broader, which I think is really positive. They are building sustainable, longer-term structures and thinking beyond the binary model of profits and share price.

‘Our Vibrant Economy Index shows that success must be measured in these holistic terms, taking into account resilience and sustainability, health, wellbeing and happiness, community, trust and belonging.’

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The old model, forged during the industrial revolution of self-interested bosses and rigid hierarchies has fallen apart in the UK. It is being replaced by agile teams, diverse decision-making powers and a focus on outcomes that benefit more than just the bottom line.

Consumers and job-seekers are more aware of company culture; many younger workers crave a sense of purpose in the businesses and brands they interact with. Making changes, therefore, could fuel sales growth and attract top talent.

Two examples of this dynamic new scene are Portakabin, a pioneering offsite construction company, and SPTS Technologies, which supplies the global semi-conductor industry. Headquartered in York and Newport respectively, the businesses reflect the distributed nature of UK success stories.

‘These are businesses with an excellent core product,’ says Romanovitch. ‘They are focusing on what they can bring to the world, how they can solve problems and how they develop top talent.’

Portakabin and SPTS both featured in Grant Thornton’s 100 Faces programme, which celebrates some of the individuals driving forward the UK’s vibrant economy. According to Romanovitch, Faces share a commitment to innovation, international trade and people.

‘Portakabin is an excellent example of modern UK business,’ she adds. ‘It is very integrated, ethical and transparent in terms of how it operates. The team thinks about its impact on the environment and how it can contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of its people and the wider community.’

Asked about future UK industries to watch, Romanovitch points to manufacturing (see page 44). The sector has been viewed as a fading force, largely due to competition from low-cost production centres around the world, but today it has scope to grow again.

‘The production industries are fighting back, particularly in the form of advanced manufacturing. This is building on our industrial heritage, but adding creativity and design as core competences we’re taking forward.

‘For a while we were distracted by the cost of what we were producing, when the important factor is spotting problems and finding innovative ways to solve them. It is this mindset, coupled with the spirit of collaboration, that will build an economy we can pass on to coming generations.’

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