Business leaders must support East Anglia’s SMEs to boost economic growth

Michael Stiff and Aaron Fickling, co-founders of All is Flux in Norwich, Picture: All is Flux

Michael Stiff and Aaron Fickling, co-founders of All is Flux in Norwich, Picture: All is Flux - Credit: Supplied

With small and medium-sized businesses making up a vast majority of the East Anglian business community, its leaders must work to ensure smaller firms have an economy in which to thrive.

Salena Dawson, East Anglia regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Picture: C

Salena Dawson, East Anglia regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Picture: Chris Hill. - Credit: Archant

This is the message of business groups around the region as Small Business Advice Week, designed to offer support and advice to the UK's SMEs and start ups, draws to a close.

SMEs – defined by the European Commission as businesses with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than 50m euros (£40m) – make up 99% of East Anglia's business community and are set to play a major part in its growth.

Andrew Wilson, of regional enterprise agency Nwes, said: 'The last three years have seen more than 5,000 new businesses created locally and this rate needs to continue to support the economy to grow over the next 20 years.

'What is encouraging is that we have seen a real rise in the number of high-growth firms based locally over the last five years, with almost double the UK average increase seen locally.'

The new chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The new chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017


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With the confidence of SMEs in the East being eroded by political and economic circumstances, Federation of Small Businesses regional chair Salena Dawson said the 'wave of support' provided by Small Business Advice Week was 'timely'.

'It's critical they [small firms] receive the information on finance, strategic planning and training offered during this fantastic programme of events.'

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She added: 'I welcome opportunities for local business organisations to work together for the benefit of local business.'

Chris Sargisson, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses were the 'lifeblood' of the county's economy, making up the majority of its 300,000 businesses.

More than 60% of the Chamber's members are SMEs employing fewer than 20 people, while almost 10% are start ups.

Mr Sargisson said: 'To succeed, most of these businesses need an established network of their peers and potential customers.

'They need a clear strategy of what they want to achieve, a sound business plan, and they will be aware of how to raise their company's profile, using both face-to-face networking and online social media platforms.'

Mr Wilson added: 'We have experienced first hand both the number of local people investigating running their own business and the fantastic diversity of growth businesses through government funded schemes such as the New Anglia Growth Programme and Future 50.'

Aaron Fickling, who founded Norwich-based marketing firm All is Flux with business partner Michael Stiff, said collaboration had been the key to their success.

'Our recent partnership (establishing the business last November) has been the key to overcoming the challenges of being an isolated start-up venture without support and accountability,' he said.

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