Entrepreneurs in the North East are showing increased confidence as sales and profit grow, according to the latest research by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.
More than 70% of entrepreneurs in the organisation’s Business Tracker Survey for the third quarter of 2013 said they had witnessed an increase in sales, compared with the same period in 2012. Around 72% likewise expected fourth quarter sales growth.
Profits and jobs were also on the rise, with 60% saying they had seen an increase in profits and 41% telling the survey they saw employee numbers increase when compared to 2012
Additionally, the survey showed the highest level of optimism among respondents about the future of their business and the economy as a whole since the research began two years ago.
The Entrepreneurs’ Forum has, over the past ten years, developed a cross-sector peer group of like-minded individuals who share ideas, knowledge and connections.
The organisation continually takes soundings from its 480 member companies in the North East.
Among other key findings, 69% of respondents reported feeling more confident in their businesses and 67% said they had more confidence in the economy than they did three months ago.
A total 39% said they had experienced a growth in export revenues compared to the same period in 2012.
However, some major challenges were highlighted, including the problems posed in finding quality staff and generating new sales leads.
Forum chairman Nigel Mills said: “Our members are reporting that confidence, sales, profits and jobs are all on the rise in their businesses.
“Entrepreneurial businesses clearly remain at the heart of growth in the North East economy. They are not only telling us that things are positive within their own businesses, they expect more of the same to follow.
“We cannot ignore the North East’s position when it comes to unemployment statistics, but it is clear that entrepreneurs such as the members of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum are making a real difference by driving their businesses forward and creating jobs.
“Despite the unemployment figures, one of the key challenges our members are reporting is that they struggle to find and recruit quality staff, so skills is something which clearly needs to be addressed as the region moves forward through 2014.
“Likewise, members say generating sales and leads is a challenge, but the strong overarching message from entrepreneurs is one of positivity and growth.”
Entrepreneurs’ Forum member Howard Ions, managing director of Salem Tube International, is hoping to invest more than £2m in new premises while expanding the firm’s product range.
The Prudhoe company employs 31 people, providing heat exchanger technology around the world, with export accounting for approximately 70% of its £12m turnover.
Ions said: “We see things as fairly stable and are confident enough to be looking at making investments in equipment and space for future growth, through the provision of a wider range of products and services.
“Some of the investment would come from our own funds, supported by lending and grants, but while such money is available, it isn’t easy to secure and this is still a challenge to growth.”
Stephen Irish is another member whose business, Hyperdrive Innovation, is currently on the up.
The two-year-old company is seeing significant growth, has recently recruited and is now looking for more staff, specifically engineers with electronics or technical project management experience.
Irish, who is managing director of the Cramlington firm, said: “We are in a growth market, developing, manufacturing and selling low carbon vehicle technologies, and our business is growing.
“As well as client projects, we have expanded the suite of products we sell and are able to develop a strategy that will help us to grow in future years.
“We have just recruited our 11th member of staff and are looking for more, but while finding good recent graduates is not a problem, it is more of a challenge to find more experienced people.”