Hot 100 debate: Challenge and opportunity

Our annual Hot 100 report shows Lancashire’s SMEs continue to deliver - whatever the challenges in front of them. We gathered a panel of Hot 100 business leaders at marketing agency every1 in Preston to discuss future growth and what lies ahead.

Hot 100 debate

PRESENT: Richard Slater ~ Chair • Gwam Rajiah ~ Bespoke Healthcare • Ken Shackleton ~ Cardboard Box Company • Ashley Seed ~ CMAC Group • Simon Clayton ~ Every1 • Chris Green ~ Every1 • Nadeem Memon ~ Panaz • Khalid Saifullah ~ Star Tissue UK

Do the results revealed by the Hot 100 suggest Lancashire business is in good health?

Khalid Saifullah: They do. Speaking to businesses in Lancashire, there is huge confidence.

People are feeling a lot more positive and willing to make investments. In the area where we are based we see development left, right and centre. New jobs are being created.

You know the market is pretty strong when it’s harder to get people to work for you because there are plenty of jobs to go around.

We’re seeing strong growth in the service sector and around manufacturing in particular.

Simon Clayton: There is a buzz around the services sector in Lancashire for sure. We’ve certainly felt it over the last 18 months.

There’s an investment in marketing to grow businesses.

We find recruitment is tough because a lot of people are looking to the cities. Manchester and Leeds are definitely a threat to Lancashire and that’s something everyone should think about.

Ken Shackleton: We supply boxes to manufacturers and since the Brexit vote we’ve seen positive growth throughout that sector.

More than 60 per of what we sell is in Lancashire. Exporters have benefited from the exchange rate.

In the last three months we have seen a slowing down in certain sectors. That could be cyclical.

However, there seems to be a bit of caution in the air. People are talking about worst case scenarios.

That caution is because of uncertainty, because Brexit is almost upon us and people want to know what the deal is going to be.

I’m getting a bit jaded listening to it every day on TV but I think it is affecting the way businesses are looking to the future.

Khalid Saifullah: It is affecting investment because we’re not sure exactly what the outcome is going to be and what the deal is going to look like. There’s hesitancy in terms of how far to invest.

As we’re growing, at some point we’ll need a paper mill; do we continue to import from Europe or do we start investing in manufacturing in the UK?

We can’t make that decision. You have to press the pause button and eventually that will affect growth.