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Building a successful business from the UK’s ‘challenger cities’


Our new Perspective series is out and we’re exploring the impact of ‘challenger cities’ to small businesses in the UK.

On your list of best places to do business in the UK, London is probably high up, if not top. But, with many UK cities now making their cases, how long will the capital hold this position?

There’s a pervasive perception in the UK that London has the best opportunities for small businesses to become established and start making money. Thanks to advances in technology, the rest of the UK is catching up with a historically disproportionate amount of funding and investment in the capital.

According to a recent report that we produced, small businesses in these ‘challenger cities’ now have the opportunity to be as successful outside the capital as within. The research surveyed 500 business leaders from London, the South-West, North-West, North-East and the Midlands. The topics covered were extensive: growth, infrastructure, talent, quality of life, support from the government, grants and collaboration – basically every element of their business.

The results were clear: three major factors underpinned their success

  • Strong digital infrastructure
  • Local clients
  • Local support

A breakdown of the three key success factors for small businesses

Digital infrastructure

Digital technology is making businesses more successful. Over half (53%) of leaders in professional service companies say that digital infrastructure such as, fast internet, software solutions and the cloud are critical.

For example, productivity in the North’s digital sector is growing four times faster than in non-digital sectors. Not only this, digital is providing more employment opportunities as businesses grow and new businesses make the most of the technology.

Local clients

Businesses outside of London are confident of their use of digital technology, skilled local digital talent and local expertise. By integrating with their communities and supplying products and services to the local residents, businesses can make a real impact on the area. And don’t forget, people like to support their communities in a lot of different ways; local customers like to buy from local companies, which is a win-win for both sides, since more money stays in the community and bolsters the regional economy.

Local support

There’s a lot of support out there, with assistance available from a lot of different places, including the government. Government initiatives are generally targeted toward growth sectors, like digital, and as such there’s a strong, UK-wide digital and data infrastructure to support it. Helping organisations to advance their workforce’s digital knowledge is intrinsic to their success or failure – especially as the UK has such a strong digital presence. Having these skills, and being able to showcase them, is a necessity and an expectation in today’s world.

Businesses outside London can feel confident in their ability to grow profits by attracting customers in their local area with the support of digital technology, skilled digital talent and local expertise”
Three keys to building a successful business from the UK’s ‘Challenger Cities’ Report - 2018

The future of the UK is exciting

Without a shadow of a doubt, this report has demonstrated that there’s never been a better time to start a business anywhere in the UK. Want to get to know the cities that are giving London some friendly competition? Download the report now and discover why and how they’re becoming the business hubs of the future.

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