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An SME’s guide to making the most of Peterborough’s growth

We’ve seen a lot in the news recently about the growth of Peterborough – whether that’s a growth in business confidence, new businesses relocating to the city or professionals moving to Peterborough as an ‘affordable commuter city’.

With growth there comes a mixture of opportunities and challenges.

It’s essential that local businesses recognise potential challenges, whilst making the most of the opportunities Peterborough’s growth could offer.

We’ve taken a look at some of the statistics about Peterborough’s growth including predictions for the coming years. Based on these facts and figures we’ve pulled together some of our own advice specifically for SMEs.

New business support for SMEs in Peterborough

At Rawlinsons, we work with a wide range of SMEs in Peterborough offering extensive experience in new business support. As a result, we’re able to guide start-ups through some of the financial hurdles they face but also simply offer solid, good practical business advice.

In offering this support service we often get asked how new businesses can grow. Hence the inspiration behind this blog – to give new businesses a starting point on making the most of the local area.

What kind of growth is Peterborough seeing?

Population growth

According to the Centre for Cities’ 2015 Outlook report from 2004 to 2013 Peterborough’s population grew by 15 per cent – an extra 24,900 people. Although this does not make Peterborough the fastest growing city in the UK, it is still in the top ten.

So we know that more and more people are coming to the city, but what does that mean for local businesses? Consumer facing enterprises should welcome this population growth – it means more potential customers in Greater Peterborough.

The Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP’s growth deal, which was expanded in January 2015, also looks to build 10,000 new homes in the city. Again, this is positive news for consumer facing organisations looking for more people to move to Peterborough.

More people in the city could also have a positive effect in bringing new talent and skills to Peterborough.

For SMEs it’s vital that they find the right people to champion their business. SMEs need to take into consideration where they may have skills shortages and how they can overcome those issues.

As an example, finding employees with digital skills in the area may be a challenge for some employers – making roles in digital marketing, IT or similar difficult to recruit for. The Go ON UK Basic Digital Skills UK Report 2015 showed that just 34% of adults in Peterborough had used five basic digital skills in the last three months.

With all this in mind the population growth of Peterborough can impact SMEs in various ways, but it’s not the only type of growth the city is experiencing…

Business growth

The other area of growth SMEs need to consider is amongst businesses in Peterborough. There are obvious benefits to starting or moving business to Peterborough – it offers fantastic connections and a central location but less of the price tag that London demands. For many, it makes great business sense to locate themselves in Peterborough.

Indeed, in July 2015 Invest in Peterborough reported that 2014 was a record year for start-ups in the city with more than 1,900 new businesses registered in Peterborough. The report continues:

“Net company growth, the balance between business births and deaths, totalled 825 businesses in Peterborough last year – the highest figure in the eastern region – and the first quarter of 2015 saw a new record being set for the city with a net 305 companies created in the first three months of the year alone.” You can read more here.

Peterborough is not only attracting new organisations but business confidence in the city is also growing. At Rawlinsons we run an annual Greater Peterborough Business Survey and the 2015 results revealed:

“Almost 60% of respondents reported increased turnover during the last 12 months, up 12 per cent on the previous year and confidence is high that those positive trends will continue throughout 2015 with 112 companies (65%) expecting further growth and profitability.”

Such a positive outlook is a great indicator that business growth is going to continue in the city – opening many opportunities for SMEs, but also a few challenges that must be taken into consideration.

What does this population and business growth mean for SMEs?

Ultimately, it depends on the industry and market within which the SME operates as to how they could benefit from Peterborough’s growth. As previously mentioned consumer-facing organisations, with the right preparation and planning, could reap the benefits of population growth.

On the other hand, some businesses may experience increased competition as more businesses look to move to or start-up in Greater Peterborough. Yet for business-to-business organisations, it could mean growth in the number of potential clients.

What should SMEs do to harness the potential from growth in Peterborough?

Here are our tops tips for SMEs looking to make the most of growth in Peterborough:

  • Understand your market: each market is going to be different. For example, the leisure and retail sector may experience benefits from the redevelopment of the cathedral area in the city centre or the planned changes to the Westgate Arcade. Each SME needs to take their market into consideration and position themselves accordingly – whether that’s preparing for possible opportunities or challenges due to Peterborough’s growth.
  • You may need to take a calculated risk: for an SME to grow, regardless of the potential in the local area, they may need to take a calculated risk. The more an SME puts in now, the more they’ll get out in the future when they feel the benefits of the growth of the city. Effort and wise financial decisions will need to be made now, to position the SME to make the most of opportunities in the future.
  • Make the most of the business community: as we’ve said, understanding the local market and the industry is a priority. As Peterborough has a busy business scene it’s worth talking to each other – attend networking events, exhibitions and more to get a feel for how other SMEs in your industry are approaching Peterborough’s growth.
  • Make the right hiring decisions: making the right hiring decisions for an SME is vital. Understand where you may face a skills shortage and take decisive action to overcome that potential barrier. Again, look at the local market to make sure you are offering a competitive enough remuneration package and assess your finances carefully to calculate what salaries are viable. It’s been suggested that Peterborough’s salaries are rising faster than Cambridge’s as the region works to attract talent, so make sure you stay up to date with salary trends.
  • Prepare, plan and forecast: instigating growth for your SME will always take careful preparation and planning. Make sure you don’t forego proper forecasting for your business and seek advice on how you can position your SME for growth alongside the local market. It’s important that you don’t ‘throw money’ at every opportunity but instead assess where the potential lies.

Important business advice and help for the small business community in Peterborough

All in all, the most important advice we can offer is to plan well in advance and stay up to date with local business news. If you’re looking to take advantage of Peterborough’s growth then it’s essential you know the area very well – looking at fluctuations and knowing where a calculated risk is worth taking.

You can also take part in our annual Greater Peterborough Business Survey to help businesses in the area gauge business confidence and predictions for the coming year. Get in touch with us today to find out more.