The survey was carried out for the 2018 Bedfordshire Limited event when financial and business advisers Grant Thornton unveiled the results of its annual analysis of the 100 top performing businesses in the county.
This year’s study found local firms continue to prosper with increases in turnover and employment although there was a slight fall in profitability.
Results from the survey of many of the county’s leading business figures which was carried out at the event reveal the majority are optimistic about the future prospects of their business, with 66% stating trading conditions remain steady or have improved during the last twelve months.
To drive growth, Bedfordshire firms said hiring new people will be the most important factor (39%), followed by investing in new technologies (29%), increasing exports with the lower value of the pound (12%) and acquisitions (9%).
However, businesses acknowledged that there is still some uncertainty ahead with 59% of those questioned stating economic growth was their main concern followed by interest rate rises, Brexit and GDPR.
- Pictured: Grant Thornton director Steve White.
Steve White, from Grant Thornton’s Milton Keynes office, said: “With just over six months to go until Britain leaves the EU, businesses in Bedfordshire show no signs of slowing down.
"The focus on recruitment suggests firms are confident about the future and plan to continue their positive growth trend. It is also good to see businesses investing in new technologies to ensure they remain at the cutting edge of their market and stay ahead of their competitors.
“While undoubtedly there will be bumps in the road over the coming months as the outcome of the Brexit negotiations become clearer, businesses here in the county have shown their resilience time and time again and have a strong foundation to overcome any challenges and seize new opportunities as they arise.”
Bedfordshire businesses planning to grow their workforce will however face tough competition in an increasingly competitive recruitment market. With high levels of employment in the region and across the country as a whole, securing top talent is set to become more difficult
When asked how to overcome the talent shortfall affecting business growth, the majority of companies questioned in the poll highlighted the need to improve relationships between educational establishments and local businesses (38%). Demonstrating good career prospects (26%), offering flexible and agile working (23%) and making use of the Apprenticeship Levy to upskill current employees (12%) were seen as other top priorities.
Firms also recognised that enhancing the image of Bedfordshire as a desirable place to live and work is key to attracting talent to the region and that this could be achieved through improvements to transport and infrastructure and developing stronger business networks.
Mr White added: “Businesses enjoying strong levels of growth will be looking to recruit new people to ensure they have the talent and skills in place to seize opportunities, such as moving into new markets or sectors, and adjust to changes from new legislation around data protection, interest rate rises and of course Brexit.
“However, firms are finding it increasingly difficult to secure top talent so they need to consider new ways of staying ahead of the competition.
"There is a tendency to focus on just monetary incentives but today’s workforce is looking for other benefits such as flexible working, enhanced maternity/paternity leave, training and development, and strong career prospects.
"Businesses who offer a comprehensive employee offering will have the most success in recruiting and retaining the talent they need for growth.”