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The Growth Economy Post Covid

A different way forward

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Background to the research

In October 2020, BGF published a report in partnership with the University of Buckingham that examined the funding landscape for growing businesses in the UK. Using exclusive research carried out by PwC, we identified 21,400 companies in the UK that are fast-growing, big enough to have outgrown early-stage funding, and yet generally too small to list on stock exchanges. These companies are “the growth economy”.

21,400

There were 21,400 growth economy companies across the UK in 2018.

The report showed that these companies suffer from a shortfall in business funding, particularly equity finance. Building on the original report, BGF commissioned research firm Delineate to carry out a survey of 532 executives, board members, senior managers, owners and partners of businesses with at least 20 employees and turnover in excess of £2 million.

A nationwide sample

532

The researchers spoke to 532 executives, board members, senior managers, owners and partners.

62 %

of companies surveyed employed between 50-249 people.

Where companies are based

  • London & the South East – 202
  • East of England* – 35
  • Midlands – 75
  • North West – 74
  • North East, Yorkshire & Humberside – 58
  • Scotland & Northern Ireland* – 38
  • Wales & South West – 50
  • TOTAL 532

*Base sizes small, percentages given are indicative only

A story of resilience

Our survey found that despite the challenges of the pandemic and of Brexit, growth economy companies have proved that they are resilient and adaptable. Businesses have not been idle during the pandemic. In fact they have invested in digital infrastructure to ensure they can continue working amid coronavirus lockdowns.

Adapting and thriving

36 %

More than a third of companies said they have invested, or plan to invest, in digital infrastructure.

Of course, there have been hard choices to make and some businesses have had to make redundancies. However, a majority (56%) say their company culture actually strengthened during the pandemic. Clearly, many teams have pulled together in recent months, showing admirable strength of character and courage in the face of adversity.

56 %

A majority of companies said their company culture had strengthened during the pandemic.

However, funding remains a challenge

50 %

Half the respondents said it was harder to access funding now than it was a year ago.

Attitudes to funding

The furlough or job retention scheme was the most commonly accessed funding source during the pandemic, followed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). In future, businesses said they were most likely to turn to their bank to help fund growth. However, private equity or venture capital was the first port of call for 17% of businesses, reflecting the significance of these investors to the growth economy.

A majority (53%) said they would consider equity investment to drive growth in their business, though a larger proportion (60%) said they were reluctant to give up control of their business to obtain funding. For those who expressed this concern, bringing on board an equity partner as a minority shareholder could be a sensible solution. This is BGF’s model.

Solutions needed for the future of the growth economy

Growth economy companies face significant challenges relating to the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of Brexit. Many firms have been kept in business thanks to emergency action from government in the form of the furlough scheme, for example. These businesses will face a reckoning as this emergency support runs out.

There will be a large demand for refinancing businesses in the years ahead. Our survey revealed that equity investment is considered a viable and shrewd option for many growth economy companies.

An increase in business funding for growing businesses could help overcome the challenges created by the pandemic. With concerted, targeted action, the growth economy will not only survive but thrive.

The Growth Economy Post Covid - A different way forward

This report reveals the results of a survey of more than 500 business leaders of growth economy companies, who were asked about the challenges and opportunities they face as they look ahead to a post-Covid economy.

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