Posted on Tuesday 15 May 2012 by Ulster Business

Peter Torrens3

A small fraction of Northern Irish SME businesses play a huge role in the health of the economy, according to new research from Santander Corporate Banking.

The study showed that 131 fast growth, or ‘Growth Champion’, businesses had a significantly higher economic impact than the rest of the region’s small and medium-sized business population over the past decade.

These companies also proved to be exceptionally resilient during the recent recession creating 3,283 jobs during the trading period between 2007 and 2010.

The Breakthrough Growth Champions Report – understanding the engines of economic growth was commissioned by Santander to explore how the credit crunch and resulting recession impacted small and medium sized businesses in the SME sector.

The report, which examined growth patterns among businesses with turnovers between £500,000 and £10,000,000, found that growth champions – identified as those demonstrating growth of 20% or more in turnover, profit or employment – were found across a wide range of industry sectors.

The highest concentrations were found in sectors such as Social Work (14.7 per cent), Complementary Medicine, such as homeopathy and physiotherapy, (11.4 per cent), and Architectural and Engineering activities (7.7 per cent).

The cohort analysed included 165,000 active and relevant firms across the UK. It was found that 5 per cent of all SMEs analysed delivered both significant growth in employment and net worth. In Northern Ireland the percentage was only 3.7 per cent.

Carried out by Experian on behalf of Santander, the analysis also identified a number of characteristics commonly held by Growth Champions, including: strong teamwork and relationships; youthful leadership; high levels of ambition; directors with a history of entrepreneurial success; and a proactive approach to cash and credit management.

Comparing these characteristics among other existing businesses indicated 69 possible future stars in Northern Ireland – businesses with a higher probability of achieving significant and sustained growth in net worth, sales and employment – although it did not name them.

Peter Torrens, Regional Director for Santander Corporate Banking in Northern Ireland, said: “This research shows a small group of businesses in Northern Ireland make an extraordinary contribution to the local economy. These Growth Champions demonstrate a fantastic ability to excel against the backdrop of difficult trading circumstances, delivering significant growth in both employment and net worth.

“Contrary to popular thinking, these champion businesses operate across a wide range of industry sectors proving that fast growth is not confined to the technology industry.

“Banks have a responsibility to support businesses to accelerate growth at all stages of their lifecycle. Using the common characteristics exhibited by Growth Champions, we can identify the fast-growth businesses of the future and provide the support they need to help them fulfil their potential.”

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