Short-term planning threatens entrepreneurial growth and innovation in Scotland

Andrew McNamara, Head of Business Services & Outsourcing for Scotland at BDO LLP

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  • Three quarters of Scottish businesses lack confidence that their strategy is future-proof and able to withstand socioeconomic challenges
  • 70% of businesses only plan nine months ahead, which could derail their growth and innovation ambitions 
  • A fifth say their business has shrunk since the start of 2020
  • More than three quarters are keen to test out new business ideas or innovate in 2021-2022
  • Yet 21% of companies recognise a lack of strategic planning will mean they’re unable to develop and launch new products or services.  

BDO’s The Ambitious Entrepreneur: Tackling Your Barriers to Growth Report found 70% of businesses are only planning nine months ahead, despite ambitions to launch new products and services and ongoing investments in research and development both at home and abroad. 

BDO’s Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 entrepreneurial businesses found that domestic growth alongside expansion into international markets including Asia and the USA to reach key geographic markets for growth is a focus in 2022. Yet 21% of companies recognise that a lack of strategic planning will mean they’re unable to develop and launch new products or services.

According to BDO’s The Ambitious Entrepreneur: Tackling Your Barriers to Growth Report, two fifths of the companies surveyed are only planning six months ahead, which means they only have visibility until early summer. 

And fears of further COVID-19 restrictions and a rise in Bank of England interest rates are predicted to have the biggest impact on business in 2022 for 18% and 22% of Scottish businesses respectively. 

Andrew McNamara, Head of Business Services & Outsourcing for Scotland at BDO LLP said: “Scottish businesses are operating in an incredibly challenging landscape, with COVID-19, Brexit, inflationary increases and supply chain pressures combining to create a very complicated platform to do business from. But entrepreneurialism is still thriving, and ambitious businesses underpin our economy across all sectors. 

“It’s concerning but not surprising to see so many struggling to strategically plan more than six months in advance, given the complexities of the marketplace. 

“The last two years have clearly demonstrated that plans need to be flexible. It is often agility which gives businesses a competitive advantage, but creativity alone won’t sustain innovation and there needs to be a firm focus on planning and commercialising ideas if businesses are serious about growth and not losing ground to competitors.”

BDO’s research found that a third of respondents try to handle operations, growth, funding, talent and compliance internally with their existing team.

Andrew McNamara concluded: “When speaking to entrepreneurs in Scotland, it’s clear to see their ambition, talent and drive for success. Businesses already face disproportionate challenges when it comes to issues like funding, talent and navigating red tape, but are consistently creative in overcoming these barriers. 

“I’d urge the entrepreneurial Scottish businesses not to get in the way of their own potential by taking a short-term or inward view and seek the support they need to build a longer-term strategy that will allow them to innovate and maintain a competitive advantage.”

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