Worcestershire businesses cite technology as key factor for growth

Mid-sized firms in Worcestershire claim use of technology within their businesses has been a key contributing factor for growth, but that there is still more to be done in the county to help businesses flourish even further.

The Worcestershire Growth Barometer, released in October 2017, identifies the top 50 fastest growing mid-sized businesses in the county and includes interviews with a number of these companies, as well as Worcestershire LEP and University of Worcestershire, all of whom emphasised the importance of technology in their day to day business.

Managing Director of West Midlands Safari Park (in the top 50) Ivan Knezovich contributed to the report, and believes their use of advanced technology has led them to be leaders within the theme park sector, saying: “We have in place a business intelligence tool and technology such as biometrics that means our management teams are able to see and record real-time spend and margins being achieved throughout the park on their mobile phones and therefore make quick key decisions and identify any areas customer spend may be lacking for any reason.”

“This means we have richer data which in turn generates more profit which we reinvest back into the business.”

“My advice to any businesses wanting to see consistent and fast growth is to ensure an understanding and investment in technology is prioritised in order to fully understand the data your business produces.”

Another business interviewed as part of the barometer is Steve Hewitt CEO of Redditch based athleisure wear retailer Gymshark (in the top 50) who also emphasised their reliance of tech in business.

“We rely heavily on the systems we have in place to maintain our growth. Our IT infrastructure must be extremely secure as faults can have major impacts. We have an ERP solution in place that allows us to process 40,000 orders in 36 hours – something we could never do manually. This and our product management system allow us to avoid low stock.”

“Another area where we use technology is analysing social media data, ensuring the influencers we work with are getting reach to exactly the right people and what our consumers are interested in.”

Whilst it is promising to see such innovation and digitisation happening in Worcestershire, both businesses identified challenges in recruiting the right technology skills and the connectivity within the region which if not improved, could slow down business growth.

Ivan said on the subject: “It is an on-going challenge to find people with the sort of high-level technical skills required to help implement and maintain the kind of advanced systems we want to put in place to aid our ever-increasing visitor numbers and increase spend per head.”

These issues are reflected in BDO’s New Economy roadmap report particularly in policies 21 and 22 whereby BDO call for the government to help lessen the skills shortages in the manufacturing and technology sectors by harnessing the power of high quality apprenticeships, as well as reinstating the two-year post-study work visa for those studying science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

When asked what policies could be evolved to help growing businesses, Ivan says: “The Government need to consider how businesses need to embrace technological solutions as its advancing faster than businesses can cope with.  For all levels of employment knowing how to use IT, how they can use it better and ensuring they can keep evolving so that they remain competitive and efficient.”

Ross Renton, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Worcester University was also interviewed as part of the barometer and spoke of how the University are helping to equip students with digital skills.

“The University’s innovative ‘REACH’ program saw us provide over 100 students with Samsung tablets in which they could access text books and course content. We were able to use the metrics and analytics to get a deeper understanding of how the students are learning, how we can evolve future learning and how we can improve the efficiency of the courses for us, the students and employers.

The courses that have participated in this pilot have shown great results and been extremely successful, a great example of a leading digital strategy. By equipping students with these digital skills and mind-set now, they can add further value to potential employees in the future.”

To read the full interviews, the full top 50 list and the analysis of Worcestershire’s fastest growing mid-sized firms, download the 2017 Worcestershire Growth Barometer report here.