UK entrepreneurs have global pulling power but need to innovate to boost overseas trade

Barclays has found that des­pite Brexit, 78% of glob­al busi­ness lead­ers think the UK is a good place to start and grow a busi­ness.

In addi­tion, three fifths (61%) of inter­na­tion­al busi­ness lead­ers say that Brexit will not have any impact on the way they do busi­ness with UK entre­pren­eurs, with the strength of the ‘Made in Bri­tain’ brand being highly attract­ive for busi­ness lead­ers glob­ally. The major­ity (60%) say that the vote will actu­ally improve their deal­ings with Brit­ish busi­ness. How­ever busi­ness lead­ers say a lack of product dif­fer­en­ti­ation and digit­al innov­a­tion is hold­ing back UK entre­pren­eurs glob­ally.

  • Fourth fifths of world busi­ness lead­ers think Bri­tain is ‘a good place to start a busi­ness’, des­pite Brexit.
  • Three quar­ters say ‘Made in Bri­tain’ remains great selling point for Brit­ish products.
  • Brits seen as ‘reli­able’, ‘smart’ and ‘polite’ but could be more ‘pas­sion­ate’, ‘inspir­ing’ and ‘driv­en.’
  • Almost one in three think ‘Sil­ic­on Round­about” is a TV sit­com – show­ing more needs to be done to pro­mote Bri­tain as the home of entre­pren­eurs.

The study inter­viewed 1,350 busi­ness lead­ers around the world on their per­cep­tions of Brit­ish entre­pren­eurs and their exper­i­ences trad­ing with UK scale-ups. Four fifths (78%) of over­seas busi­ness lead­ers think the UK is a good place to start a busi­ness, with Brazil (88%), the US (85%) and China (84%) most optim­ist­ic about Britain’s poten­tial to cre­ate the next Apple or Google on home shores. Yet this fell dra­mat­ic­ally in the views of Ger­many (64%) and France (68%).

A fur­ther 79% of those polled* con­sider the UK’s start-up scene as an import­ant glob­al growth busi­ness hub for entre­pren­eurs and four fifths (82%) would con­sider invest­ing in a UK start-up.

Trad­ing with the UK post-Ref­er­en­dum

Fol­low­ing the UK’s EU Ref­er­en­dum vote, 61% of Inter­na­tion­al busi­ness lead­ers say it won’t have any impact on the way they do busi­ness with UK entre­pren­eurs: 84% believe UK products and ser­vices will con­tin­ue to offer good value, three quar­ters (76%) say they are con­fid­ent that Bri­tain will have a sol­id plan in place, while the ‘Made In Bri­tain’ brand is a highly attract­ive for 74%. A fur­ther 60% say Brexit will actu­ally improve their trade deal­ings with Brit­ish com­pan­ies.

Doing Busi­ness with UK entre­pren­eurs

Brit­ish entre­pren­eurs are described by over­seas busi­ness lead­ers as reli­able (53%), smart (50%) and polite (50%) but fall short on pas­sion and inspir­a­tion (both 29%). Mean­while the UK’s top attrib­utes are that they are well edu­cated (51%) and com­mit­ted to deliv­er­ing high qual­ity (44%).

Chal­lenges for UK enter­prise over­seas

Wor­ry­ingly, UK entre­pren­eurs could be miss­ing out to over­seas coun­ter­parts at a time when com­pet­it­ive advant­age is vital. Two fifths of inter­na­tion­al busi­ness lead­ers (44%) admit that Brexit may reduce their trade with the UK in the future, and point to the US and Ger­many as examples that Bri­tain could bet­ter emu­late in trade and nego­ti­ation skills.

It seems the ‘Brit­ish reserve’ could also be hold­ing busi­nesses back: just over half (62%) of over­seas busi­ness people think that UK entre­pren­eurs are far too polite, 65% think they could be bet­ter at nego­ti­at­ing deals, with an addi­tion­al 65% who think that they could be bet­ter at com­mu­nic­at­ing with them.

Fur­ther­more, 59% of inter­na­tion­al busi­ness lead­ers think US start-ups are more likely to suc­ceed than UK. While nearly nine in 10 (87%) know of the US’s Sil­ic­on Val­ley, just 65% have heard of the UK’s Sil­ic­on Round­about- and 30% think it is a TV show, show­ing more must be done to build the UK’s pro­file over­seas as a centre for entre­pren­eurs.

When asked what would encour­age them to do more trade with com­pan­ies in the UK, nearly half (47%) say Brits need to show great­er dif­fer­en­ti­ation and innov­a­tion in products and ser­vices. Oth­er factors include a need for more face-to-face com­mu­nic­a­tion (47%) and for the UK’s digit­al skills to be improved (45%). If these were addressed, glob­al busi­ness lead­ers would increase their trade with the UK by almost a third (28%). The UK being bet­ter at digit­al is most import­ant for busi­ness lead­ers in China (64%).

Richard Heg­gie, Head of High Growth and Entre­pren­eurs at Barclays, said: “This shows UK entre­pren­eurs are held in high regard by busi­ness lead­ers glob­ally, par­tic­u­larly in Brazil, China and the US. How­ever it’s crit­ic­al that, against the back­drop of Brexit, the UK does everything it can to main­tain and cru­cially build on this. That includes cap­it­al­ising on the trade rela­tion­ships and invest­ment oppor­tun­it­ies that the research high­lights in order to thrive.

Policy makers and the wider industry have an import­ant role in boost­ing the repu­ta­tion of UK enter­prise. Our find­ings show that improved digit­al, innov­a­tion and com­mu­nic­a­tion skills will increase trade by almost a third. As a recog­nised glob­al hub for high growth busi­nesses, we must do all we can to declare we are open for busi­ness for these eco­nom­ic dynamos.”

*The research was con­duc­ted online by Opini­um on behalf of Barclays and ques­tioned 1,350 decision makers (middle man­agers and above) work­ing in com­pan­ies of 250+ employ­ees who trade with Brit­ish busi­nesses or who have recent exper­i­ence of trad­ing with UK busi­nesses (SMEs and com­pan­ies with a turnover of £2.5m-£100m). It ques­tioned decision makers from China, USA, Ger­many, Brazil, France and the UAE between 24th August to 20th Septem­ber 2016.

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