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Getting ready for local economic growth: four ways for your firm to seize the day

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Chart Lane Founder Ross Sturley explains the importance of a ‘carpe diem’ attitude to make the most of your regional economy.

We all know to prepare for hard times, but what about getting your company ready for a boom in the local economy? According to Ross Sturley, founder of the Chart Lane media company, “more businesses fail on the way out of a recession than on the way in”. Chart Lane specialises in bringing the public and private sectors together through B2B conferences to create a better environment for business growth. While globalisation remains a strong market influence, a Regus study shows that 45% of companies sell their products or services “entirely or mainly” in their own country.

Here, Ross tells us how to make the most of your regional economy, from spotting upcoming infrastructure developments to ensuring you’ll have the best staff in years to come.

Getting your house in order

Ross has seen first-hand how government investment can prompt rapid growth in particular spots on the economic map. New railway infrastructure, such as London’s multi-billion-pound rail line, Crossrail, can result in a “30% uplift along the line” by creating up to 75,000 business opportunities and a new hub for commuters. However, businesses must be ready for these boom periods if they’re going to capitalise on them. “Position yourself to be ready for growth. If you need capital, line that up. Buy new machinery or whatever you need for your business.” Ross says that keeping an eye on rivals is equally important. “Opportunity brings competition, so be ready to fight it off. Get close to your customers, and help them take their opportunities.”

Putting your best face forward

Forging connections with other businesses in the regional economy can help small companies to overcome bumps in the road. Ross has plenty of experience with this – he used to hire a managed office in the centre of town, and was able to meet with other companies in the building. There, he could share problems, sure that “one of the other 15-20 businesses had had that problem and solved it.”

Hunting for opportunities

There’s no need to wait for infrastructure investment to come to you: “knowing where you can get new business is the most important thing,” says Ross. “Ports are where people have made money since the beginning of time.” Heathrow is the UK’s biggest ‘port’, processing more freight than anywhere else in the country. When a new travel link appears (for example, Vietnam to London next year), areas gain new recognition in all industries, even those indirectly affected by the change.

Building for the future

The key is to invest in the future of the local economy, to ensure that you’ll have the employees you need when the time comes. “Our schools are not generating skills that directly match what businesses need,” Ross explains. A local academy for 14-18 year olds near Heathrow now prepares students for working near transport links. “It’s about making sure that in ten years when an investor wants to build a hub, the skills are there to do that.”

There are opportunities everywhere for those prepared to seize them. Savvy entrepreneurs like Ross show that economic growth doesn’t happen by accident, but comes to those who seek it out.

Ross Sturley founded Chart Lane in 2008, after working for a media company. Chart Lane operates from a Regus office located near Gatwick International Airport.