Little less conversation, little more action……….

So sang the King, or if you are of a younger vintage, the ghost of the King (dead over 25 years) and a bunch of nobodies called JXL. He could have just sang “oi, you” and it would have had the same effect, but, even in the era of short pop songs, that would have been really short.

As 2014 dawns, wet and windy, we find ourselves in the same situation. Throughout the latter part of 2013, all manner of surveys were trotted out, claiming that we were “through the worst”, that “manufacturing confidence was on the rise” and that house prices were now higher than five years ago. That’s all well and good, but where are the tangible knock-ons from this, permanent full time roles and expanding companies?

It seems little has changed. Companies still find it almost impossible to raise finance. A friend of mine, with an unimpeachable credit history, was recently refused a mortgage even though his monthly payment would have been half of what he had paid for the past ten years. And yet there is money out there……

Such money only seems to be available for effectively get rich quick schemes, rather than long term investments. How else can you explain the lack of mortgage products, as compared to that available in 2008? How else can you explain that fact that investment companies or VCs will buy businesses, not to invest in them, but to sell them on as quickly as possible? This isn’t investment, it is speculation. And it was speculation that got us into this mess in the first place.

Why do business owners find it so hard to raise finance to buy new machines or open up new markets? Perhaps it is the fact that actually bankers have never understood business plans; previously they invested money because they had it in a pot to invest, now they don’t invest because they don’t understand what companies are trying to do, or trust business leaders to know what they are talking about. You never see any awards given out to VCs for investment in small companies that has helped that company achieve greater profitability or increased turnover yet they fall over themselves to offer companies funds that are wise enough to reinvest their profits. “Dealmaker of the Year” awards are given to sharp suits who have negotiated sales of companies to organisations outside the UK, lining the pockets of the few lucky shareholders without consideration for the long term future of the business or its employees. How is that sustainable economic investment?

If we are to genuinely make this year as good as it could be, everyone needs to work towards the same goal.  We need politicians to stop scoring points every time there is a minor improvement, we need investment in projects that will be completed in the next couple of years, not in our grandchildren’s lifetime (HS2 anyone?) Most importantly we need business owners to have the courage of their convictions, to seize the moment and not rely on help that almost certainly won’t come.

As Elvis also sang “It’s now or never”………………

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