North East Entrepreneurs have been told that the best way to grow their businesses is through exports.

At Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’ conference, more than 200 of the region’s leading business people gathered to hear how to grow their companies, by listening to experts and learning from their peers. 

Peter Hiscocks, Senior Lecturer at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, told the audience: “For most of us the real opportunities are global, this is where we need to be heading.” 

Forum Chief Executive, Gillian Marshall, added: “What we have learned today from some of our speakers, and from a recent survey of our members, is that exporting is one of the best ways for North East businesses to grow and create jobs; in fact 52% said they expect to export more in the next year.

“The relative value of the pound and the prospect of new international trade deals opening up emerging markets make exporting an appealing prospect for a lot of companies in the short to medium-term, but in the long term it is absolutely essential for many companies wishing to achieve sustained growth.”

A study conducted for the Entrepreneurs’ Forum showed that the region’s scale-up businesses performed better last year than in the previous, and that the majority predict even stronger performance next year. 68% of companies said they expected to increase the number of people they employ and 52% of firms expected to see an increase in export sales in 2016/17, compared to just 3% that expect to see exports fall.

 Other highlights from the autumn conference included:

Attendees heard from a number of business experts, including a panel of scale-up business owners chaired by Graham Robb, Senior Partner of Recognition PR. Richard Lane of sales consultancy and training firm durhamlane, Mohammed Bashir of Boro Taxis, and Andrew Tomlinson of online retailer Andrew James shared their experiences of growing their businesses. 

Mohammed Bashir said: “It’s taken us well over 30 years to get here, we are very proud to have a large taxi company in the North East that competes with the likes of Addison Lee in London. One of the hardest parts of growing your business is tempting a customer through the door for the first time, the next challenge is retaining that customer , to do this you have to give people a service that is reliable and reasonably priced. We didn’t think we would survive the first few years, but when the fleet grew to ten cars it became a little easier, and easier again as fleet grew to twenty cars and then 100 etc.”

 Continuing the topic of business growth, Peter Hiscocks said: “Learn how to be an effective leader, we can all be better at this and focus on building your top team.  You cannot be everything. There are not many founders that run the business themselves with some employees. All of us need to build a top team that works with us; that are part of the strategic management of the business. They must have a cohort vision for where the business is going to go. Get help from successful people, they have experience you need and they help your credibility.”

Keynote speaker, Vertu Motors CEO Robert Forrester added: “Energy is very important, as is drive; you want people who get out of bed in the morning with a purpose. You can’t build a business on people doing the minimum amount required not to get fired.”

Keith, Gary and Jacqui Miller, the sibling trio behind construction vehicle attachment manufacturer Miller UK, shared their success story, and talked about the world of family business. “Jacqui Miller said: “Be authentic, people know when you’re being inauthentic, it’s important to be yourself. She added: “Always be humble, and spend 80% of the time planning, it will make your business 80% more effective.”” 

Cameron Saul of fashion social enterprise Bottletop explained how his background in the family that created Mulberry led to him founding the company, and how it continues to help people across the world.

Cameron said: “Can it be valuable to empower a company to do good? Of course, It’s something companies are now much happier to be involved with as their staff and customers are proud to be associated with it, but to develop initiatives properly they need to be from the ground up; from the sales floor to the boardroom.”