Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.18.13Business owners in the North East have reported increased confidence in their own enterprises and in the wider economy for the first time in more than a year, according to the latest survey of members of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

In the Forum’s 12th quarterly Business Tracker Survey, covering the first three months of 2015, overall, members reported a slight slowdown in growth for actual sales and profit, compared with the previous quarter’s comparisons

However, year on year, all key indicators saw an increase, showing growth and positivity across the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s 300-strong membership. The survey is conducted and compiled by leading research specialist Acritas.

Compared with the first quarter of 2014, the results showed:

  • Overall sales: 67% reported an increase, while 12% said levels had remained the same
  • Export sales: 33% saw an increase, while 40% said a retention of levels
  • Actual profit: An increase was reported by 53%, while 22% said levels were maintained
  • Employee numbers: 53% reported an increase in employment, with 37% saying levels had not changed
  • Remuneration: 41% reported an increase, 53% said levels were the same
  • Prices: 14% reported an increase, while 75% said levels had remained the same
  • Capital expenditure: An increase was reported by 30%, and 53% said levels had remained as they were

Nigel Mills, Chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “The signs of recovery are becoming increasingly visible to members and the uncertainty that is naturally found in the build-up to a General Election played its part in some businesses not feeling as confident as would otherwise have been the case.

“It is very positive to see that, although we experienced a dip in some factors, businesses have the confidence in the recovery to be driving forward in expectation of improvement as the year progresses.

“Challenges do remain and finding the right staff continues to be one of the key barriers to growth. This is something the Entrepreneurs’ Forum has been aware of for some time and members came together recently for a round table discussion, to share their experiences and learn lessons from one another about how to handle this issue.”

Ponteland-based Taopix, founded in 2007, creates white label digital photobook technology for clients across the world, including some of the industry’s best known names. The company currently employs 30 people. The coming months will see a recruitment drive, with a focus upon apprentices and graduates.

Chief Executive James Gray said: “Recruitment is our biggest challenge, we have struggled to find the right quality of people, so when we do, we grab them with both hands. We would hire ten tomorrow, if we could find the right people.

“We recently took on two apprentices, and they have proved such a success we are making them a part of our team on an extended programme. This has inspired us to keep looking for young talent and we hope to increase our team by 15 to 20 people in the next couple of years, focussing on finding apprentices and graduates who have the right attitude and training them up with the skills we need.

“As part of our growth plans, we will be moving into our newly-acquired offices in January, offering four and a half times as much space.

“Whilst our challenges will always include selling more of our products to a greater number of clients, we are seeing an increased level of confidence across the board that we have not seen before, which is a positive thing, and is supplemented by potential clients having a more positive outlook on our business, as we become a more established player in the market.”

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