Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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Scaling Perspectives: Diverse Scaleup Leaders

Amongst the scaling businesses that responded to this year’s survey were 180 where either the CEO or founder was a woman or from a BAME community.

These businesses are typically somewhat smaller and younger:

  • 39% have been trading for 5 years or less (compared to 21% of other scaling businesses without diverse leaders) and they are also somewhat smaller than their peers. 
  • They are found across all regions and sectors but are somewhat less likely to be found in the Manufacturing sector (11% v 23%). 
  • They are as likely as their peers to be either a social business, or operating in the green economy or ESG compliant (56% v 54%)

They are growing businesses with ambitions for the future, in terms of both turnover and employees:

  • Almost all, 87% expect to grow their turnover in the next year, including almost half, 46%, expecting to grow by 20% or more both in line with other scaling businesses (88% any growth and 42% by 20% or more).
  • Whilst these diverse businesses are currently slightly less likely to have a sizeable workforce than their peers, they have aspirations to increase employee numbers with 78% expecting to increase employee numbers in the next year, including 36% planning to grow numbers by 20% or more (compared to 76% and 28% of other scaling businesses).
  • Overall 53% of diverse businesses expect to grow turnover and/or employees by 20% or more next year.  

Looking forward, access to talent is a priority for diverse scaleups, perhaps reflecting their wish to grow their employee numbers, but access to markets is also key

  • Like their peers, diverse businesses cite access to talent and access to markets in their top 3 barriers to growth (both 62% compared to 60% and 66% respectively for their peers). This is followed by access to finance with 4 in 10 challenged with that in common with their peers. 
  • When asked to pick their number one top priority there was a clear gap, with  4 in 10 picking access to talent, while 2 in 10 picked access to markets, compared to their peers where almost as many picked access to markets as their number one priority (27%) as access to talent (32%).

However attitudinally, diverse businesses do see issues around future growth, including challenges around planning for growth and the UK being a good business location in future:

  • Diverse businesses are as likely to think they are outperforming their peers (51% v 50% of other scaling businesses without diverse leaders). 
  • However they do see issues to their future ambitions: they are more likely to worry about the UK being a good location for business in the future (43% v 35%). 4 in 10 agree that most of the advice and finance is provided in London and the South East, in line with their peers. 

Many of these diverse businesses have an appetite for help and advice that is not currently being met, especially through networks of peers 

  • Over half (54%) of these diverse businesses feel there is little support available for businesses like theirs (v 42%) 
  • They are more likely than their peers to think various forms of support and advice would be very useful for their business, most notably peer to peer networks (39% v 26%). 
  • Almost half (47%) are looking for better access to support from local or national Government (v 34% of other scaling businesses) and other popular mentions were Growth Hubs and LEPs (42% v 35% of other scaling businesses) and public sector funding for innovation (42% v 46%. 4 in 10 also want easier access to support from Innovate UK (39%).
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