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Overconfidence on productivity is hampering manufacturing firms’ performance

30 May 2018

Be the Business, a new organisation created to improve the productivity of UK firms, is encouraging bosses not to rest on their laurels, and introduce improvements to boost their performance.

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Be the Business finds that the vast majority of manufacturing bosses rate their skills highly relative to their peers. However, they invest little time in making their businesses run better. 

The survey of over 1,000 SME business owners and managers found that:

• More than four in five (84 percent) of manufacturing bosses surveyed believe their business is as productive as or more productive than their peers, compared with the UK average of 79 percent. This shows a similar result to previous research by the CIPD which shows almost 95 percent of UK employees believe they are as or more productive than their peers. 
• Over a quarter (28 percent) of all SME businesses surveyed have never evaluated their business practices to identify areas of improvement. 
• Manufacturing bosses cited lack of time as the biggest reason for not adopting best practices in their business’ (34 percent agreed), while 13 percent struggle to find what best practice looks like for their firm, and a further 13 percent don’t know where to go for advice on boosting performance. 
• The wider survey of over 1,000 small business owners (fewer than 50 employees) found that they are more humble than their larger competition. While three quarters (77 percent) of small business leaders rate their performance as equal to or better than their peers, 87 percent of medium size business (50-249 employees) feel the same.

Productivity in the UK decreased by 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018. According to Be the Business, these stark figures should act as a wake-up call for UK businesses which appear no closer to closing the gap with more competitive economies like France and Germany. 

Be the Business is urging bosses to use Brexit as a spur to take stock and assess how good their business really is compared to their peers. It has developed a benchmarking tool to enable business leaders to compare their firms with the competition and find practical advice on what they can do to improve their performance. 

Tony Danker, chief executive, Be the Business said: “Evidence shows that business leaders consistently overestimate the performance of their businesses, and Brexit will only increase the demand for our firms to be more competitive. Manufacturing bosses must raise the performance of their businesses to put themselves in the best place to manage the challenges and opportunities life outside the EU will bring. 

“The UK has a long way to go in order to catch up with our European neighbours who are able to produce in four days, what it takes five to produce in the UK. With less than a year to go before we leave the EU, bosses must start now to make Britain’s economy the most competitive in Europe.

"If bosses commit to improving their firms' performance, British business will thrive whatever our post-Brexit landscape looks like."

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