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A growth conversation with...Ian Liddle

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In our latest growth conversation blog we speak to Ian Liddle, head of commercial at Farleys Solicitors LLP, a Boost & Co member.

What type of advice is in demand at the moment from growing businesses within your customer base? As confidence returns to the economy, businesses are now actively looking to reinvigorate themselves following a period of hibernation. This inevitably leads to requirements for advice for expansion and we have seen significant interest from businesses looking to move into larger premises to facilitate future growth.

In your experience, what are the top three challenges facing growing businesses at the moment? As always happens in a recovery, businesses across many different sectors ‘wake up’ at the same time and start to grow. This applies pressure to existing resources; be it the existing number of staff or the premises they occupy. There has been very little in commercial property development across the region since 2008 and although there has not been much demand during that period, the lack of supply going forward poses a serious issue for business.

As confidence grows, retention of key staff becomes an issue. During a time of uncertainty, employees tend to choose job security over personal ambition. Now the economy is more positive and your competitors are seeking to grow they will actively look to recruit the best quality staff and your employees will become more receptive to such approaches. Taking steps to retain your key staff is critical to ensure that at best your business can achieve growth, but at worst that you at the very least maintain your market position.

 What high growth business do you most admire and why? Businesses within the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Faced with massive pressure on price, both in terms of their selling price and the cost of raw materials, I have seen my clients take extremely bold decisions to invest in highly advanced technology at significant cost. These decisions were high risk but as a result of them these businesses have seen significant growth and are experiencing a reversal of fortunes. Customers are now looking for reliability and accessibility of engineering and manufacturing solutions within the UK rather than pursuing perceived cheaper options in the Far East.

Which high growth entrepreneur would you most like to invite over for dinner and why? Mark Zuckerberg – founder of Facebook. I really admire his entrepreneurial spirit and the way that he has faced and dealt with many challenges through his relatively short but incredibly successful career. I would like ask him whether he spends more time dealing with lawyers than he does with his family. He has faced so many legal cases but appears to adopt a pragmatic and very commercial view in dealing with them.

If you could go back in time to the beginning of your own business growth journey, what one piece of advice would you give your younger self? Never set yourself limits. Your perception of your own limitations is the only bar to progress and success. So many people are inhibited by ‘glass ceilings’ they impose upon themselves.  Be true to your values, but believe that you can achieve anything with hard work and dogged determination.

How can Lancashire businesses ensure they continue growing? Make sure you choose your advisers carefully as they can genuinely add value to your business. Choose profit over turnover and to coin an old cliché “look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”.

What are the key legal considerations for growing businesses? Make sure your contracts with suppliers and customers are up to date and clear. It is no good setting off on a growth path on the assumption that you have a contract with a particular customer or supplier critical to your growth which subsequently transpires to be not what you thought it was. Businesses make commitments based on their genuinely held belief of their contractual position but frequently their belief differs from reality. Mistakes at that level can prove very costly and can set back your growth for a number of years.

How can business owners protect themselves against the key risks for growing businesses? Identify who your key partners are in your business whether these be suppliers, customers or advisers. Ask yourself what your key requirements are under the terms of any contracts you may have with them. Once you have identified these, get your lawyer to review the contracts to see how they cater for those specific issues.

Businesses should also review their contracts of employment for their key staff. Now that staff are more mobile, ensure that your contracts are robust in protecting against staff leaving and poaching your customers and suppliers and profiting from your confidential information.

Find out more To find out more about Boost Business Lancashire, and to start your growth conversation complete our online form or call 0800 488 0057.

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