Small firms learn the German lesson

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Companies have been urged to form the equivalent of the German ‘Mittelstand’ to boost growth and exports.

The ‘Mittelstand’ is made up of Small and Medium Enterprises who have established a formal group to represent them in various ways, including for export purposes.

The call came from the head of the CBI’s exports policy Jim Bligh, speaking at an export event organised by law firm Nabarro at its Sheffield office.

Mr Bligh said: “By acting together, the Mittelstand has become a very powerful force within the German economy and packs a bigger punch than others when approaching new export markets.

“It is not unrealistic for Yorkshire to form its own Mittelstand, based on the depth of manufacturing expertise already here, and deliver growth for all.

“As with our own SMEs, Mittelstand companies are defined by the owner taking the business decisions and assuming the risks and liability.

“They work with long-term goals in mind and place value on lasting relationships with customers, suppliers and employees.

“They are technology-driven and their key sales driver is not the price but the quality and innovations they deliver.”

Mr Bligh also urged Yorkshire SMEs to focus more on breaking into new fast-growing markets and not rely solely on traditional markets like the EU and US, which receive 62 per cent of all UK exports.

Two of Nabarro’s partners - Martin McKervey, from the firm’s Sheffield office and Emerson Holmes from its office in Singapore, backed Mr Bligh’s call.

Mr McKervey said: “It is clear that a Mittelstand approach would benefit the region’s SMEs and this concept should be fed into the Economic Growth Plan for the City Region that is currently being prepared.

“This has the potential to be transformational.”