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Productivity got us here and productivity can get us out


UK productivity. It’s flatlining.

This is the issue that brought us to Brexit. Now it’s the issue that will decide how much it hurts. 


In his September spending review, chancellor Sajid Javid put a price on the problem: £5,000 a year, for every household. Think about that. If productivity had continued to grow at levels prior to the financial crisis, average annual wages today would be £5,000 higher. That’s why it was heartening to see the chancellor confirm the government’s focus on productivity as we square up to Brexit.

As you prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU, it’s vital that you also start preparing for new deals. Sales competitiveness, operational efficiency, and superb talent management practices will determine a company’s ability to win post-Brexit. It may not be in the foreground, but far-sighted businesses are already gearing up for tougher competition: for talent, for contracts, for suppliers and for customers.

Economists will tell you that productivity correlates strongly with exports. That’s because exposure to best-in-class global competition brings out the best in domestic firms. British business owners are already fighting hard to prove their value to international customers. The best are using the time ahead not only to get ready for Brexit, but also to get match fit for new competitive realities.

Uncertain times may not be good for business investment, but they can be good for business readiness. And now is the right time for UK businesses to study the best around them – their pioneering peers in the UK or other countries. There is much for business to be purposeful about, regardless of drama in Westminster or Brussels.

Now is a time for bi-focal lenses. Prepare for Brexit of course. But see that if we can bump up productivity, it’s actually the end of the beginning.


Be the Business is a not-for-profit on a mission to improve the UK’s productivity. We’re doing it by helping small and medium-sized business leaders do more of what they do best: improve, inspire and innovate. Join our mission here.

From an article by Tony Danker, (CEO of Be the Business) that first appeared in City A.M. on September 6 2019.

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