Stewart Barnes, MD of QuoLux: Follow the leader and growth will happen

Stewart Barnes (c) Shadowplay Media Ltd

Stewart Barnes (c) Shadowplay Media Ltd - Credit: Archant

The key to business and economic growth in the UK is strong leadership from business owners. That’s the rallying call from Stewart Barnes, managing director of QuoLux

Improving the leadership of small and medium sized enterprises holds the key to economic growth, according to Stewart Barnes.

“An extra £60 billion of potential GDP may be locked away within the 250,000 SMEs that employ between 10 and 249 people,” he said.

This assertion is based on research in Stewart’s book, LEADing Small Business – Business Growth through Leadership Development, published last year to international acclaim.

The book, given to guests at last year’s Cotswold Life Engineering & Manufacturing Awards, indicates better leadership within these businesses holds the key to accelerating growth and unlocking this potential cash.

The sum is the equivalent of more than half of the annual NHS budget.

“Just five per cent of all the companies in the UK – the small and medium businesses – are responsible for employing almost a third of the working population and producing almost a third of our GDP,” says Stewart, managing director of the leadership consultancy based in Hatherley Lane, Cheltenham.

He says research carried out on owner-managers and directors who had experienced best practice in leadership development, showed sales grew by almost a third and that they employed 13% more people than those who had not.

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“Traditional leadership development in the UK has clearly failed as more than two-thirds of workers, an eye watering 20 million people, are disengaged,” says Stewart. “I believe we should have an ambitious vision to drive economic growth by creating a change in leadership practice.”

His argument is backed up by research from the University of Gloucestershire.

The study, published in March by the newly-formed Centre for Innovation and Productivity, examines the drivers and barriers for SMEs in the race to increase productivity.

Professor Malcolm Prowle, who led the research, said: “SMEs are key to achieving a balanced UK economy and to meeting the challenges of Brexit.

“We must support businesses to overcome the obstacles they identify in this study.”

Despite most leaders acknowledging its importance, many businesses in the study were unsure whether their productivity had increased or decreased.

Understanding the relationship between productivity, growth and profitability was also unclear.

“Companies see a number of barriers facing them in the pursuit of improved productivity,” said Prof Prowle.

“But these are rarely concerns about macro-issues such as infrastructure, funding and regulation. They’re concerned about a lack of skilled staff, management time to make the necessary changes and a lack of information on which to base decisions.

“A company culture that values strategy and innovation is considered important by most, as is effective leadership.”

Stewart, who was involved in the research in his role as visiting fellow at the university, added: “There is a compelling rationale for sharing knowledge within the business and academic communities in order to support leaders.

“This was evident not only in this research study, but through years of experience supporting owner-managers to grow their firms through equipping them with the skills – and self-belief – to lead, engage and innovate.” n

For a copy of the research and information about the latest leadership development programmes, visit

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