Short-term planning threatens entrepreneurial growth and innovation

29 September 2021

  • Three quarters of businesses lack confidence that their strategy is future-proof and able to withstand socioeconomic challenges
  • 70% of businesses only planning nine months ahead, which could derail their growth and innovation ambitions 
  • Two fifths are only planning six months in advance
  • More than three quarters shared they’re likely to test out new business ideas or innovate in 2021-2022
  • Yet 21% of companies recognise a lack of strategic planning will mean they’re unable to develop and launch new products or services.    

A new report which looks at barriers to growth for the UK’s entrepreneurial businesses has revealed 70% of companies are only planning nine months ahead, despite ambitions to launch new products and services and three quarters lacking confidence that their strategy is future-proof.

According to BDO’s The Ambitious Entrepreneur: Tackling Your Barriers to Growth Report, two fifths of the companies surveyed are only planning six months ahead, which means they only have visibility until March next year. 

More than three quarters of companies shared they’re likely - to some degree - to test out new business ideas or innovate this year and next, but 21% recognise a lack of planning will prohibit this innovation. 

Mark Sykes, Head of Entrepreneurial Business, BDO LLP said: “Ambitious, entrepreneurial businesses underpin all sectors and regions of the UK and will be key to the UK’s future economic prosperity. It’s concerning but not surprising to see so many struggling to strategically plan more than six months in advance. 

“The last 20 months have demonstrated that plans need to be flexible. For this type of business, it is often their agility which gives them a competitive advantage. However, creativity alone won’t sustain innovation and there needs to be a firm focus on planning and commercialising ideas if businesses are serious about growth and not losing ground to competitors.”

BDO’s research found that a third of respondents try to handle operations, growth, funding, talent and compliance internally with their existing team.

Mark Sykes concluded: “When speaking to these businesses, the ambition and talent is clear. These dynamic businesses already face disproportionate challenges when it comes to issues like funding, talent and navigating red tape, but are consistently creative in overcoming these barriers. We’re already seeing businesses work hard to attract and retain talent to support their growth against a challenging backdrop. Taking a long-term view rather than reactive hiring will support future growth and ensure a business is truly scaleable. 

“I’d urge entrepreneurial businesses not to get in the way of their own potential by taking a short-term or inward view and seek the support they need to build a longer-term strategy that will allow them innovate and to maintain a competitive advantage.”


BDO surveyed over 225 ambitious, entrepreneurial businesses in the United Kingdom to gauge the types of growing pains they have experienced in 2020, while also looking to get a view into how they plan to approach their corporate strategy and growth plans in 2021-2022. The survey was fielded in September 2021 and targeted ambitious, entrepreneurial businesses with a total of 11 to 250 employees. More specifically, the survey targeted the following job functions/roles within these businesses - founders, owners, partners, CEOs, Finance Directors and CFOs.

Note to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world. 

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high-growth businesses that fuel the economy.  

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed.  

BDO LLP operates in 18 offices across the UK, employing 6,000 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO international network.

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