Today’s business world is one characterised by significant levels of change and by uncertainty. The economic picture for many countries in Europe remains difficult and, as a result, businesses continue to face a challenging journey. It is true to say that economic news is full of short term gloom, but through fixating on the difficult times we are at risk of passing by the great success stories that abound across Europe. Despite what the headlines might tell us, there are many companies in Europe using their skills and business knowledge to buck the economic trend and create real wealth and opportunity.
And in fact the current climate makes it is more important than ever to acknowledge the outstanding resourcefulness, entrepreneurialism and innovation that continues to drive business success in Europe. We should be trumpeting these success stories, giving them confidence and inspiring others by showing them what can still be achieved despite. A better, stronger and motivated business climate can only be of benefit to European businesses as they look to growth opportunities in the recovery.
A good example of where this is happening already is the European Business Awards (EBA) which HSBC has been involved in for two years now. Reaching businesses across multiple sectors, countries and sizes, the awards aim to highlight, champion and reward our continent’s success stories. We have reached the final stage of judging for 2011 – with 100 ‘Ruban D’Honneur’ recipients selected from across Europe through a rigorous multi stage judging process now waiting to hear if they are a winner of one of the 10 coveted awards. Every year, we see hundreds of business leaders put forward compelling arguments as to why their own company is a deserving winner, which makes the judging panel’s job an extremely tough one. But although challenging, this process is also extremely rewarding for those involved, including myself, by reconfirming to us the talent the region boasts.
Through the EBAs we have learnt a lot about the resourcefulness and optimism we have across Europe: from retail to manufacturing to energy, all are firms that have managed to weather the fierce economic storm; and between them the companies involved in this year’s awards have a combined turnover of more than €766bn. They account for 6% of EU GDP and employ over three and a half million people across Europe. We have also seen how ambitious businesses remain – something backed up by my conversations with HSBC customers right across the region. All continue to look for opportunities to grow their business, through new products, services or markets. And they are right to do so; our new HSBC Trade Connections report predicts that Europe will play a key role in driving world trade to 2025, strengthening over the next 15 years, and developing a greater global presence and influence. What’s more, its trade will grow faster than the world as a whole and in fact European businesses will increase trade by 4% a year in the next five years (double the growth predicted for the rest of the world).
So, there is real resilience in tough times, and many businesses are seizing the opportunities to thrive. Many have taken valuable lessons from the challenging external environment and employed new strategies to build better, stronger business models for the future. Through highlighting how these firms have overcome economic adversity to succeed they can act as inspiration to others and help our region continue to grow in the years to come.