Growth companies remain the driving force behind the Belgian economy

Results of the ‘Belgian High Growth Monitor’

Although they form a small minority of all Belgian companies with at least 10 employees, high-growth companies are making their mark on both employment and economic growth in Belgium.

This is evident from the annual study by Professor Hans Crijns and researcher Yannick Dillen into the evolution and characteristics of Belgian growth companies. The study was conducted by the ‘Growth Management for Medium-Sized Enterprises’ Impulse Centre at Vlerick Business School, in collaboration with EY and KBC.

Of a total of 22,442 Belgian companies with at least 10 employees, 744 companies – or 3.16% – satisfy the profile of high growth in terms of employment. Of all the jobs that were created by Belgian companies with at least 10 employees in the period between 2013 and 2016, high-growth companies were responsible for almost 85%. This translated into the creation of 70,967 new jobs, or an average of 95 extra jobs per growth company.

If we look at added value, there are 1,532 companies – or 6.83% – which are experiencing rapid growth. These are the highest figures since the study was launched. Together, they are responsible for 48% of the total increase in added value which was achieved by all Belgian companies with at least 10 employees. During the period 2013-2016, they generated 11.3 billion euros of added value, with an average added value of 7.38 million euros per growth company.

In this study, high-growth companies are defined as companies with at least 10 employees that, over a period of three years, experience an increase of over 20% per year in the areas of employment or added value. As a result, they have a significant impact on both job creation and employment and the growth of the GDP. The most recent figures refer to the period from 2013 to 2016.

Who are they?

  • High-growth companies are mainly found in the service sector and more specifically in the knowledge industry (IT, communication, science, technology and administration). Sectors such as wholesale, retail, construction and production are under-represented.
  • Geographically speaking, they are mainly found in the province of Antwerp. There are hardly any high-growth companies in the provinces of Hainaut and Liège. However, the absolute hotspot is the Brussels-Capital Region: it is here that we find 16.5% of the growers in terms of employment and 14% of the growers in terms of added value.
  • At the beginning of their growth period they were less profitable than other companies with at least 10 employees; however, after three years they were more profitable. Rapid growth therefore goes hand in hand with an increase in profits.
  • They are fairly mature companies with an average of 60 employees at the start of their growth period and 108 employees at the end of the three years.

The voice of the entrepreneur

For the first time, the results were supplemented with a survey of the CEOs of 109 growth companies.

What stimulates their growth?
  • 36% of the companies chose a strategy of product development (selling new products/services in an existing market)
  • When asked about specific actions undertaken to increase the turnover, 67% of the respondents mentioned the introduction of new products/services, 40% focused on marketing and 40% on partnerships with other companies
  • In 60% of the companies, the growth was internal; 40% grew by means of acquisition
What inhibits the growth?
  • The biggest obstacle to further growth is attracting the right talents: 76% stated that they had trouble filling vacancies. The problem mainly involves technical profiles such as engineers and project leaders.
  • One possible consequence is that a flawed internal structure (22%) and lack of management capacities (23%) may also inhibit growth.
  • Contrary to expectations, financing is not really a problem: 7 out of 10 CEOs say that they have sufficient access to capital.
What should the government do to encourage growth?
  • A more flexible labour market (76%)
  • A reduction in regulations and legislation (65%)
  • Lower tax rates (59%)
How international are our growth companies?
  • 78% of the growth companies achieve turnover outside of Belgium and 3 in 10 receive more than 60% of their income from abroad
  • 1 in 5 only export between 1% and 10% and the same number of companies don't export at all
  • However, 51% of the companies do not sell outside Europe
How digitally minded are our growth companies?
  • 63% of the companies do not use online sales channels
  • 96% of the companies sell less than 10% online

Download the complete research report 'Belgian High Growth Monitor'.

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