IFF Research Business and Enterprise research services – what we  offer and how we can help your organisation succeed.

Making a difference at IFF Research

Over the course of this blog series we have presented our organisational values, looking at how they apply to the research industry and thinking about how they are lived at IFF.

Last week we looked at the importance of people in the provision of research, and prior to that we discussed how impartially and integrity must remain at the forefront of thinking in the industry. This week we discuss what we believe lies at the heart of industry’s existence, the provision of answers that have impact, inspire change and truly make a difference.

How research makes a difference

We want our research to make a difference, whether this be results influencing government policy or companies making key strategic investment decisions based on the robust, reliable insight we provide. Even where findings confirm the current ‘direction of travel’, our results can ensure decisions and policy are justified by the evidence.

Neil Armstrong summed it up well when he said “Research is creating new knowledge”. In predicting, informing and influencing the future, research enables firms and policy makers to manage uncertainty and take informed next steps.

The influence of research

One area in which our work and the work of others in our industry has a clear influence is in policy development. Evidence is a vital component in the decision making process for Government especially where value for money needs to be proven: findings from research can justify investments in areas such as regulatory reform or changes to the benefits system. We provide some examples of how IFF’s work has made a difference below:

Apprenticeship and training levies

Over the last year we have been involved in a number of projects that have helped shape levy policy. A soon-to-be published report for BEIS/DfE has examined how medium and large employers plan to respond to the imminent apprenticeship levy (coming into effect in 2017), and has fed in to its still on-going development. Similarly, research for CITB assessing employer views on the likely impact of the apprenticeship levy alongside the existing CITB levy have been used in the organisation’s response to government highlighting the potential impact for the construction sector. These findings help provide the confidence necessary to implement changes and minimise risk.

Pregnancy and Maternity discrimination

Our study into Pregnancy and Maternity discrimination for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, involving over 3,000 interviews with recent mothers, and showing high proportions feeling poorly treated by their employer during pregnancy or whole on maternity leave, has led to calls for change in employer attitudes and behaviour, and more directly led to EHRC launching #PowertotheBump, a digital campaign to help young expectant and new mothers know their rights at work and have the confidence to stand up for them.

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/news/powertothebump-unites-young-mothers-fight-against-pregnancy-and-maternity

This type of research highlights issues that could otherwise go unnoticed and supports the case for change.

Business Omnibus

Research can also be crucial for businesses, and enables them to take informed ‘leaps of faith’ towards new markets, new products or to inform strategy. This is often the difference between success and failure, and we are always looking at new ways in which we can assist these types of organisations in planning for the future.

One offer we have developed in this area is our Business Omnibus. This ongoing survey of businesses helps those working in the B2B space and gives companies the opportunity to get the views and opinions of UK business owners. This gives businesses unprecedented access to their core customers and again enables intelligence-led decision making.

Anything that influences decision making impacts the world around us, but in our view it takes an independent outlook, integrity, motivated, skilled staff and an ambition to influence positive change and really make a difference.

How will UK businesses react to Brexit?

So, it has happened. We are now in a post-Brexit society. In the build up to the referendum the general attitude was one of uncertainty, of not knowing which way the UK would vote. Now the uncertainty is focused on how the referendum outcome is going to be implemented.

IFF Research’s business omnibus has been tracking the outlook of UK businesses in the buildup to the referendum and from the data we can see the impact of the Brexit. In December 2015, we can see that two in five businesses (42%) expected their financial position to improve over the coming year, falling to 38% in March 2016. As the political rhetoric increased, and the public became increasingly sensitized to the importance of the upcoming referendum, the uncertainty of the outcome has driven number of optimistic businesses down to a third 35%. See details below:

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We now stand at one of the most unpredictable points in British history with so much ambiguity that it is almost difficult to comprehend. Gaining access to the views of UK businesses at this crucial time is of vital importance and you can do so by adding questions to the next wave of IFF’s Business Omnibus. Contact us below for details and watch this space for further information:

Call: 020 7250 3035

Email: businessomnibus@iffresearch.com

Brexit – What next for the UK?

The dust is still some way from settling after a dramatic night in UK politics. Contrary to the predictions of most pollsters, bookies, political commentators (and some IFF Directors…), the UK has voted to leave the European Union.

An unclear future

What we have now is a period of considerable uncertainty, but first let’s focus on what we do know – at least at the point of writing. The Prime Minister has handed in his notice, and we will have a new PM by October. It feels certain that whoever takes over will have been in favour of Brexit, and it is also certain that it will be the subject of much debate and speculation over the next few months. Indeed, the Conservative leadership competition threatens to distract from the practicalities of leaving the EU. We know that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which will trigger the start of the process – will not be invoked until there’s a new PM in place. However, little is known about what Brexit might look like in practice. Which EU legislation will we retain, and which will go? How will Brexit impact on the UK’s trading agreements – with the EU and beyond? And what of the devolved nations? Scotland voted strongly for Remain, and the SNP will surely push for another referendum on their future in the UK.

Forecasts and expectations

The Remain campaign focused heavily on the economy, predicting job losses and even recession. We won’t know how accurate those predictions are for some time but there will certainly be far-reaching implications for consumers and businesses. In the immediate term the uncertainty is already causing problems. We have seen big falls in the markets, and a huge devaluation of the Pound. If the latter continues, it may boost exports in the short-term, but imported goods will be more expensive. The resulting inflation may see the Bank of England – which has said it would take whatever decisive action necessary to support the UK economy through the transition – could move to increase interest rates, which would in turn have an impact for consumers and businesses looking to borrow.

Whatever happens next, politicians and civil servants face a tough challenge in the coming months. Many questions will need to be answered, and this will need to be achieved while maintaining a strong economy in a tumultuous political climate.

To Remain or to Brexit: Business opinions

The latest wave of IFF’s Business Omnibus has revealed an increase in those against remaining part of the EU, meaning the businesses view is evenly balanced heading into the final weeks of campaigning.

With only three weeks to go until the referendum, the impact of EU membership on businesses continues to be at the centre of both campaigns.

IFF has been tracking the views of UK firms since August last year. Our latest survey shows that previously undecided businesses are swinging to Brexit, boosting the proportion of businesses who consider their future will be better served outside the EU to 35% – up from 26% two months ago.

As we have reported before, there is a notable difference between businesses of different sizes. Sole traders are more likely to adopt an anti-EU stance than all other businesses (39% vs 24%).

Businesses in favour of remaining in the EU cite concerns around instability as their principle reasoning (34% give this as a reason), while those preferring to leave are most likely to mention loss of sovereignty to Brussels (57%).

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With business decision-makers climbing off the fence, it raises the question as to whether this trend will continue among those who have yet to make a decision. One thing is clear from our analysis – once a decision is made, business decision-makers don’t tend to change their minds: 85% of those with a view on the EU say that they have not changed their opinion in the last 6 months.

Meanwhile, the divide in the Cabinet over Europe does not appear to have had a negative impact on either the Leave campaign or the party image with businesses; 38% advocate the Conservatives as the best party for businesses like theirs, around the same as in March (35%).

With public and business opinion finely balanced as we enter the final weeks, we will eagerly await the outcome on 23rd June.

The future of the Business Omnibus….

IFF’s Business Omnibus is a bi-monthly survey of UK Businesses and you can add your own bespoke questions to our next wave for as little as £500 per question. Joining the Business Omnibus is a simple and cost effective way for you to gain a unique insight into the thoughts and experiences of UK businesses. Whether you are looking to measure response to a recent marketing campaign or prepare for a new product launch add your questions to the next Omnibus by contacting a member of our Business and Enterprise team today!

Call: 020 7250 3035
Email: businessomnibus@iffresearch.com

IFF Report on Enterprise Finance Guarantee

A review of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG), featuring research from IFF, has been published. Findings from the review, aimed at maximising the support that EFG offers to smaller businesses, include the following:

  • EFG continues to meet a need in the market for smaller business finance.
  • EFG is broadly effective as currently configured.
  • Early discussions indicate merit in exploring an asset finance variant.
  • Enhancements could be made to some operational and communication aspects.

The full report can be downloaded here:

EFG Strategic and Operational Design Review

IFF Research’s qualitative research that helped inform the EFG design review

Business opinion increasingly divided over EU future

The latest wave of IFF’s Business Omnibus has revealed increasingly divided business opinion between those in favour and those against remaining part of the EU.

With the date of the EU referendum now set for the 23rd June and both sides’ campaigns in full swing, the debate over the UK’s future in the EU is heating up and producing its fair share of controversy. A central theme of the arguments – on both sides of the table – has been about the economy and the impact a departure from the EU would have on British businesses.

IFF has been tracking the views of UK firms since August last year, when we reported that all was to play for in the battleground for the business vote. In the following four months, we saw a drop in Euroscepticism – the proportion of businesses saying that it would be in their business’s best interests for the UK to leave the EU fell from 31% in August to 16% in December. Since then, however, business opinion has become divided once again, with 32% saying it would be in their interests to remain in the EU and 26% saying it would be best to leave. Of course, it is individuals rather than businesses that will cast their votes in June, and it is notable that those speaking on behalf of larger businesses are more likely to adopt a pro-EU stance; more than half (57%) of those with 250+ employees felt it was in their best interests to remain part of the EU, compared with 31% of sole traders.

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We speculated in August last year that the Conservative line on Europe might play a significant role, as the majority of business representatives said that they are the best party for businesses like theirs: 42% vs 5% Labour at that point. Now it has become clear that there is no Conservative line on Europe; individual members of the Cabinet have declared their position – with several high profile ministers backing the Vote Leave campaign. It will be interesting to see what impact this split may have on business opinion in the run up to the poll, and also to see whether there is a knock-on impact on businesses’ perceptions of which party best reflects their interests. Since the Cabinet came out on different sides, the proportion of businesses advocating Labour as the best party for businesses like theirs has doubled (from 5% to 10%), although the Conservatives still hold a very clear lead (35%).

The future of the Business Omnibus….

Joining the Business Omnibus is a simple and cost effective way for you to gain a unique insight into the thoughts and experiences of UK businesses. Whether you are looking to measure response to a recent marketing campaign or prepare for a new product launch add your questions to the next Omnibus by contacting a member of our Business and Enterprise team today!

Call: 020 7250 3035

Email: businessomnibus@iffresearch.com

Professional service providers need to think small

Research reveals opportunities for professional service providers in the UK

IFF’s latest Business Omnibus has revealed a gap in the use of professional services by UK firms. While most businesses have employed the services of an accountant, an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) or a lawyer in the last twelve months, around one in ten have not used any of these services (11%). This is more prevalent among sole traders (13% compared with around 5% for all other firms) suggesting there may be an opportunity for professional service firms to target smaller firms or offer a variant of their offering that would appeal to this market.

Accountants are the most commonly used of the professional service providers – more than four in five UK businesses have used their services in the last year, and this is consistent across firms of all sizes. Slightly fewer have used an IFA (around three in ten), but this is also similar across the board. Lawyers, however, appear to be largely the preserve of larger firms, 22% of all businesses have employed their services in the last year and this increases to 80% among those with 50 or more employees.

Customer Satisfaction levels
Businesses are happy with the service they receive from all three types of adviser – more than four in five say they are satisfied in each case. This suggests that there is an opportunity for the UK’s smallest firms to benefit from professional advice, as well as a gap in the market for professional service providers themselves.

Add your questions to the next Business Omnibus
To get exclusive access to the views and opinions of UK businesses add your own bespoke questions to the next wave of IFF’s Business Omnibus. Contact a member of our team:

Call: 020 7250 3035

Email: businessomnibus@iffresearch.com

ISBE Conference Review

The 38th annual Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) Conference held in Glasgow last week (11th-12th November) aimed to showcase innovation and excellence in international business leadership and did not disappoint. As always, the event brought together a very wide range of business owners, policy makers, academics and research specialists from around the world presenting the latest research on entrepreneurship and issues facing small businesses, and in turn stimulating extensive debate and discussion.

With public services braced for more spending cuts as part of the upcoming Spending Review, there was an acute awareness of the need for research to become even ‘smarter’ and more cost-effective, without compromising on rigour or robustness.

Keith Jackson of the University of Cumbria challenged a number of commonly-held views and beliefs with a particularly engaging and brilliantly presented paper on the ‘flipside’ of regulations. This paper showed that, for certain types of innovative and ‘high-end’ businesses, regulations can be highly beneficial, for example by allowing them to carve out a niche through helping others comply with particular regulations and/or by eliminating ‘rogue trader’ competition.

Growth Voucher Programme Evaluation

It was also very interesting to hear Khalid Khan from BIS talk about the latest developments in the Growth Voucher Programme Evaluation, for which IFF is undertaking extensive quantitative and qualitative fieldwork and analysis. It was hugely encouraging to see that policy makers and research practitioners see this as the ‘gold standard’ in research techniques into the benefits and impacts of business support interventions, and that despite budgetary pressures the value and importance of high-quality, rigorous research should not and cannot be underestimated.

IFF Business Omnibus update

Jeremy Corbyn’s emergence as Labour leader has been the centre of much debate over recent months but has he been able to convince businesses of his worth?

With many speculating about the potential impact of his leadership on Labour’s fortunes, we have asked 500 UK business owners if they have been swayed by Corbyn’s appointment and whether they think he will have a positive long term impact for the Labour party. These findings all come as part of IFF’s Business Omnibus programme.

Having reported last month that the majority of UK firms felt the Conservatives were the party that best represented the interests of businesses, in this month’s wave we explored the impact of Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party on these findings.

Labour’s reputation with businesses

The results of the survey showed that, for most businesses, Corbyn’s appointment would make no difference at all to their party preference (80%). However, there was an increase in the number of businesses who feel the Labour Party is the party that best represents their interests. Support for Labour rose from 5% to 16% and although the Conservatives still hold the majority, with 45% of votes, this suggests a shift away from those with no preference towards the Labour party.

However, a deeper look at the evidence suggests that Corbyn’s election may have done more harm than good for Labour’s reputation with business leaders as a whole.  More agree than disagree with the statement that Jeremy Corbyn “will consign Labour to another 10 years in opposition” (45% agree vs 22% disagree) and many business leaders disagree that “Jeremy Corbyn has made me feel more hopeful about the future of the country” (42% vs 26% agree).

While those who are pro-Corbyn feel he offers an alternative and consider him a principled upholder of social justice, the voices which decry him as too left-wing, outdated and unelectable continue to dominate.

We are still in the early days of his tenure, but it looks like Jeremy Corbyn faces an uphill struggle to persuade firms that Labour should be the party of choice for business in the UK.

Add your questions to our next Business Omnibus

To get exclusive access to the full set of findings from our next Business Omnibus and add your own bespoke questions to our next wave follow the link: Click Here

All to play for as businesses split over EU debate

The latest wave of IFF’s Business Omnibus has revealed that there is little between those in favour and those against remaining part of the EU. These exclusive findings have also shed light on some of the motivational factors behind the position of both large businesses and SME’s.

A date for the EU referendum has still yet to be fixed but this has not stopped it becoming one of the hottest topics of the party conference season and it seems no one side has been able to grab a stronghold over the business community thus far. IFF’s Business Omnibus remains on the pulse of the latest industry issues, extracting information directly from 500 UK businesses in our latest wave. The results from this survey suggest that opinion is still very much divided over the issue of EU membership with those who feel it is in their best interest to remain part of the EU making up a slight majority of 38% compared to 31% who feel it would be better to leave. A large chunk of businesses were found to be neutral or apathetic to the whole question – with 25% feeling that staying or going makes no difference to their business, and a further 10% unsure. A lot must hinge for both sides on mobilising these disaffected and disinterested players and we will be keeping a close eye on developments.

It will be fascinating to see how the Conservative stance will affect this – particularly as the majority of businesses feel that they are the best party for businesses like theirs (42% against 5% for Labour according to the latest IFF Business Omnibus results).  It’s therefore likely that the official Conservative line will carry weight with many of the undecided, however likely splits in the party will mean that there is everything to play for.

Differences between large and small businesses

It’s unlikely that a single, dominant view will emerge across the whole of the business population. There is considerable weight behind Europe from larger businesses 57% of those with 250+ employees felt it was in their best interests to remain part of the EU. This figure falls to 52% among medium sized businesses (50-249 employees) and is as low as 35% among sole traders who are the only group with a majority against remaining in the EU (37%).

Large Businesses:

The effect on turnover was predictably the main motivator behind the position taken by large businesses and they referenced the loss of customers and trade from leaving the EU as the key factor behind their choice (58%). It was interesting to see that 36% of large businesses who would prefer to leave said that their stance was based on what they have heard in the press. This would suggest a victory for anti EU voices in the media as it reflects quite a powerful impact on findings.

SME’s:

For small businesses the motivating factors were split between a range of issues but for many their belief in the EU or lack thereof was a key factor. A perceived lack of control seemed to be a big worry for SME’s showing a different perspective from the larger businesses who fear a disturbance to the current system and creation of potential barriers that could see them lose revenue. Many SME’s are unconcerned by these changes and their responses reflect this.

Jeremy Corbyn revealed this week that he will not be taking a stance against the European Union but it will be interesting to see how his emergence as Labour leader will affect the dominant narrative and mood of the country – we will be testing business opinion on the new leader as part of next month’s omnibus so watch this space.

The future of the Business Omnibus….

Joining the Business Omnibus is a simple and cost effective way for you to gain a unique insight into the thoughts and experiences of UK businesses. If you are looking to measure response to a recent marketing campaign, prepare for a new product launch or need any information from the business world add your questions to the next Omnibus by contacting a member of our Business and Enterprise team today!

Call: 020 7250 3035

Email: businessomnibus@iffresearch.com

For more information on the Business Omnibus visit our webpage click here