The main concern for medium-sized companies is increasing competition from illicit trade, a survey has shown.

Competition and a lack of a level playing field was disheartening business owners who said they were the primary constraints to the growth of their business.

Other barriers to growth mentioned by the business owners included the retention of staff, cash flow constraints, the economic environment, excessive regulation as well as bureaucracy and red tape.

The survey, conducted by the Chamber of Commerce and RSM, is targeted towards middle-market businesses that typically in-clude those employing between 50 and 250 members of staff.

Economic data indicates that the middle market segment accounts for almost a quarter of the local workforce in Malta, making them one of the larger employer sectors in the country.

The main sectors covered by the medium-sized companies include manufacturing, education, construction, waste collection, water, land and air transport, travel agencies, publishing firms, food and beverage, computer programming, consultancy and related activities.

Barriers to growth included retention of staff

The survey is designed to achieve a better understanding of the economic, financial and employment factors affecting the medium-sized enterprises and the effect on their performance.

Carried out in the first half of the year, the survey revealed that entrepreneurs considered long-standing relationships with clients, established market presence, service excellence, price competitiveness and expertise to be the main contributors towards a significant competitive advantage for Maltese mid-tier businesses.

The majority of those interviewed do not export their services or products as only 39 per cent of respondents said they exported. Of the companies surveyed, 94 per cent said that less than half of their workers were foreign nationals while 56 per cent of respondents described themselves as a family-owned operations or family-owned subsidiaries.

The majority of participants reported an increase in employment during the survey period while 48 per cent said they were successful in attracting talent in the manufacturing sector.

On the issue of employee retention, 77 per cent of respondents said they were very effective or fairly effective in retaining employees.

Among those companies offering services, the main threats to competitive advantage were low-cost competition, new entrants into the market and lack of training or losing experienced staff to competitors.

When asked about their imminent plans for the future, those firms in the Service Providers Economic Group mentioned staff development (67 per cent), growth in market share (50 per cent) and consolidation and stability (46 per cent).

Respondents were fairly positive about their company’s future prospects.

Half the respondents viewed their future prospects positively while three per cent viewed them negatively. The remaining 47 per cent said they expected them to remain the same as they are now.


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