British firms face challenges, but we’re used to beating the odds

Get the London look.” We’ve heard this repeatedly from Kate Moss in her glossy ads over the years. But beneath the lipstick lies a message for the City, one that speaks to the aspiration and ambition fuelling our capital.

If you want evidence of the London look in business, glance no further than the stock of high potential, high growth scaleups that embody the quest for success. It’s a look that has attracted entrepreneurs from all over the world to start their businesses here, and it shows little sign of abating.

Figures reported by City A.M. this week show that London is creating jobs at the fastest rate in over a year, while the Centre for Entrepreneurs reveals that over 30 per cent of all businesses registered with HMRC are here in London.

The City has been the golden goose for so long, one might conclude that London’s growth culture knows no limits. But the reality is that we need to maintain it.

Powerful interests from around the world assume Brexit will dim London’s light as a beacon of success. I recently heard a German entrepreneur comment that London has been the shooting star in Europe’s economy until now, but in future it will be just one star in the constellation. It’s not a projection London should feel comfortable with – beneath the apparent allure of collaboration sits the prospect of decline.

That’s where culture comes in. It’s the set of attitudes that inspire people and their companies to succeed in the good times and the bad. Cobra founder Lord Bilimoria told a gathering of the Leap last year that what business needs is guts. And you can make the same argument for London.

So many of the challenges facing our city are also plaguing our successful firms. But as many a founder will tell you, beating the odds is an essential part of the scaleup mindset. This environment encourages people to attempt the seemingly impossible. Talking about her determination to teach code in one day, co-founder of Decoded Kathryn Parsons says: “we started with an impossible challenge and as we go forward will continue to set ourselves these goals.”

Scaleups also carry cultures of self-improvement. Take a look at the ecommerce company Next Jump, which encourages its employees to find their weakness and not to hide it or run around it (as you would find in most companies), but be open and actively work to improve it. When we first started, people thought we looked like a fun place to work,” says Unruly founder and recent City A.M. Entrepreneur of the Year, Sarah Wood. “We had people applying who just wanted to work somewhere cool. But these people were not what we were looking for.

We want the geeks.” The innovative companies we celebrate through the Leap are great examples of growth cultures that should inspire London as it faces a new chapter of change. Our successful firms often make change look effortless and that’s a big part of the enduring appeal of London. People want to be here because they believe that they can make it. But it’s never as easy as it looks and beneath that glossy exterior, there is hard work at play. That’s the London look.