Good staff are essential to beating the competition - but are increasingly hard to find, West Midlands entrepreneurs have claimed.
A survey of the West Midland's top entrepreneurs by accountants Ernst & Young saw 59 per cent agree that staff are the key to topping business rivals, but 55 per cent said that finding the right people is the biggest stumbling block when trying to respond to new market opportunities and increased competition.
Amid rising concerns among employers about the growing skills shortage, the Enterprise Survey has revealed that leading business leaders are investing more time and money in structured career development and fringe benefits, which are helping them to retain quality staff.
Andy Glover, entrepreneurial growth markets specialist for Ernst & Young in the West Midlands, said: "The figures confirm that the 'people-orientated entrepreneur' has emerged as a key figure in the enterprise culture of the region.
"This is a reflection of the importance business leaders put on retaining good staff and the fact that people are a real asset to a business."
One Staffordshire entrepreneur, whose business has grown over six years history to produce turnover in 2004 of £80 million, believes that the right staff have been fundamental to his success.
Ian Allen, founder of car supermarket firm Motorhouse 2000, has seen many of his staff stay with him from the start - something he puts down to providing ample opportunities for progression and training.
He said: "Our key staff have been here from the start and, as they've seen the company grow, they've stayed loyal."
Although Mr Allen believes that talented employees are out there, he passionately believes in offering further training to his team.
He said: "We currently have two members of management on part- time degrees at Loughborough University.
"Obviously sometimes you do make the investment in people and then they move on.
"However, we've haven't had that so far. We provide training opportunities and promote from within, which I think helps - people are more committed if they can see a career path in the company."
Based at Wyrley Brook Retail Park in Cannock, Mr Allen employs around 120 staff members across two sites. The second Motorhouse site - opened in 2003 at a nine-acre site in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire - is now managed by Mark Crossley, who started as sales staff at Motorhouse's Cannock site.
Mr Allen is ambitious for Motorhouse which refinanced last year, raising in excess of £14.5 million. He said: " Subject to satisfactory trading conditions, I would like to open another site in the south and will be seeking to acquire other main dealer franchises.
" The car market is extremely challenged at the moment, but we consider ourselves match-fit to see this period through."
Last month Mr Allen was announced as a regional finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards.
However, he says that his success, for a large part, has been a tribute to his staff.
"At the end of the day, business is built on people - its customers and its staff - and there is no doubt our staff have made a big contribution," he said.