THE UK is among the world leaders for start-up businesses – but lags behind when it comes to encouraging them to grow.

That was among the messages at the annual Entrepreneurs Conference, held at the BIC by Poole-based business and tax advisers Inspire.

Warren Munson, managing director of Inspire, told guests: “In the UK, we’re third in the world for the number of start-ups. When you think of our small population size, that’s an incredible statistic.”

But he added that when it came to businesses that had grown consistently by more than 20 per cent a year, the UK fell to 13th.

He shared the ups and downs of his own entrepreneurial journey in a talk titled The Pains of Growth.

Neil Parker, market strategist and economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said British business needed to become more productive.

“For entrepreneurs it’s about doing things simpler, smarter and better,” he said.

But he said he found reasons for optimism.

“Maybe the uncertainty that’s been led by Brexit and rising prices is starting to fade. I would certainly anticipate we would see sterling start to come back in 2018,” he said.

“We hear a lot of positive news. I hear all this other stuff in the background about Brexit and interest rate hikes and regulation and productivity problems, but when we speak to managers, we hear an underlying confidence that regardless of what happens, they’re still doing very well,” he said.

He said the global economy seemed to be strengthening despite the current uncertainties and risks. “An agile, deal-making UK can actually be in a good place for 2018 and beyond,” he said.

Mark Cribb told the audience how he took over a run-down Boscombe bed and breakfast in 2015 and built the Urban Guild series of venues.

The business was at 45 per cent occupancy when the team had sought to reach 70 per cent by re-examining what they did.

“You’ve got to find something that gets you super-excited something you’re passionate about. It needs to be the reason for your existence,” he said.

“We appeal to optimists. Entrepreneurs and creatives and photographers and journalists. All these people seem to like and appreciate what we do.”

The process led to Urban Guild setting up a Hug Club, offering loyalty card holders a host of rewards including Prosecco on their birthdays. There are now 1,700 “huggers”.

Mr Cribb said: “We started this journey, we held on tight, we brought excitement into our business and now we do a lot of hugging.”

Martin Edwards, chief executive of Julia’s House, talked about the life cycle of a business. Lloyd Banks, owner of Rubicon Recruitment Group, spoke of the challenges of recruiting amid a talent shortage. Becki Houlston, the ‘People Whisperer’, encouraged the audience to follow their dreams.

Ross Thornley, co-founder of Leaps Innovation, spoke of ways to leverage ‘exponential’ technologies, while author, broadcaster and behaviourist Jez Rose closed the event with a high-energy talk.

There was a surprise appearance on video by Eddie Howe, interviewed about his journey as manager of AFC Bournemouth.