For John Foley, 'the ride on the UK roller-coaster was pretty bumpy, so we had to get on board the European express'. As finance director of the Birmingham-based Triplex Lloyd engineering group, Foley helped mastermind a strategy that will push overseas sales to 50% of turnover by 1993.
Like many West Midland companies, it has been export or die for Triplex as the recession bit. 'In 1987, if we exported to Stoke-on- Trent, we thought that was an achievement,' he told the Management Today/West Midlands Development Agency regional lunch.
But while the 40 participants gathered at the Birmingham Botanical Garden agreed that a drive into Europe was the key to future West Midlands prosperity, their immediate concern was the continuing UK recession. Here, though, at long last, after months of relative gloom at the Management Today regional lunches, some cheerful news emerged. Virtually every single speaker saw a definite upturn in activity. John James, from Edge and Ellison Calow Easton, reported that 'as a medium-sized law firm we are seeing evidence of deals beginning to happen. There are clear signs now that people are getting the confidence to do business.'
Barclays' John Crittenden felt the signs of recovery were 'still in the balance'. But as a banker he took comfort from the less severe cash flow problem of his clients this year.
While national business leaders had been calling for dramatic interest rate cuts, those on the ground in the West Midlands appear to take a more relaxed view. Said Colin Perry of the region CBI office: 'There will be a quite a lot competition for investment funds over the next 10 to 20 years. With saving ratios over the world so low, we don't want to see low interest rates diverting scarce funds to finance another property boom.'
Apricot Computer's Peter Home said that he positively did not want to see interest rates fall any further. 'We buy our components in dollars and any unfavourable movement in the exchange rate will hit us.' Now part of the Japanese Mitsubishi group, Apricot has a completely different outlook on life. With the blessing of its new parent the company is planning a 50% increase in exports over the next two years.