The Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) sector is vital to building long term economic resilience everywhere, in developed and emerging markets.
The leadership of such enterprises requires informed and capable people with passion for business growth, and it is such people who generate jobs and prosperity.
Leaders cannot, however, work successfully in limited markets that constrain growth. They need to understand and participate in global markets that suit their business.
This may include direct marketing and trade in new markets, or carefully arranged business collaborations that enable managed access to such markets.
Many SMEs struggle to find the time and resource to develop new markets, yet this is the pathway to better growth and long term success. Even in relatively successful national economies smaller businesses generally feel the lack of trusted international links to help them grow.
The UK benefits from a thriving SME ecosystem across various sectors and geographic regions. This includes some classic clustering and structured support, and draws on a substantial resource of professional services and potential investors. This makes the UK a valuable stepping stone for enterprises looking to develop international business in the European region, but also the UK links effectively with many other markets through its Commonwealth ties to a third of the global population.
Key needs of leaders in growing businesses include:
There needs to be more thorough and committed investment by governments in their national SME sector, helping create and reinforce the ecosystem that SMEs require. The lessons of established technology clusters demonstrate how such systems can facilitate successful growth and create diversified economic resilience with meaningful new jobs.
Investors generally look for impressive management competence and vision, and a worked out financial plan to maximise profitable growth. No one can expect early stage businesses to come armed with all such competencies.
The requirement is to use existing mechanisms and develop new initiatives to focus more actively on the positive growth of diversification in national economies through an enlarged and thriving SME sector, and to strengthen management skills to achieve this.
The Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate business change and increased technological innovation, and will force vigorous new thinking about how to create sustainable businesses and jobs.
It is up to political and business leaders to take the opportunity soon to build the economy they will need in the months and years ahead. The need to build more diverse economies was already there, as traditional work was already under threat from automation and other technological innovation, but the pandemic is adding immediate pressure as the loss of work will be accelerated beyond the already alarming previous expectations.
Clarkslegal LLP and Forbury People Ltd offer a range of business training and practical advice to help SME growth through global networks and collaborations.