Is the competitiveness of SME’s under threat?
Speed of decision-making, lack of bureaucracy, shared goals and amazing teamwork, customer focus and customer responsiveness, flat organisational structures, ease of communication, and just ‘doing it’ are some of the attributes of small/medium sized businesses that allow them to compete effectively in markets dominated by large monolithic corporate giants.
Yet, increasingly, larger businesses are seeking to replicate these SME attributes within their own businesses.
For example, there was an article recently in the IOD magazine about how larger businesses have, or are starting to embrace flexible working practices. Well, many SMEs have had flexible working for decades.
Often this might be called by a different name – ‘practicality’
Can’t afford a top notch Financial Controller – get one on a part-time contract. Want to ensure that a great employee is able to return and contribute effectively after maternity leave – sit down and work out a working arrangement that works for both parties. That’s the just ‘doing it’ way which drives great owner-managed businesses.
Undoubtedly some larger businesses do have many of the positive attributes of a great SME – Google for example probably leads the way in many aspects and indeed is ahead of many SMEs. But the interesting thing is that whilst, with the will of the leadership team of an SME, much of the way in which Google works can be emulated, for a large business it’s a much bigger task.
It’s a bit like an oil tanker versus a speed boat
The speed boat can twist and turn, jump waves, accelerate and stop quickly. But don’t position it directly in front of the oil tanker! And it takes a lot to stop an oil tanker – it has momentum, a mass of weight moving forward, and is likely to carry on towards its destination regardless of lesser smaller boats in its way.
So as larger companies evolve and adopt aspects of agile and flexible working, so its smaller competitors have to use their inherent speed and manoeuvrability to adapt, to fit lighter, quicker engines and maintain a gap of clear blue water.
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