The importance of SMEs
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Simon Blagden, non-executive chairman at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, believes SMEs are vital for the future growth of the UK economy and explains why.
This month the Conservative Party announced 12 finalists of this year’s Start-Up Hub – a competition that showcases and rewards the country’s most promising start-up businesses.
I was lucky enough to be a judge selecting the final 12. It is the second year that Fujitsu has supported the initiative and this year competition was especially fierce.
In fact, the sheer number of young companies that participated shows that, in spite of the difficult economic landscape, there are real opportunities for start-up companies to thrive and in doing so play a significant role in the UK business landscape.
The 12 shortlisted companies all had some characteristics in common – they are each led by motivated and optimistic people with an innovative approach and a strong understanding of the marketplace they are targeting. This is what will make them successful and so important to the UK economy in the coming years.
There is much said about the role of SMEs in developing countries, but until very recently less said about the crucial contribution they make to mature economies –especially ones hit by stagnation and negative growth.
Are SMEs the answer to the burning question of how to help the UK recover from its current economic state?
SMEs bring innovation into the economy. Innovation sits at the heart of what we do at Fujitsu and it is at the heart of what can make SMEs so successful despite the harsh economic climate.
Because of their size, SMEs are often much better at identifying and embracing new trends in the industry and, therefore, driving the innovation within their respective sectors. This allows SMEs to be pioneers in emerging technologies, paving the way for bigger and braver investments.
A lack of innovation is bad news for any economy. A thriving SME ecosystem ensures that products and services don’t fall behind the competition and that the companies are in fact able to make a difference on the market.
Adapting to change
SMEs can be much more adaptable to change than larger and more complex organisations. Because of this adaptability, SMEs arguably have a better chance of withstanding difficult economic conditions and they are faster at recovering from crises.
In overcoming the downturns, these firms are able to maximize and stimulate competition, which is essential for putting the current economic lethargy behind us.
Such adaptability also brings more balance to the economic growth of the UK and ensures that local communities participate in stimulating growth.
While all of this sounds very promising some conditions must be met in order to encourage people to open their own businesses and there is a lot the government and companies like Fujitsu can do in this regard.
Partnering with large businesses
Despite these two key advantages in the current climate, one of the largest barriers to success for SMEs is a weakness in networking and partnering with large businesses.
Just over two years ago, small business owners felt neglected by the UK government but this situation is slowly changing. During the Party Conferences in October, the shortlisted entrepreneurs will get a chance to promote ideas and network with other business owners – small and large.
A support from companies like Fujitsu means that small businesses can exchange experiences and receive mentoring and guidance from more experienced players. Many of these companies start as small, start-up enterprises - a few people with great ideas and the drive to realise them, whose logos are now globally recognised.
They can, therefore, share expertises with smaller counterparts. It is also equally important to actively promote small businesses and recognise successes, which the initiatives such as Start-Up Hub Competition aim to facilitate.
Small businesses account for 99 per cent of all companies in the UK and can be real drivers of economic growth, creating employment opportunities for local communities and generating income. But in order to maintain the momentum created, the government must support the collective efforts.