What Are the Challenges Facing SME’s in 2018?

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit! These words are all that dominate our headlines and news. Frankly the negative debate detracts from the real challenges that face small to medium businesses.

A recent survey conducted by the Academy for Chief Executives significantly shows a different picture as to what is concerning these size businesses.

400 members of the Academy were questioned. These Chief Executives represent over 8 billion in revenue and employ over 40, 000 people therefore the responses to the questions can arguably represent many SME’s in the UK.

In order, these were the Chief Executives main concerns:

Finding the right people: It’s imperative as you are building a business that you get the best people. You need the “A” team, all the people in the right positions so that the MD of the Company can be removed from the day to day operations and that these people have complete ownership of the role they play. Also, leaders recognised that there was a need to invest in training and development to retain the right team and engage employees fully.

Growth and managing change: You need the ability to finance your growth. There was concern that SME’s were unable to gain access to the funding they need as there are too many procedures to go through. This is a UK issue that needs to be addressed if these businesses are to unlock their full potential.

Red Tape: There appeared to be apprehension amongst Chief Execs about Government regulations locally and nationally. Unfortunately, in this area of the survey, Government did not fair well! There was also fear that the length of time it took to process planning or lack of HMRC resources meant that valuable time was lost.

Uncertainty: ok so there was concern within the survey regarding Brexit but more from the aspect that there has been too much political uncertainty over the last few years with referendums and elections and this has caused consumer activity to be hindered. Also changes to American law on International policy has affected consumer confidence and it is SME’s that face the greater impact of this.

Increasing Costs: Things are going up all the time and this ultimately impacts small to medium size businesses the most.

Changes in Technology: Chief Executives were concerned that for them to keep up to date with the technological advances occurring now, they would need to have greater investment which was a challenge in itself!

Innovation: How is an SME supposed to evolve without innovation? Chief Execs accentuated that they wanted to deliver the results but were being challenged on how they can constantly evolve their business.

Who are Millennials? So, business leaders seem to be concerned about Millennials! But who are they? These are people born between 1980 into the 1990’s and have often been described as lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job. Also, there has been concern over Millennials unrealistic expectations of working life! The survey highlighted Chief Executives concerns over understanding this whole generation, how to retain the best of them and develop them.

Stock Market and Banks: Do we trust them? It appears many leaders were struggling to have faith in these institutions.

Security: Concerns covered all aspects of this, not only physical but cyber security as well and whether SME’s had the capacity and infrastructure to protect their business.

Whilst this discusses concerns from leaders of SME’s, we have considered other aspects that may hinder businesses from growing:

Leadership: this of course won’t have been highlighted in the Academy survey as they are all leaders themselves! However, there is no academic qualification for leadership of SME’s. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at leadership even if you are the leader! However, to be a good leader there is a requirement of many attributes. Drive, Skill in your field and perception are key in succeeding in your own business.

Do you have a strategy? This is a simple statement to make but lack of leadership can lead to lack of strategy. Just taking time to think about the goals you want for the business and where you want it to be in 3 years and what the plans are for these goals to be realised is paramount. Involving your team could also boost moral and engage your team.

How to implement the strategy: break it down from 3 years to 12-month objectives to 90 days? That way the task ahead does not seem so enormous and you will be delighted that you have met your targets every 90 days!

Creating the right culture: This is so important. What are your values as a business. If you don’t have any create around 4 or 5 so that it’s simple for your employees to remember. This then leads to a defined culture that your teams can cultivate and nurture.

Employees first! Simply, ensure your staff are well trained and have complete understanding of what you need them to achieve. If you look after them, they will look after your customers!

Systems, processes, productivity! Many SME’s think that by having systems will make then lose that competitive edge! This cannot be further from the truth. Implementing tried and tested systems means that you will deliver your product or service brilliantly to your customers. Making the whole business aware of these, increases productivity.

Performance measurement: The truth is, if you have performance measured then tasks get done! Often SME’s struggle to identify the key metrics that should drive their business forward. However, finding those measures can be a challenge. A starting point is always to measure sales and profit, however, ensuring that all your operational departments have clear objectives to measure will help them reach their target too.

If you do not get all the above right…… several other issues will arise:

  • Cash flow issues
  • High staff turnover
  • Eroding margins

This is often because of the leader working too much within the business rather than ON the business. So many SME’s are challenged by not finding the time to focus on:

  • Growing revenues
  • Being dependant on only a few big clients
  • Competition on price
  • Raising capital
  • Cashflow

This is all a lot to take in! We know, we’re an SME ourselves, but make sure as a leader of one, you acquire the right support, even in the form of a mentor. As the leader you will need to stay energised for your team to keep them engaged with your overall objectives. Make growing this business a team event! By keeping engaged with your employees and regarding them your SME can only go from strength to strength.

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This post was written by Anwen Haynes1

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