The fact that SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises) form the large majority of businesses in the UK – some 99.2% of the 4.9 million businesses that existed at the beginning of 2013 – is nothing new to many people. However, the fact that SME’s are not just critical to the UK economy, in fact, critical to the global economy, but imperative to the lives of all of us, escapes most people’s notice and, to be fair, that includes me. I’d simply never really considered the real advantage of using SME’s and the part they/we play.
So, what constitutes an SME?
Well, as defined by the Government, the Banks and all manner of ‘business’ organisations, any business with less than 10 employees is a micro business, those with between 10 and 49 are a small business and with 50 to 249 employees it is a medium business. As you can see, anything up to 249 employees covers a great deal of ground and a vast number of millions of pounds in revenue – billions in fact – £3.1 billion to be more accurate. That represents a huge chunk of the UK economy and GDP.
What made me think about the real value of SME’s to all of us was the recent letter we received, unbidden, from Xavier Rolet, the CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group. Mr Rolet’s letter congratulated us on being named as one of the “1000 Companies to Inspire Britain”, which came as a great surprise to us. After all, what had we done, apart from work hard on growing and improving our offering to our customers?
So, I looked at the criteria for being included in the list and found that in order to be selected a business must have demonstrated;
- a positive growth in revenue over the previous four years
- an increase in employee numbers
- an increase in workspace
- and an increase in the number of contracts won or patents filed.
As you would imagine, we are delighted to be awarded such an accolade but after the initial thrill had subsided and I re-read Mr Rolet’s letter I found the words that put it all in to perspective … “This list is not exhaustive but it shines a light on some of the UK’s most vibrant companies, including yours” … which, to me, suggests that they stopped looking after the top 1000 but it also suggests that there are many, many more SME’s out there who are equally responsible for keeping the UK economy afloat, creating the majority of jobs, when larger organisations are having to contract rather than expand and, of course, spreading the risk across a larger business base.
Our own database of suppliers and customers reflects the same thing for, although we manufacture cardboard and carton board packaging for some of the largest household names in the UK, amongst our customers are a great number of SME’s, and amongst our suppliers are a great number of SME’s.
So, how does that impact on you?
Well, SME’s generally have a greater ability to react far more quickly to the demands of the market, certainly to be far more flexible and responsive, and of course the gap between the shop floor and the boardroom is that much smaller, so information can flow quicker and communication is easier across all departments.
We were thrilled to be named on the list of 1000 most inspiring companies in the UK but, more than simply allowing us to puff out our chests for a few minutes, what it has really served to do is validate our strategy of focussing on serving our customers in the most cost, time and resource effective ways possible, delivering the most appropriate value for money product to achieve their objectives, consistently and sustainably. It is that which has allowed us to grow, that which has resulted in our being recognised and included in the list and, importantly, it is that which will ensure we continue in the same vein, hopefully as will a whole host of other SME’s across some 100 different sectors.
Here’s to the future growth of the UK economy and to the backbone – SME’s.
For more information on The 1000 Most Inspiring Companies in the UK, please see the London Stock Exchange Group website.