How SMEs can boost their business with an injection of fresh ideas and talent

SMEs are being touted as the saviours of the British economy and with Xavier Rolet, CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group recently stating that Britain’s growth is going to come from SMEs

Whilst it is great news for small businesses that the UK is looking at them to deliver the growth to bring Britain out of recession, the big questions many of them are asking is exactly how they are going to achieve this in today’s tough economic climate?

Very little practical advice is coming from government and analysts on how they can achieve growth and with many SMEs facing a number of challenges it is time to really think about the specifics of how growth can be achieved.

Financial constraints and difficulties securing credit from banks are just some of the challenges faced by SMEs, as is not having the right skills and expertise within their management teams to develop their business. This is further hindered by limited access now to professional business advisors thanks to the demise of organisations such as Business Link.

Managing Directors are expected to have all the answers as the buck really does stop with them, but just like their employees they themselves may need advice and support – often coming from independent experts who can provide an external viewpoint and act as a sounding board.

Hiring a business development expert right now is a luxury many can ill afford, but at the same time business owners recognise they can’t stand still. Growth plans cannot be shelved indefinitely if they want to stay ahead of their competition. So what’s the answer?

One solution for small businesses is to hire Interim Managers who are experienced in business development on a part time basis. Interims can provide the skills and experience missing within an organisation and also bring a fresh perspective – an injection of ideas, energy and creativity. And, unlike consultants, interims don’t just provide strategy, they implement and deliver plans – giving time pressured small business owners the practical resource they urgently need.

Hiring interims on a part-time basis is an affordable way to engage the very best talent and experience that could impact their business, at a fraction of the price of recruiting a full time member of staff at this level. Interims charge a daily rate and there are no overheads such as holiday pay or pensions to consider, so costs can be managed carefully.

Effectively, it is a resource that be turned on and off according to needs – an attractive proposition for a small business. Perhaps more relevantly in the current climate, is the growing number of talented Interim Managers who are prepared to link some of their pay to results – particularly where they believe in the project.

The other benefit is that interims have been there before, there aren’t many challenges they haven’t seen and they know how to get companies through tough times. They will have a track record of working at a senior level in major companies, or, they may have even sold their own successful business and now prefer handling shortened engagements of weeks or months rather than a permanent role.

So how do you hire the best interims? Firstly, don’t deliberate for too long as the best interims tend to get snapped up. Secondly, approach an IMA approved, interim recruitment provider with an established database of executives who can source the right talent for your organisation at the right price.

Make sure your brief is watertight. Have an ideal candidate in mind and make sure you select someone with the exact experience and skills you are need. Remember too that Interims are expected to deliver results quickly so make sure you agree the aims, deliverables and timescales of the assignment together at the outset so that both parties know what they are working to. It is also vital to keep reviewing these as the assignment is progressing to get the most out of the situation.

An Interim can add value to small business in a number of ways. They can deliver highly strategic projects and they can also help to improve financial management and cash flow or provide senior level marketing or communications expertise that could help build a brand or strengthen a sales pipeline when it is needed most.

As Interims also see themselves as a small business they understand the needs of SMEs. They are already use to self-promotion/marketing and a portfolio of prior assignments successfully completed are the basis for winning new projects. As such then they could be the best remedy with very little risk for small businesses looking to take their business to the next level.