Lessons SMEs can learn from corporates

For example, world class manufacturers use precision engineering to produce their goods to a consistent quality – all day, every day. Clearly not every SME is a manufacturer, but they can all aspire to create the same approach to efficiency and attention to detail regardless of their product or service.

An efficient production line relies on planning, organisation and execution of a military-like operation to achieve perfection. All processes are monitored and reviewed, with quality control teams constantly encouraged to seek out ways to improve and innovate. Simply being good is not good enough.

Every business will have a comparable ‘production line’ and so by using this analogy, it is easy to see where the corporate mindset might be applicable to SMEs.

Other areas where smaller businesses can learn from blue chip companies include recruiting the right talent, and recognising the commercial benefits of a recognised, quality brand.

A high performing brand seeks to hire people with real aptitude for the job. Experienced recruiters will do this very strategically with bespoke tests at the interview stage. Once in the job, an employee will have clearly defined goals to achieve, individual plans and timescales, alongside a clear measurement process to assess optimum performance.

Corporations are often skilled in applying the best minds in the organisation to each issue and challenge. The collective memory, experience and skills of teams throughout the business can be harnessed whenever required.

The esteem in which the brand is held by the general public has a positive impact on employee morale, loyalty and pride in the job they do, which in turn feeds back into the organisation, making it a desirable workplace.

Finally, a difficult question for the business owner – are you more of an entrepreneur than a CEO? Do you really have the skills to be the CEO of your own organisation?

Many entrepreneurs can struggle to make the transition to CEO – severely hampering the growth of their business in the process. By the same token, it is very often the case that corporate CEOs do not make very good entrepreneurs – remember that world class companies value aptitude for the job!

Many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with are driven, creative and have an abundance of energy, ambition and passion. However, as the business evolves and grows, it’s often time for them to “step back” and evaluate their contribution and establish exactly where they add value to the long-term picture and goals for the business.

In many cases where entrepreneurs have recognised their limitations I have advised them to bring on board an external MD or CEO to take on responsibilities, including recruitment and strategic growth, whilst entrepreneurs focus on equally critical areas such as innovation.

Google, Heinz, BMW and Lego. Powerful brand names with products that are purchased, used and valued across the globe. Not much in common with the average business you may think but what business worth its salt wants to be – and stay – average?

Melanie Hird, Director, Seneca Partners Limited