We’ve been thinking about SME leadership for a bit now and decided that it would be one of our priority growth areas. SMEs have been in the news quite a lot recently, be it calling for more government help to internationalise ahead of the 2018 budget or about securing government contracts. And well they should be– 99% of the companies in Singapore are SMEs; SMEs account for 70% of the Singapore workforce. These are exciting times to work in an SME. Yet if you speak to individual SME leaders, they will speak of a quieter and lonelier reality. It is tough to be an SME leader. But with a little pluck and determination, SMEs can thrive in these down times. Here’s how:
1. Find Your Niche And Be Really Good At It
The fact is that SMEs will have limited bandwidth. We have a smaller headcount and fewer resources. So it’s important to find what what you’re good at and be really good at it. Focus on one or two things and strive to be the thought leader in that area. It might mean going against the accepted norms and standing out. And it will mean a dogged commitment to excellence. We’ve got to really invest in being good at our craft.
2. Culture Trumps Strategy
I think strategy is important, and leaders need to be able to lead strategically (shameless plug, sorry!) However, I think what really attracts and helps to retain talent is the organisational culture of your organisation. I read a quote recently that really resonated with me- ‘an organisation’s strategy is shaped by the worst behaviour that a leader is willing to tolerate.’ Hence it’s important as leaders to guard the organisational culture of your organisation.
3. Help One Another Flourish
Some of the SMEs we’ve met in the course of our work really stand out because they help other SMEs succeed. “Need a lawyer? Oh I use this firm and they are very good. Here’s their contact.” “Hey this project’s more than my firm can handle. Want to do it together?” They share contacts, ideas, even business opportunities. And that kind of spirit attracts quality work. Clients are attracted to them.
So here it is. Three simple ways to help SMEs thrive in this VUCA environment. May the odds be ever in your favour.