Strategy should be underpinned by research
It would be very natural for an SME owner or manager to think that stepping into the world of academia was going to drain their precious time and take their focus off the business.
Having come from a very practical background, Dr Mark Gillman fully understands these perceptions.
Dr Mark Gillman is the Professor of SME Growth and Development at Birmingham City Business School and Head of the Centre for Enterprise, Innovation and Growth
This is why he has made it his job at Birmingham City University to focus on research that can be applied to real-world business problems and moreover, to help businesses to grow.
Growing a business can always do with a helping hand, even if it is doing well.
Most SME owners can be challenged with micro-tasks and often get too engaged in the day-to-day, missing the opportunity to grow the business.
We take a look at what Dr Mark Gillman sees as potentially the perfect growth formulae for SMEs.
Why are most SMEs challenged by growth?
Growth is on most SME’s agendas, but from my experience, the vast majority don’t feel that they are meeting these aspirations.
They have great ideas and their people work extremely hard but after several years they gain a sense that they just aren’t progressing at the pace they’d like.
There are a number of key reasons.
‘Strategising’ properly and sufficiently
Strategy can be brushed off as meaningless, but done properly it is extremely powerful.
Without it, how does any business know where they are going and how they are going to get there? In truth, it’s often “in our heads.”
Strategy should be underpinned by research.
Understanding supply chain positioning
Mark has found that many SMEs don’t appreciate where they sit in an industry’s supply chain and how that position could impact their success.
This is critical to understanding upstream and downstream pressures.
Research, to take better advantage of this position or what can be done to improve it, is often key to an effective growth strategy.
Use of performance metrics
‘Gut feel’ is often relied upon to determine how successful a business is.
However, sometimes, what looks like success on the surface, hides issues that go unchecked and in the long term will stifle growth.
Productivity, profitability, risks, customer and employee satisfaction are all areas where performance metrics can be used to highlight current issues as well as those on the horizon.
Developing the right skills
Owner managers are passionate about the products and services that they have developed, but that doesn’t make them good managers or leaders.
That’s not to say they never will be, but they may need to invest in acquiring strong business management skills.
How SMEs benefit from working with BCU
Research work at Birmingham City University (BCU) now also underpins a number of specific BCU services and interventions that SMEs can easily access through BCU Advantage, the Universities dedicated SME growth service.
Here are BCU business support programmes which could help your SME to grow.
An SME mentoring programme involving five half-day sessions.
The programme guides business owners through specific growth-related problems and challenges they face.
Areas include how to strategise, better employee engagement and how to exploit your supply chain position.
Enterprise for Success
Another growth focused programme where we work with SMEs to determine a specific intervention where they want or need help, then providing access to relevant resources and workshops.
A great way for SMEs to apply innovation to their business growth plans through a series of workshops focused on strategy, marketing and finance.
SME Growth Service
Simply complete our business diagnostic questionnaire for us to help you better understand your SME’s growth challenges and opportunities.
Your results will ensure you gain access to the specific support your SME needs, including bespoke business consultancy, funding opportunities, training, workshops and more.
It can be difficult for any SME owner manager to adjust their sights away from the challenges they face each day, but it is essential to do so for long term growth.
SMEs working with external support at Birmingham City University have found that the knowledge that our applied research is giving them is delivering both top and bottom line improvements.
Find out how our growth programmes can help you and your business by visiting the BCU Advantage website.