Having just emerged from working with an SME for two and a half years and being deeply involved in that community, I am amazed at the pain they go through, and so unnecessarily. High fives to any small company that manages just to trade, employ people and pay taxes into the UK economy.
Small and medium sized companies (SMEs) tend to get lumped together in an amorphous mass but it's important to make distinctions between the very different types of small company. These are rarely made explicit so an important first step for any company is to take stock to know yourself and where you fit.
The more innovative you are the harder to break across the chasm to find early adopters in large enterprises or government.
I follow here my former colleague and UK Innovation Initiative co-founder Martin Rice's broad divisions based on: what the company offers; the kind of SME it is; and its growth prospects.
To expand these three sets of questions in an overview, they are:
1. What do you offer?
Are you a vertically oriented SME that offers “end-to-end” applications, products or services which solve a 'whole' need, bolt readily onto an existing platform, and can be easily expressed in business terms (e.g. I-apps, etc.)
Or are you a horizontally oriented SME, with an offering that improves a specific problem, but which also to be used in conjunction with other elements to solve a 'whole' need (e.g. a new rules engine). It is much more challenging to express this kind of product in business terms to define deliverable payback.
2. What kind of SME are you?
Are you an innovative and disruptive company with disruptive products or services that can make a true step change difference in cost, capability or performance.
Or are you more a company with a “me-too but better” product or service that will provide more incremental benefits?
3. What are your growth prospects?
Are you a fast track “gazelle” company with high growth potential in terms of scalability, globalism, enterprise-wide deployment, or leveraging new waves of market sector growth?
Or are you more a life style company looking to tick along at a constant size, filling a niche with a valued reliable service or product?
A primary focus of this blog is on helping innovative fast track “gazelles” make the leap to early adoption by corporates by highlighting the practical experience of how others have successfully broken through or dodged round generic barriers to uptake.
Often the founders of this type of company have come from large organisations where they have had an insight and gone it alone to develop a solution. At huge personal; sacrifice they develop something that really can make a difference and then hit a wall.
Step change innovations are by their nature disruptive. They disrupt the status quo, existing processes, current business practices, and involve risk. So “gazelles” have the hardest challenge breaking into large enterprises or government and doing so without getting chewed up partially digested and spat out.
All small companies have major challenges but the really innovative ones have virtually everything stacked against them, but they are the ones that bring the greatest step change benefits and leverage the greatest capabilities for taking the whole economy forward.
* Searching for success: I'm always looking for practical case examples showing how innovative companies have successfully broken through generic barriers into large enterprises or government. Please point me to good examples you know! Thanks!