Small-medium enterprises are the distinctive feature of our economy: The Italian economy is characterized by 4.4 million highly dynamic firms operating in a number of different industries. The vast majority are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) … While the presence of … SMEs is a common feature of many European economies, a defining feature of Italian industry specifically is the presence of a large number of micro-firms: approximately 95% of companies have fewer than nine employees, 4% of companies have 10-49 employees and approximately 0.6% of companies employ more than 50 people. (Investment in Italy, KPMG March 2017)
These small-medium enterprises are the engine but also the brakes of our economy. They are the engine when we think of the variety of products (we only need think about the food sector), their creativity and the dynamism they contribute. They act, instead, as brakes when it comes to poor investment ability. I am thinking – above all – of the business and marketing areas; today so crucial considering the hyper-competitiveness that exists in all markets.
The roads to overcome this weakness are, in my opinion, the following:
- Join forces with other companies so as to share certain investments: networks between companies are increasing but it takes the right mindset, otherwise, they do not last. Our businessmen are often jealous and individualistic (especially towards the competitor on the other side of the road)
- Have a specialization, a product that has a distinctive feature: it is important to not to want to do everything. If we are a small company we have to do just a few things – maybe only one – but we have to do it very well
- Aim for just a few markets, otherwise your resources will not be enough: this aspect is, for me, a mantra; the return times of commercial investments are getting longer (due to the aforementioned hyper-competitiveness) ergo: let’s shoot the few bullets we do have on select targets
- Finally, reduce investments from the technical and product side and invest more in sales and marketing. In small businesses “investment” is, unfortunately, synonymous with machinery and warehouses. Investing in communication or in training in-house salespeople (since salespeople are a dying breed) is rarely considered.
In other words, a change in mentality is needed. As Keynes said, “The difficulty is not to believe in new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.”