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The best tips and tricks for SMEs, by SMEs

Walking in your Shoes

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the economic lifeblood of Europe. To better understand them,  we spent time with a number of SMEs across Europe to learn what growth and success really meant to them – both economically and culturally.

While money has been, and always will be, a motivator for businesses, there’s a new era of SMEs defining growth as refining a craft, having more fun or making room for other things in life.

No two SMEs are the same, and entrepreneurs’ motives are all different, which is why we’ve collected some of their recommendations for you:

“I think the world would be a better place if more people were entrepreneurs, because that is how fun and exciting it is to present your ideas, realize them and see that someone else is appreciating them.” Shyness, Sweden

  • Define your own vision of success: it might be about making money, it might be about doing what you love or it might be about having a better work/life balance – whatever it is, success is about how you define it.

“Success is to make money. I have two measures. Another one is that I’m producing something that I’m not ashamed of. Moreover, I can be proud that it is one of the best.” Tomas, Uncle Bakers, CZ

  • Set yourself a goal that is aspirational yet achievable.

“Yes of course we fall under the category of a small business, but we set ourselves serious goals. If you set a goal you have to strive to reach it.” Elena, OOO Avesta, Russia

  • Be realistic – and a bit proud – about how much work it takes.

“That is the funny thing about such a small company. You are CEO, CFO, marketing manager, clerical assistant, but also the cleaning lady.” Cher, Pieters Zoon, NL

  • Find a balance: a major reason why people set up businesses is to find a better balance between work and life. Remember to take time out and preserve your energy.

“Generally, you think about the company all the time, your life evolves around work problems, it is intertwined.” Katarzyna, Waw-Pol, Poland

  • Put technology at the core: 78% of SMEs believe technology can save them time, while 72% believe technology can make them more flexible.

“We want to optimize work processes to gain more time for important things.”

Vejko, Playground Coffee, Germany

  • Build a network of SMEs: finding others who have walked in your shoes is crucial. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel – build a network of friends who can give you advice.
  • Embrace your core competencies and leave the rest to other professionals. Besides, if you’re constantly working in your business, you don’t have time to work on your business. Hire someone for accounting if that’s not your love and or a service: cloud-based technology takes the burden of you.
  • Work smarter, not harder and make digitization a concrete idea. 50% of SMEs think going digital means augmenting monotonous tasks like the process of customer relationship management or accounting and stock checking alongside analyzing business and market data through tools.
  • Don’t play musical chairs. Take the time to ensure that your business has the right structure and that all of your employees are in the right roles as this is a key component of success.

“Especially now that we have realized that we need more structure, it takes more time to get everything on the right track. Deciding how things should be done takes quite a bit of time.” Veljko, Playground Coffee, Germany

  • Focus on your customers and (virtually) augment your proximity: 69% of SMEs want to be known for their quality of service. A Customer Relationship Management tool (like Dynamics 365) combines and analyzes large amounts of data and converts them into intelligence that allows better, more insightful customer interaction.

“Making good work and the customer satisfaction is the number one thing.” Max, Wade Frames, UK

  • Be open to change and equip yourself (technically): the market can change and new competitors can come into play. You can change while staying true to yourself. It is important to anticipate trends.

”To be able to install something that could help with forecasting would be huge for me. It would also help with the data behind the customers and really digging into the granularity details.” James, Love Cocoa, UK

  • Care about your employees and create an environment that brings out the best. Work more mobile, add flexibility and augment teamwork by using collaboration tools that also help you to work out loud and share ideas at an early stage.
  • Don’t just take our word for it:

Here are the stories of five SMEs who told us about “What I Wish I Knew”.