What makes a successful SME?

8 years ago

What makes a successful SME?

It’s the question that bugs small business owners up and down the country. Now new research by Standard Life could add some useful insights.

Collaboration, empowerment and adaptability are all words highlighted in the report that aims to pinpoint the key success triggers of small and medium sized businesses.


Top of the pile was empowering the workforce. Does this mean team building sessions, cash incentives and staff nights out? Maybe. Does it mean harnessing an environment of mutual respect? Certainly. Whilst the former can be easily bought the latter takes care and effort but the rewards can be great for business growth and that’s not just according to employers’ experience. Employees polled in the research stated that the most desirable quality in a business leader was the ability to trust and empower their colleagues.

Stephen Ingledew, Standard Life Managing Director, Marketing, said:

“SMEs are an important part of our client base, and we wanted to take a closer look at the behaviours these business leaders and their employees adopt to achieve success and fuel entrepreneurship. Our research shows that UK SMEs are strongly committed to building working environments that encourage and nurture flexibility and innovation.”

Short-term planning

Findings of the research also point towards shorter term planning with a huge majority of SME leaders (82%) opting to alter their strategy at least once a year and nearly three fifths doing so at least every six months. This is a far cry from the traditional five-year planning cycle.

Social purpose

The poll discovered that making a positive contribution to their wider communities gave both employers and employees greater job satisfaction. Not only does this add to the feel-good factor but investment in the local area was revealed as aiding company prosperity with nearly nine in ten (88%) SMEs attracting and recruiting talent from their region and 85% using the services of local suppliers and contractors.

Recognising and nurturing talent

Business leaders highlighted innovation in staff training (44%) and empowering staff to try new things (38%) as the best ways to remain competitive. Training and upskilling was given as the number one priority over the next five years.

So there we have it! Whilst we don’t have a magic wand to initiate business success, let’s hope these pointers can put you on the right path.


Lucy Liddiard