We know small is beautiful, but we sometimes forget how bountiful it can be. If the battle between big business and the country’s SMEs is a numbers game, there’s only one winner: The UK is positively teeming with small firms.
The government reckons there’s 1.3m SMEs in the UK. Do the sums and that means they make up 99.5 per cent of all businesses. They also employ more than half the country’s workers and rack up £1.57tn in turnover every year.
That means small businesses are a big force when it comes to the UK’s economy.
And they’re a growing force. Dynamic, new SMEs set up every day and employees flock to them. Given the chance, many choose the friendly, personal culture of an SME, over getting lost in corporate Britain.
Maybe that’s why the number of people working for SMEs has grown by 11 per cent since the millennium. And maybe that’s why the number of SMEs is up 100,000 since the start of the decade, while the number of big businesses hasn’t budged.
In a whole range of industries – from estate agents to hotels and restaurants, or manufacturers to health and social work – the majority of people work for an SME. And even in areas where big business dominates such as finance, they’re a major force. Or consider the booming tech sector: it’s the small start-ups that change the world a lot of the time.
There’s not much small businesses don’t do.
They must have the right people to do it, though. In fact, for small businesses it’s all about the people. Not many get to trade off their brand or trademarks; they have to work to provide the service and quality customers want, and that means having the right staff.
Individuals count in an SME – that’s why we like working for them. But it also means it’s even more important they can hire exceptional talent and keep it. If people leave or positions aren’t filled, there aren’t the numbers to just plug the gaps.
SMEs offer a great working environment and a chance to really make a difference, but it is tough. With unemployment at record lows, the jobs market is ultra competitive, and big businesses offer the big salary packages that SMEs can’t afford.
They can afford to reward staff well, though.
Benefits and rewards can make a big difference to engaging and retaining people. Whether it’s shopping vouchers, discounts on nights out, cinema tickets, weekends away or holidays, the right reward can help make people feel valued and know their hard work counts.
SMEs carry a reputation when it comes to culture, with many expecting more individual attention and recognition. And what’s more, a lot of people choose to work for a small business because it’s friendlier and more personal. These attributes set SMEs apart from the corporate world. They’re why many of us prefer to work for them and shouldn’t be forgotten.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. SMEs don’t need to go big when it comes to rewards to keep staff happy and get their choice of recruits. They just have to be smart – and that’s usually the secret of their success anyway.