SMEs: Back to school!

What are the basic ingredients for success in a business? Probably most people would answer this question by saying that the keys are: to have a great, differential and cost effective idea, to have an entrepreneurial spirit to implement it and the ability to find the necessary funding. I would add to this short-list three additional ingredients: perseverance, hard work and good luck.

Does it make sense to do an MBA to run an SME?

Recent researchs show that training is one of the most important elements of competitiveness and it is essential for growth in times of crisis. However when we talk about  consolidated small businesses we realize that this is often an overlooked aspect by both employees and for managers. In fact, training often focuses exclusively on the operational aspects of the business and it is only undertaken when there is no other alternative (for example, when you must obtain an specific certification to keep working with a customer).

The reasons? Most of business owners refers to the lack of time and economic resources. However, there are a wide range of training activities at very reasonable costs (often even free). There are also funding mechanisms available to SMEs allowing in some cases get public subsidies of up to 100% of the cost of training.

Another common argument is that the best school is the day-to-day experience. And I agree. To some extent most of European SME managers and owners I know have their most powerful strength in the experience. Usually first-generation family businessmen are tanned in a thousand battles. They have faced very difficult situations and, in one form or another, have found ways to survive the competition, market fluctuations and the crisis . Should we settle for this? I think we shouldn't. Obviously experience is invaluable, but it can and should be complemented with a good education

It is also common to hear that the MBA and general management courses contents are specifically focused on large corporations executives. However, in the current context of globalization and crisis it is essential for small businesses owners to be as prepared or more than managers of large companies. Not just because they have to seek new business opportunities, but also because the competition is fierce and only the best will have a chance to survive.

This has been understood by many universities and business schools as the UOC Business School that has found in SMEs a new promising market niche. In this case, they have identified three major training areas: business management, change and productivity and competitiveness. In other schools like ESIC they have also developed specific programs for SMEs. In both cases they seek to provide an strategic vision in the medium and long term for those small businesses owners who, as I mentioned before, are more focused on the daily operations.

Furthermore, these programs are designed especially for multifunctional profiles as far as in an SME there are not always specific roles and a single manager can have responsibility for several functional areas as diverse as human resources and marketing at the same time, to cite just one possible example .

Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations have spent years developing high-value training proposals for SMEs at very attractive prices (in many cases for free). They usually offer very short programs focused on providing business added value. An interesting example is the 360 ​​º sessions offered by the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. These working sessions provide methodology and tools to improve customer relationships and work on new differentiated value propositions.

In short, there is a wide consensus in identifying the real training needs of entrepreneurs and managers of SMEs. There are quality training courses at reasonable prices that can meet those needs. It’s only a question of having the ambition to improve and professionalize the management of the company and devote time and effort to training. It is worth not leave for tomorrow what you can (and should) do today.