What makes the SME competitive?

SME Research

3 July 2007:- SME Survey 2007 is halfway through their research of surveying 6,000 decision makers of SMEs in South Africa. So far, the research shows that there are common enablers which astute business owners take advantage of to improve the performance of their company.The Survey, backed by Standard Bank and Fujitsu Siemens Computers, sets out to identify the business and technology factors which successful SMEs use to sharpen their competitive edge.“

“Standard Bank continues to support this research initiative – this is our third consecutive year as primary sponsor of SME Survey, because we believe that the SME market plays a critical role in the growth of our economy,” says Melt van der Spuy, director, Business Support, Business and Private Banking, Standard Bank.

“Our involvement helps us gain a better understanding of the business segment so that we can provide enhanced solutions, and deliver better service that meets our clients’ needs,” he states.

“Over the past four years SME Survey examined areas that influence SMEs to regard themselves as competitive,” says Arthur Goldstuck, principal researcher of the Survey. “This year’s Survey differs because one of the primary intentions is to create something of a blueprint of what makes a successful SME highly competitive.”

He is quick to point out that the results are not a blueprint for success, but rather should serve as an indication of what smart companies use. “There is no substitute for a great idea backed by sound business principles. We’re identifying what the entrepreneur needs to support a good business and increase success.”

The interim findings paint a fascinating picture. While the use of available technologies, especially emerging mobile and wireless solutions, contribute greatly to competitiveness, there are many other factors. Some are anticipated, others surprising.

“Well established businesses are more than twice as likely to be competitive as start-up companies. In a country where failure of new businesses is commonplace, new business owners must accept that they have to be in it for the long haul. Success is not easy, but the indications are that those businesses that have survived up to five years, tend to be more competitive and can therefore expect further success,” he says. Businesses with a higher turnover fare better; Goldstuck believes a larger turnover means the ability to invest in better tools, technology and services to support the business.

Pointing out that perception is reality; Goldstuck says there is a correlation between the type of company registration and competitive advantage. “A Proprietary Limited company is most competitive, followed by a Close Corporation and then a partnership. Family businesses are substantially behind that,” he says.

This, Goldstuck believes, is owing to the fact that the business structure influences the perception among clients of the company’s intent. “Some structures are taken more seriously than others, and how seriously the market takes your business affects its competitiveness. This may be a prejudice but it has an impact,” he says.

Interestingly, the market targeted by the SME did not make a difference to competitiveness, whether that market was corporate, retail or consumer. However, those targeting government businesses tended to be most competitive. This may seem counter-intuitive, until one considers that government business is often the most lucrative,” Goldstuck states.

“The findings are shedding light on how SMEs in South Africa use available resources to their best advantage. This is both fascinating and highly useful for new businesses looking to increase their odds of prosperity,” Goldstuck says.

The final findings will be released in October 2007.

For more on past SME Surveys please go here: www.smesurvey.co.za

About Standard Bank

Standard Bank Group is a global bank with African roots. It is one of the big four full-service banks in South Africa and distinguished by its extensive operations in 18 other African countries. Outside the African continent Standard Bank Group operations span to 21 countries, with emerging market focus. Our customers benefit from our knowledge and expertise in emerging markets, coupled with our global outlook evident in our daily dealings with customers.

Standard Bank Group is the largest South African banking group ranked by assets and earnings, and had total assets of over R755 billion at 31 December 2005, with more than 40 000 people employed worldwide.

The Group has played a central role in the development of the Southern African economy for more than 144 years. It has done this by constantly aligning its presence in the market place to the evolving needs of the economy, and delivering relevant banking and financial services.

We have also focused on implementing a customer-centric and service-driven model in all our business.

Our three main pillars of business are Personal and Business Banking; Corporate and Investment Banking and Investment Management and Life Insurance. Across these areas, technology is a common thread, giving our customers tailor made banking solutions.

About Fujitsu Siemens Computers

Fujitsu Siemens Computers is the leading European IT provider with a strategic focus on next-generation Mobility and Dynamic Data Center products, services and solutions. With a portfolio of exceptional depth, our offering extends from handhelds through desktops to enterprise-class IT infrastructure solutions. Fujitsu Siemens Computers has a presence in all key markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Leveraging the strengths, innovation and global reach of our joint shareholders, Fujitsu Limited and Siemens AG, we make sure we meet the needs of customers: large corporations, small and medium enterprises and private users. The company is a member of the United Nations Global Compact initiative.

For more information on Fujitsu Siemens Computers, please visit their website here: www.fujitsu-siemens.com

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