SMEs want to have the capacity and access to grow and generate stakeholder value. SMEs join business associations to be part of a larger collective that can promote and protect these interests.
Business Associations do well to organize networking events aimed at connecting SMEs to opportunities and partnerships. However, as informative and engaging as they are, few SMEs secure opportunities and contracts through networking events or any follow-ups they make thereafter.
This is because there is more that goes into SME eligibility to access markets and investments than meeting counterparts at Business Association networking events.
If you are a Business Association that wants to support SMEs to maximize growth opportunities, these are the 6 areas you need to support SMEs with first. Then, they’ll be ready to meet, pitch, and clinch opportunities and partnerships.
1.Business Development Services
Many SMEs fail business plan and due diligence checks. Supporting SMEs with Business Development Services helps them develop the strategies, structures, systems, and skills to qualify for and manage the access and resources they need to grow and scale.
2. Leadership & Management Skills Development
SMEs rise and fall on leadership capacity. Investing in Leadership & Management Skills Development ensures that the people running SMEs have the next-level competencies to not only survive their start-up phase but thrive as they grow and scale.
3. Facilitate Investment Readiness
SMEs often need technical, financial, and technological investment to grow and scale their businesses. Investors hold SMEs to stringent and complex criteria, hoops most SMEs are unable to hump over. Facilitating SME Investment Readiness helps SMEs demystify processes, build capacity and confidence, increase qualification, and secure investments.
4. Guaranteeing Financing Programs
Most financial institutions and programs require significant collateral. This is collateral most SMEs do not have nor can afford to acquire in order to access financial products. Offering financing guarantee programs to SMEs in good standing will help them access the financial products they need to operate, grow, and scale their businesses.
5. Brokering Partnerships
The world runs at the speed of trust. Even qualified SMEs may not be able to access markets and other resources if they have not built relationships of trust with their counterparts. Making referrals and recommendations, facilitating networking connections, and even mediating negotiations can go a long way to adding SME credibility to the players and markets they wish to transact, grow, and scale in.
6. Lobbying Legislators & Regulators
There is nothing more disheartening for SMEs than to have struggled and managed to secure markets and resources only to be restricted from advancing by punitive legislative and regulatory barriers to entry, growth, and scaling. Lobbying legislators and regulators to remove restrictions to SME classification and compliance will build the enabling policy, business, and investment climate for SME growth and scaling.
What SMEs Need Most From Their Business Associations to Grow & Scale
SMEs need business associations to know, understand, and support them in the areas they struggle with most in their efforts to grow and scale. Unfortunately, most of these areas of concern are not shared by the larger, more resourced, and recognized business members that have the power and resources to set the Business Associations' agendas. As such, SME members and their agenda, are sidelined.
However, SMEs make up the largest business group, representing the largest and most productive yet underrepresented people demographics (women and youth) and carry the greatest potential for accelerating inclusive emerging market human and economic development.
When Business Associations invest in addressing their SME membership concerns, it increases their growth as a customer base, increasing revenue from their portfolio and the Business Associations' overall capacity and clout to serve all its member interests.