In recent posts, we’ve talked about what growing SMEs need to prioritise this year to make their mark in the business world, including raising productivity levels and having a business model that really makes sense. But what if the secret to success for your business is to let go of something? Let’s take a further look…
All SMEs know that when starting out, they will probably be doing everything themselves – training staff, creating marketing materials, ordering stock, cleaning the office – just to keep costs down. While this entrepreneurial approach in the early days might mean that you survive the first few hurdles of a new business, this is not a sustainable strategy. As your company (hopefully) grows in size, scale and turnover, it would be impossible to maintain the same executive level input across all functions. Plus, you probably got into business because of the industry or to create something new, not to perform the day-to-day management of an office or warehouse.
But can you think about letting go?
Sure, it might seem inconceivable that someone else would take control of aspects of your business that you have held so dear for such a long time. But putting emotions aside and thinking ahead could be the biggest breakthrough your business experiences.
And you won’t be alone in this mindset shift. According to Gartner, up to $9.5 billion will be spent on business process outsourcing (BPO) by 2016 in Asia-Pacific alone.
It’s not all about the money either – outsourcing certain aspects of your business can create international reach and capability on a scale that would be impossible any other way. According to research, the cost benefits of outsourcing only ranked 11th by SMEs behind global expansion and access to top level skills.
What can be outsourced?
Traditional ‘shared services’ might conjure up images of huge offices based in India or The Philippines where hundreds of people are answering IT support and customer service calls on behalf of several large MNCs. But the reality is changing. Companies might see the benefits of offshoring certain ‘back office’ processes to reduce cost in their inner city flagships but they’re not quite ready to hand over their brand reputation to an unknown entity. Instead, they relocate, or rehire their own staff to a more cost effective location and reduce duplication of the same processes within their global offices. On a customer service level, this also opens up the opportunity to be available 24/7 for their global market needs.
Less traditional services can also being explored such as virtual office management (admin, PA, travel management etc.) as well as any other process-driven function like bookkeeping and accounting.
Perfect your partnerships
If outsourcing still makes you uncomfortable, strategic partnerships offer a less risky approach to letting go of some of those cumbersome processes. A mutually beneficial partnership, offering the exchange of products and services can be a great way for SMEs to leverage something they could not afford to do alone. For example, working with a partner who targets the same client (but for different reasons) and setting up a cross-referral arrangement can be a win-win for small companies who are thinking big.
Partnering with overseas SMEs offering similar products and services can also prove fruitful. Instead of seeing it as competition and trying to break into a new market with little knowledge and limited physical presence, SMEs in Singapore, for example, can take advantage of global partnerships arranged through government incentives from SPRING. Read here about the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Singapore to foster growth opportunities between the two countries.
Letting go doesn’t have to be so drastic
So far, we’ve only looked at shifting some of your processes externally but there are other ways of keeping your systems and processes in-house whilst still focusing on your core business development. Streamlining your existing workflows can be a simple but effective growth strategy for your organisation. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution like SAP Business One can transform the way your company runs and automates many of those processes that hinder innovation.
Giving up control to an ERP could look like this:
- Reduce, or eliminate, duplicate processes across each of your offices (the same process done once, in one place)
- Automate manual processes that eat into your manpower (enabling your staff to focus on new business development)
- Generate customised reports based on real-time data to help you truly drive the success of your business
- Have full transparency over the financial health of your business, anytime, anywhere
- Regain the confidence to make informed decisions for the future of your organisation based on fact, not assumption
- Understand your existing and potential customers, their needs and requirements and provide improved products and services for them
- Run an optimised warehouse with maximum capacity and minimum waste
Letting go of certain areas of your business will very soon open the door to new and exciting opportunities to grow your organisation.