International MSME Day! Tips & Growth Strategies for Ambitious UK SMEs


Today marks the United Nations tribute to raising awareness for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) globally, and their contribution towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – it’s international MSME day!

To offer some wider context, MSMEs account for 90% of businesses, 60 to 70% of employment and 50% of GDP worldwide. As the backbone of societies everywhere they contribute to local and national economies and to sustaining livelihoods, particularly among the working poor, women, youth, and groups in vulnerable situations.

MSMEs have huge significance, holding the potential to transform economies, foster job creation, and promote equitable economic growth if given adequate support. The MSME Day event aims to highlight their pivotal role and explore opportunities for their further advancement.

So what are the MSME stats for the UK?

  • The usual definition of SMEs is any business with fewer than 250 employees. There were 5 million SMEs in the UK in 2023, representing 99.9% of all businesses!
  • Micro-businesses have 0-9 employees. There were 3 million microbusinesses in the UK in 2023, accounting for 95% of all businesses.
  • While representing the vast majority of businesses in the UK, micro-businesses only account for 32% of employment and 21% of turnover.
  • There are around 8,000 large businesses (defined as businesses with 250 or more employees), accounting for 1% of businesses but 39% of employment and 47% of turnover.

So, how to unleash the potential of ambitious MSMEs? We know they are the backbone of the economy, driving innovation, employment, and community development. However, as many SMEs aim for rapid growth, the path to success can be fraught with challenges. Here, we present a basic roadmap to fast-paced growth, offering key strategies and insights to help your business scale effectively and sustainably.

  1. Embrace Digital Transformation

In today’s digital age, the importance of adopting new technologies cannot be overstated. Digital transformation involves integrating digital technology into all areas of your business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. Key steps you may wish to take are;

  • Leverage cloud computing by utilising cloud services to enhance flexibility and collaboration.
  • Adopt data analytics that offer data-driven insights to make informed decisions, predict trends, and understand customer behaviours.
  • Enhance cybersecurity and protect your digital assets with robust cybersecurity measures to ensure business continuity and build customer trust.
  1. Cultivate a Customer-Centric Approach

Your customers are your most valuable asset. Prioritizing their needs and expectations can set you apart from competitors and drive loyalty. Changes you may wish to adopt include;

  • Invest in and implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems streamline interactions and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Personalise the customer experience by tailoring your products and services to meet the specific needs of different customer segments.
  • Gather feedback regularly to collect and act on customer feedback to refine your offerings.
  1. Strengthen Your Brand Identity

A strong, recognisable brand is crucial for standing out in a crowded market. It conveys your values, promises, and unique selling propositions. To support this try to;

  • Develop a clear brand message, ensuring your identity is clear, consistent, and reflects your company’s mission and values.
  • Engage in strategic marketing by using a mix of digital marketing strategies, including social media, content marketing, and SEO, to reach a wider audience.
  • Build brand loyalty. Engage with your community through storytelling, excellent customer service, and consistent brand experiences.
  1. Foster a Culture of Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of growth. Encourage creativity and continuous improvement within your organisation by implementing the following steps;

  • Encourage employee ideas and create channels for employees to share innovative thoughts and reward them for their contributions.
  • Stay ahead and keep abreast of industry trends and emerging technologies to stay ahead of the curve within your market.
  • Be collaborate and network. Partner with other businesses, research institutions, and industry groups to foster innovation and share knowledge.
  1. Optimise Operational Efficiency

Streamlining operations can significantly reduce costs and increase productivity, allowing you to scale faster. Easier said than done I grant you, but start by;

  • Automating routine tasks by implementing automation tools to handle repetitive tasks, and therefore freeing up staff for more strategic activities.
  • Improve supply chain management by strengthening relationships with suppliers, optimising inventory management, and use technology to enhance supply chain efficiency.
  • Adopt lean practices and continuously look for ways to eliminate waste and improve processes.
  1. Secure Adequate Funding

Growth requires investment. Securing the right funding at the right time can prove tricky but can make a significant difference towards growth. Start by;

  • Exploring diverse funding sources, considering options such as bank loans, venture capital, angel investors, and government grants.
  • Maintain your financial health by keeping accurate financial records and ensure strong cash flow management.
  • Develop and prepare a compelling, clear and concise pitch that outlines your growth potential and detail how funding will be used.
  1. Build a Strong Team

Your team is your greatest asset. A skilled and motivated workforce can drive your business to new heights, bringing productivity and loyalty through turbulent times. Be mindful to;

  • Hire for ‘culture fit’, looking for candidates who align with your company’s values and culture.
  • Investing in training and development is high on staff engagement. Provide continuous learning opportunities to enhance skills and career growth.
  • Promote and foster a positive working environment and culture that values collaboration, inclusivity, and employee well-being.
  1. Implement Effective Governance

Strong governance structures provide the framework for sustainable growth, ensuring accountability and strategic oversight. Changes you might adopt may include;

  • Establishing a board of advisors with experienced professionals who can provide strategic guidance and support, helping to pre-empt future hurdles.
  • Developing clear policies and procedures is vital. Create and enforce policies that promote the company’s purpose through its ethical behaviour, compliance, and risk management.
  • Regularly review and adapt by continuously assessing and refining your governance practices to respond to changing business environments and market forces.
  1. Expand Your Market Reach

Exploring new markets can provide new growth opportunities and add resilience to your revenue stream. Some steps you might take include;

  • Conducting market research to identify and understand potential new markets, both domestically and internationally.
  • Tailor your offerings by adapting your products or services to meet the needs and preferences of new market segments.
  • Leverage E-commerce and utilise online platforms to reach a broader audience and streamline sales processes.
  1. Focus on Sustainability

Sustainable practices are not only good for the planet but also resonate with increasingly eco-conscious consumers. Try to;

  • Reduce your environmental impact and implement energy-efficient practices and reduce waste.
  • Promote social responsibility and engage in socially responsible activities, ensuring to communicate your efforts to stakeholders.
  • Pursue meaningful certifications. By obtaining relevant certifications that validate your sustainability efforts you will enhance your brand reputation with both consumers and investors.

Change needs time and an order. Scaling a business rapidly in today’s competitive environment requires a strategic, multifaceted approach. By embracing digital transformation, cultivating a customer-centric culture, strengthening your brand, fostering innovation, optimising operations, securing funding, building a strong team, implementing effective governance, expanding market reach, and focusing on sustainability, UK SMEs can unlock their potential and achieve sustainable growth with backbone.

Remember that success is a journey, not a destination. Stay adaptable, keep learning, and remain committed to your vision. All businesses will face challenge, but with the right strategies and support in place, your business can not only grow, but thrive.

We are delighted to have been shortlisted for ‘Best Business Advisor’ at the EntreConf Awards 2024! Call Ebonstone for a free chat as to how best progress your business!

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