Easing the SME growth path


What comes in the way of a SME’s growth and why are owner driven companies not able to attract or retain talent and professionals? An in-depth search for the answers by Azaad Saini* 

A SME is very passionate about his work and the company he is the owner of. He will have a full fledged history and story with lots of twist and turns about his journey till now. He has been there, seen there and this makes everything personal.

Being an SME is not easy. Taking the first step, the initiative, building the company brick by brick, being self motivated, bringing lots of passion to the work, getting people, building their skills and making them a part of the family is not easy. Slowly and patiently building the client base is not easy. Even if the business is handed over by the family then too maintaining it is not easy. Making one’s personal reputation and goodwill is a hard task.

Owner driven Usually in SMEs the owner is the front of the organization. Everything has to pass through his eyes and he is the micro and macro manager. He is the MD, the CEO, the head and he also plays various supporting roles throughout the day and week. He is the purchase manager, finance manager handling the accountant, talking to his CA, meeting the bank manager, etc.

Predictable working method He will be part of some club and definitely a current or former president of some association. He will be part of some special social cause projects and he will also be politically well connected. His close circle will be his partner or brother and they know he is in control of everything. His manager, who is extremely loyal and hardworking, knows in and out his company and gives all the information about the staff.  His confidential partner is his CA, who knows his statistics and the context of his financial figures, always guiding him, making him to take a calculative risk and decisions.

For a SME owner play safe means don’t grow fast. Be cautious means don’t divert. He has a setup and a set of loyal customers and he keeps on catering to them. There is no place for a business leap, new professionals to join and display their talents and skills. There is no organization it is only an individual thought. There will be a plant head or GM but they are only the front. Everything is managed on personal one to one basis. He knows his customers and they can directly approach him. They bypass everybody in between be it the GM or his successor.

The Business setback The blind spot is when the owner is the only window for business growth then he also becomes the bottleneck. His passion which has worked for him didn’t allow him to see from a different perspective. His way has become the right way which blinds him to see anything other than his way. What has worked yesterday will not work today. The same loyal and trusted people who were a stepping stone have become a bottle neck. The same one to one personal relationship doesn’t allow professionals to work with him or give him a fair and unbiased opinion or feedback.   There must be a successor planning. The SME thinks he is immortal. He is 55 to 65 years old but still everything goes through his hawk eyes. His son has joined him, but he has to be the extension of his father. He cannot substantially add or subtract anything of his own. Majority of the SME children are not interested to take forward the work of the father as there is nothing interesting or challenging for them. Even if the father handover the authority the system and the people left behind don’t allow any change.

Behind this entire facade one thing gets missed out. He is sitting on a gold mine. If he can actually play one role powerfully then the organization can accelerate and be in 10x mode. From the role of the maintenance guy, if he switches to the role of an accelerator and driver of his organization then there is a whole new future available. He can get disengaged from all the unwanted activities and conversations. From a personal organization, it will shift to be a professional organization. There will be a place for many professionals to contribute.

Now this is the first requirement of an SME owner. He must play ‘out of box’ role in the organisation. One such role is the need of a coach who can think with him for his organisation, people and for the way forward. Large and multinational companies are looking at the vendor as an organization and not as an individual. So the owner driven SME has no choice but to make his company as a professional driven organization. The sooner he does the better it will be.


*Azaad Saini is a founder, catalyst and master coach. He is involved in leadership & future building coaching for CEOs, Directors & VPs and can be contacted on  [email protected]