Management / Rene Carayol: No matter where you sit in UK industry, SMEs are relevant, vital and deserve support

Rene Carayol: No matter where you sit in UK industry, SMEs are relevant, vital and deserve support

Every now and again, my diary from hell appears to be working magically in my favour, and this is one of those rare moments.

rene-199x300As I sit down to pull my thoughts together about what has changed in the world of supporting small to medium enterprises (SMEs), I glance through my diary and, next Thursday, I have been invited to moderate a fabulous session for 300 SMEs facilitated by Goldman Sachs. It’s predicated on how they are providing support to the 10,000 Small Business UK Programme on how they best “Scale Up” – yes, 10,000!

So let’s just give that some context. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) at the start of 2015 estimated that there are 5.4 million businesses in the UK, which employ some 26 million people, and have a combined turnover of more than £3,700billion. This is significant stuff – made even more relevant to this event is that SMEs account for 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK, providing 48 per cent of private sector employment, and 33 per cent of private sector turnover. No matter where you sit in UK industry, SMEs are relevant, vital and deserve tangible support.

Back to Goldman Sachs. We all know them as the blue chip investment banking giant who are generally involved in some of the world’s largest M&A transactions, advising the largest multinationals, and getting involved in eye-wateringly large business transactions.

Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to learn just how much active, genuine commitment they have put into the push to support today’s SMEs. With the right support and a small sprinkling of good fortune, they could well become tomorrow’s market leaders.

How times have changed. Having had the privilege of serving as both chairman and non-executive director for a few fast-growing SMEs in the past, I only wish that we could have been part of something so well thought through and so powerful.

The one and only Michael Bloomberg, (until recently mayor of New York, but now back running the media empire he created) will be the guest keynote speaker. There was a time, admittedly many years ago now, when he too was running an SME, which went on to enable him to become the ultra-successful billionaire that he is today. Just the right sort of insights and role model for our diverse collection of entrepreneurs and wealth creators in the audience.

I am looking forward to and excited to be running an instructive and learned panel which has Professor Mark Hart of Aston University, who is the key academic for the 10,000 Small Business UK Programme; Patrick Magee, chief operating officer of the British Business Bank; and Sherry Coutu CBE, founder of the
Scale-Up Initiative.

As we all know, the last few years have seen a complete turnaround from the traditional methods of funding for SMEs. While this has been extremely painful for far too many young businesses, it has also served to demonstrate the resilience and fortitude of many others.

We still tend to start any assessment of an SME with inadvertent cynicism. The desire to embrace such numbers encourages an attitude of trying to identify winners as opposed to becoming obsessed with looking for faults easily found in fledgling businesses.

With the sort of tangible support being given by the likes of Goldman Sachs, many dreams are becoming reality, but rock-solid initiatives like this are still not enough – but what brilliant role-modelling, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity in a future issue to share both the experience and the many nuggets from this much welcomed event with you.

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