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Wednesday 24th July 2024

Word of the Week – SME

We look at our word of the week – SME, and what it means in practice

SME business two people working in a shop


In the world of business, especially within the UK, the term SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) holds significant weight.

It encompasses a broad spectrum of businesses, generally defined by their size in terms of employee count and financial metrics such as turnover or balance sheet total.

The categorisation of SMEs can vary slightly, but a common framework exists to distinguish them.

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A micro enterprise in the UK, for instance, is a business with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover not exceeding about £1.7 million. As businesses grow larger but remain relatively small, they fall into the category of small enterprises, which have fewer than 50 employees and turnover under £8.5 million.

Moving up the scale, medium enterprises are defined as having fewer than 250 employees with turnovers up to £42.5 million, or a balance sheet total up to £36.5 million.

SMEs are not just a critical part of the business ecosystem in the UK—they are its very backbone. Accounting for over 99% of all businesses, they are fundamental to the country’s economic health.

They are responsible for creating a substantial proportion of jobs, employing around 60% of the private sector workforce. This widespread employment impact highlights their role in providing livelihood opportunities and supporting economic stability across various regions.

Furthermore, SMEs are often at the forefront of innovation. Their relatively small size allows for greater flexibility and agility, enabling them to adapt swiftly to market changes and to bring innovative products and services to the market.

This adaptability is a crucial advantage, allowing them to respond to new trends and consumer demands more effectively than larger, more bureaucratic corporations.

However, running an SME is not without its challenges. One of the most significant obstacles is accessing finance.

SMEs often struggle to secure loans and other forms of funding, as financial institutions may view them as higher risk compared to larger enterprises. This can limit their ability to invest in growth opportunities, upgrade technology, or expand their workforce.

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Another challenge is navigating the regulatory landscape. Compliance with a myriad of regulations, from health and safety standards to tax laws, can be daunting for smaller businesses that may lack the necessary resources and expertise.

The complexity of these requirements can divert valuable time and effort away from core business activities.

Competing against larger firms also poses a major challenge. SMEs may find it difficult to compete with bigger companies that have more resources at their disposal for marketing, research and development, and economies of scale.

This competitive pressure requires SMEs to be particularly innovative and resourceful in how they operate and market their products or services.

For more insights on what it is like to run an SME business, check out Michael Taggart’s monthly column (link).

Photo credits: Pexels

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