Year 2020 is the new beginning of a decade. Business landscape had changed in tremendous speed in the past 10 years. It will not slow down but will move even faster. Are SMEs prepared for the new decade? Can SMEs continue to operate the same way as it was in the past 10 years yet maintain competitiveness? In this article, I would like to urge SMEs to be prepared for and welcome the 10 Cs of the new decade.
Evolution of technology, disruptive business models, dynamics of consumer behaviour and expectations are forcing SMEs to be fast and agile in order to survive. With the new government in power, there are already multiple changes in policies within a year. Minimum wages, SST and digital transformation are some that impact SMEs the most. Political and socio-economic condition will continue to be volatile while waiting for new government to stabilise and govern our country systematically with a clear direction. SMEs have to prepare for and adapt to these changes.
2.CAPACITY AND CAPABILITY
Malaysian SMEs are too used to working with what they have while hoping for the better. Most often, there are minimum investments in automation, upskilling, branding and marketing. Many manufacturers still dependent on foreign workers while services companies continue to squeeze most out of their employees with minimum training and upskilling. SMEs are deemed to fail If capacity and capability building is not in the radar of their business planning. There are many free seminars / forums / conferences and special upskilling programmes from HRDF while government agencies like MPC, MATRADE, MIDA and SMECORP also offer various incentive programmes to help SMEs build and grow their capacity and capability. SMEs must be pro-active in enrolling themselves for these programmes.
Creative thinking is not proprietary to artists and designers, it is an essential skill in businesses especially for SMEs who wish to challenge the market. The result is always referred to Disruptive Economy. Design thinking is one of the most popular creative thinking methods recently and I foresee it will be the basis for new business ideas. Key to creative thinking is to challenge and question the norms. SMEs are small and have greater advantage to leverage on creative thinking to change their business models compared to bigger conglomerates.
SMEs often want higher control of their operations by having all managed in-house. Lack of resources and focus deters excellence in what they do and limit their growth potential. In the new decade, businesses should focus only on what they do best and collaborate with others on areas they do have expertise in. Collaborative partners will be able to maximise their competitive advantage to create higher value than what SMEs can achieve independently. Collaborative model not only eases SMEs’ investment burden, but also offers greater performance and results.
Content marketing has been a very popular business strategy in the last decade and it will continue to be even more important in this decade. The availability of 5G technology allows content to be transferred in light speed. Content sharing format will go beyond video and may see virtual reality and augmented reality becoming the norms in the coming years. Content enrichment capabilities have no limits. It will surely change how we consume content and that offers a whole new opportunity for marketing and branding.
Consumerism has put a great impact on the world we live in. We are exhausting the earth’s resources while we enjoy the goods and services offered. The younger generation has greater awareness on this threat and more people are beginning to be environmentally friendly. They will support businesses which adopt or promote sustainable economy conserving nature and resources in their own ways. Some businesses see it as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but I see it as a purpose economy which not only brings goodness in what we do but a great revenue stream to SMEs. SMEs should grab this opportunity and benefit from the first mover advantage.
In the age of 4th industrial revolution data and artificial intelligence offer endless possibilities. Today, mass customisation is possible and it will only get more common and affordable in the next few years. However, consumers would only want what is unique to them. SMEs who can produce or market such products will win the battle in the competitive market.
We are living in a world that is nearly fully connected. We can share information and content to anyone in any part of the world while businesses can connect to its operations in real time with machine twinning. The world is now accessible virtually, hence SMEs can market its services to everyone and anywhere in real time. Conglomerates and MNCs which historically control the market loses its competitiveness to SMEs as everyone is now competing in a level playing field.
Business operations and transactions will no longer be server dependent. SMEs will just need to get on Cloud and start migrating their systems for higher operational efficiency.
Last but not least, cybersecurity will be the biggest concern for SMEs. Digital threat will overtake theft or robbery. As of today, very few SMEs has made efforts to strengthen their cybersecurity measures and do not realise the detrimental impact including risk losing the whole business. SMEs can no longer afford to neglect this in this new decade.
To conclude, I am confident that SMEs will triumph in this decade as every aspect of economic, political and technological development is in favour of SMEs.
By Keng Teck Yap, Managing Consultant of Bizsphere Brand and Marketing Group.
Written for Business Today Magazine, Issue Feb 2020.