It's Small Wonder We Need Help, Says Study; Small May Be Beautiful but in Business Terms It Can Have Its Limitations According to a Recently Published University Report. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), July 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

It's Small Wonder We Need Help, Says Study; Small May Be Beautiful but in Business Terms It Can Have Its Limitations According to a Recently Published University Report. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports


Byline: ADRIENNE McGILL

SIZE matters, even among small and medium sized businesses, a new study has found.

And it stresses that initiatives to make Northern Ireland's SMEs more innovative and competitive should not be of a "one size fits all'' nature.

The study, Innovation and Organisational Size in Irish SMEs was carried out by Dr Rodney McAdam of the School of Business Organisation and Management at the University of Ulster and Renee Reid, Director of The Centre for Family Enterprise at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Broadly speaking, the report showed that even among SMEs there are differences in attitudes and capabilities depending on the size of the company.

In Northern Ireland terms, SMEs can be taken as firms employing 250 people or less and the study wrote to 2,086 of them, gaining returns from about one in five.

The study set out to determine how the companies functioned in several areas - leadership, people and culture, total quality/continuous improvement, product and process and knowledge and information.

Changes in markets and large organisational strategies have resulted in the need for SMEs to re-examine and modify their competitive strategies to increase innovation. SMEs are now finding that their niche markets are being aggressively targeted by large organisations which have become more agile and responsive to market demand.

This problem is particularly acute in peripheral regions, like Northern Ireland, where indigenous SMEs have traditionally relied more on local markets and now find themselves, at times, ill-equipped to face market challenges in the new competitive environment.

The results of the survey showed quite a variation in responses depending on the size of the firm in question:

n Leadership: smaller companies, reflecting their lower access to resources, felt management did not spend adequate time planning change or trying new methods of business but they nevertheless felt that the rate of change within the company was quite fast. Larger companies said there was more planning, but less actual rate of change.

n People and Culture: smaller firms face more problems with communications, resources and providing a working environment that makes their workforce more content. The focus on operations led to a lack of people development and feelings of job insecurity.

n Total quality and continuous improvement: generally firms were positive when asked if financial benefits had been achieved from the TQ/CI programme. …

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It's Small Wonder We Need Help, Says Study; Small May Be Beautiful but in Business Terms It Can Have Its Limitations According to a Recently Published University Report. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports
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