HOW TO LOVE A SME : the keys of the big firms that grow in this immense B2B market

It is crucial to consider differences in decision making. And look for the benefit to be tangible for small and medium customers.

If the societies are added, the self-employed and the monotributistas, in Argentina there are about 5 million productive units, according to the latest data from 2017 of the Ministry of Production and Labor. And of them, 609.000 employ at least one worker in a dependency relationship, but just the 1% occupy 200% or more. The rest, Clear, They are SMEs. Thus small and medium-sized companies concentrate 2/3 from formal private employment and gather 44% del PBI, according to the last National Economic Census. Son, Thus, a very attractive market for corporations.

 

DIFFERENT AND NEEDED

However, origin differences, conception and forms of work between SMEs and large companies often create difficulties.

 

"An SME needs a lot of flexibility from its suppliers, that can be adapted to the needs that they require and that are often different from those of a large company, where everything is much more standardized ”, explica Sandra Felsenstein, director of consultancy DINKA, specialized in advising entrepreneurs and SMEs.

Corporations usually have processes and organizational charts that establish how hierarchical and middle management personnel should act.. further, They tend to have large and defined budgets in advance and on a regular basis.. In SMEs, by his side, whether or not they have a family origin, owners often intervene in most operational decisions. And the capital is limited and contributed by few people.

In this world of contrasts, Nevertheless, SMEs and corporations need each other. According to Felsenstein, "If a large company wants to get a SME as a client, you have to be used to working with these types of companies, understand their problems well, and be sure that they can provide a service according to what they need ”, Explain.

OWNER YES, CHART NO

SMEs have logic, cultures, specific interests and an entrepreneurial spirit that differentiate them from other types of firms. But current regulations define them by variables that have to do with the number of employees and sales volume.. Its reason for being in the market is due to its ability to produce individualized and poorly standardized products, and also serve as an auxiliary fabric to large companies, supply particular sectors and respond to different market logics than those that drive corporations.

 

According to the Business and SME Manager of Banco Galicia, in SMEs "the owner has a huge role unlike a corporation, where there is an organization chart, a higher degree of professionalism and delegation. ” This aspect can be beneficial in some situations.. So, "The advantage that SMEs have over a large company is the proximity of the company owner and employees, which allows us to have a different dialogue to raise issues that need to be improved. ’, points out Fernando Zack, general manager of Plus ART, a work risk insurer (ART), specialized in these types of clients.

 

When looking for a provider, one of the fundamental differences between SMEs and large companies is the bargaining power. "The corporation, normally, have more than one alternative, and all of them want to sell you; and if the provider fails, change right away ”, says the director of SEA Consultores and specialist in family businesses. Many times, providers are chosen according to name: if the company is well known, is supposed to have more support. But according to experts, brand fame does not always lead to good service for SMEs because, again, to little flexibility. "Small companies would have to look at the trajectory, history and, especially, ask your colleagues; but SME entrepreneurs are not very fond of asking, they like to make their own decisions ”, consider Antognolli.

Sandra Felsenstein agrees: "The SME is tempted to hire renowned companies with a long history, And many times he doesn't realize that these firms have much bigger clients and they can't give them the attention they need.. Something fundamental to avoid this is asking colleagues for references. Other aspects that are prioritized when hiring a service are the method of payment and the price.. When it comes to suppliers directly related to the “core business”, as raw material manufacturers, trust and good relationship often add.

Even so, SMEs are very different from each other. They vary, from already, in the items that cover, but also in its conformation, economic power or form of management. That aspect, usually, depends on the philosophy of its direct owners. "The size of our company allows management to have direct contact with SME entrepreneurs, and that is an added value that we want to preserve ”, declares the general manager of Plus ART. Although the company manages a high turnover, its origin is closer to that of an SME, and has a number of accounts, what they present as a fortress. In fact, the company promotes itself as "the ART of the Argentine SME", since it targets that audience.

"Many times, companies contract work risk insurance only to comply with the law, but they don't see all the juice they can get from the insurer and the services it can provide them ", recognizes Zack.

Because small firm holders have limited staff to delegate management areas, sometimes that causes some degree of improvisation or, at least, little professionalization of these sectors. In that sense, some providers can become allies: "The best business we can do as a company of work risks, is that, when we negotiate contract renewal, let's propose a reduction of the aliquot; for that we need to work during the previous twelve months on prevention and on the reduction of accidents and litigation ”, specifies. From those actions, an ART has the potential to train staff and suggest improvements to processes or facilities. Many times, the investment required to achieve an improvement is low in relation to the risk involved in not making it and, even, results in a decrease in insurance costs. At the same time - and as a main benefit - workers are able to perform in a safer place.

Many times, employees make mistakes due to overconfidence or a wrong culture. An example of that is when they don't use safety equipment, even if the company provides it. In those cases, trainings given by personnel outside the company are usually much more effective than a simple talk from the owner or a direct superior.

 

QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

"In the small SME, the owner's priorities are to sell more and buy better. The rest, usually, it is quite delayed: that includes marketing, strategies and finances ”points out Bouchoux, from Galicia. In family societies it can happen, also, there is an unclear separation between personal and company finances: "Many companies fall more for financial or strategic issues, that for economic or sales reasons ”, highlights the head of SMEs of the bank. And another contribution helps to break the stereotype, when he explains that small organizations seek personalized treatment with banking institutions: "One would expect us, as a bank, The first thing that an SME will ask you for is money or financing; but that doesn't happen ”, ensures. Conversely, many of the small companies approach for advice on financial management. To have context: In the world, just the 25% SMEs take credits. But in Argentina, due to fluctuating market characteristics, that figure is estimated at 15% (although strictly speaking it is difficult to establish an exact calculation, since some entrepreneurs ask for personal loans to invest in their companies).

In the specific case of Banco de Galicia, the entity has among its customers with 1.000 corporations, 5.000 big companies and nothing less than 275.000 SMEs, including small shops. That way, more than 95% of your business clients (excluding the agricultural sector), consist of small and medium firms. Which represent, at the same time, the 40% of the volume of non-personal deposits. However, while corporations tend to carry out their investments more efficiently, for Bouchoux the financial inefficiency of SMEs means that there are idle deposits at various times, a drawback that is more damaging in times of high inflation. In this sense, the executive recommends, professionalize, get advice and turn to suppliers. "We have tools for finance to take a more leading role and to make better use of excess liquidity". For that he assures, in addition to self-management options, provide personal and telephone advice due to the assessment that SMEs give to this type of service.

In parallel, in 2012 the entity created "Good Business" (www.buenosnegocios.com), an online site with information for SMEs about the latest in the sector, help tools available, human resources and finances among other areas. There is also a space where the "community" of companies can communicate with each other and establish various agreements: "We have around 300 thousand visits per month, of which half are companies from abroad ”, Bouchoux assures.

When a service is provided to a corporation, basically a solution is provided to the person who leads the position or the department in question. Instead, when working with smaller firms, many times a dialogue is held with the owner or one of the owners directly: the imprint of the company is, definitely, that person's philosophy. That is why it is essential to generate empathy and understand the specific needs that this businessman seeks, and have enough flexibility to respond to them.

DINKA consultancy confirms “You deal with people. And in an SME, the problems that we are going to solve for the people who run it weigh a lot. It is very important to understand what is the added value that we are going to give them, according to the imprint of that company ”.

For the Antagnolli advisor, it is key to create a climate of trust. This is because entrepreneurs in the SME sector are often "very emotional". At once, If there is something that is not superfluous in a small company, it is time: In this sense, establish negotiations through an employee without sufficient training or without decision-making power., can become an almost impossible error to trace.

 

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