Promoting Sustainable Performance

What makes SME’s successful? What stands in their way? How can your SME grow better, faster?

Developing global research insights into SME growth and performance

Even though 99.9% of business in the UK are classed as Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) (that’s around 4.9 million businesses) and an estimated 24.3 million people work in them little is known about why they grow, or how. Such knowledge is essential if the UK is to become more successful and raise its economic productivity and performance.

To address this topic the Centre for Employment, Competitiveness and Growth at University of Kent’s Business School are leading a unique research project entitled “Promoting Sustainable Performance“, or PSP for short, this work is revealing key insights about SME growth and the experience of those engaged in entrepreneurial activity in the Kent region and beyond. These insights have led to the development of initiatives such as The BIG Journey, a development programme for SME owner managers.

The last cohort of The BIG Journey reported an average increase in sales turnover of 18.8% and an increase in employment levels of 13.6%. This resulted in £2.8m being added to the South-East economy, and 111.5 new jobs, driving up the competitiveness of SMEs in the region.

PSP is a research process that involves a 5 stages; detailed literature reviews, surveys and face to face interviews with business owner-managers, detailed case studies with managers and employees, and workshops/focus groups. This research process is replicated every two years, and is about to enter its third iteration. This work has informed and led to the development of the BIG initiative which includes the Big Ten diagnostic, The BIG journey development programme, The BIG network peer support group and much more.

  1. Literature review
    A detailed review of the characteristics, processes, and constraints of sustainable business growth
  2. Online/postal survey
    A survey sent to 2,000 companies
  3. Face-to-face interviews
    A 1h30mn interview with owner-manager at the company premises
  4. Case studies
    1-2 days of interviews of a cross-section of employees and the collection of other data within 5 companies
  5. Workshops
    A results workshop to disseminate the key findings of the research and receive feedback from participants, and a set of mentoring workshops for the business participants.

Using the above methodology, this inquiry collects and analyses data on a broad range of business, management and entrepreneurial issues at the heart of SME growth and performance e.g. business market and competition; business growth & performance; change; management of the organisation; competitive strategy; innovation; human resource management (incl. employment relations practices; training and skills development; involvement and participation); access to information and advice; supply chain management, corporate social responsibility; and finance.

The knowledge that PSP generates is shared amongst a wide range of interested parties; entrepreneurs, employees of SME’s, researchers, policymakers, students and so on. Allowing all parties to engage with the beneficial findings of the work and add to our understanding of what makes businesses grow and excel.

Participating businesses engage in an in-depth and very useful analysis of their business, its current context and future opportunities, participants are invited to explore this further with the research team and all those who participate will be invited to workshops where we will share findings and offer useful advice and support for SME growth and success. Also produced from the work are comprehensive reports and a range of additional offerings for the SME community.

“When we were originally approached by UKC for their PSP project we could not have anticipated the profound impact it would have on our business. From the first conversation we were forced to reflect on what we were doing and the opportunity to take part in events and learn from the experiences of similar businesses was invaluable. Anyone who is looking to move forward should grab the opportunity to take part with both hands.” Dan Dickey, CEO, Art projects for Schools

PSP is making a significant contribution to our understanding of what works and what doesn’t in SME growth and performance and this leads to real results for businesses owner managers and their businesses. Get involved today by participating in the survey or getting in touch with Toby Lindsay at Centre for Employment, Competitiveness & Growth, Kent Business School.
+44 (0)1227 824539
+44 (0)7530507030


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