What are the most important issues for business leaders of medium-sized companies in the next six months? How has the economic situation of small and medium enterprises evolved in the past two years since the beginning of the Corona crisis? A survey conducted by The Alternative Board (TAB) of mid-sized entrepreneurs in German-speaking countries shows that more than 50 percent of those surveyed have increased their company’s sales and revenue in the past two years. At the same time, future topics such as innovation or the successor of an individual in the company play a secondary role in the agenda.
Significant growth in sales and revenue for medium-sized companies
The good news first: More than half of the entrepreneurs surveyed have significantly increased sales (50 percent) and profits (52 percent) in the past three years.
Are medium-sized companies ready for the future?
Only 17 percent of medium-sized companies surveyed prioritize succession within the company. For 60 percent of those surveyed, the topic is completely irrelevant. The situation is similar when it comes to the future sustainability of entrepreneurship: only a good third (36 percent) put innovation first. More than 50 percent said they do not prioritize innovation.
Very popular: Marketing, HR and Strategy
On the other hand, for more than half of the entrepreneurs surveyed, two topics are currently high on the agenda: 61 percent stated that marketing and sales will be particularly important over the next six months. The challenge of finding and connecting the right employees to the company remains an urgent issue and is also a top priority for 61 percent of managers of medium-sized companies. More than half (55 percent) of entrepreneurs are interested in the right strategic direction for a company.
Perception and Reality: Is there a lack of awareness of the problem?
While the companies surveyed are well aware of the importance of placing their people and issues such as the expected persistent shortage of skilled workers appear to be present, little attention is paid to the issue of company succession. On the other hand, there are clear and alarming numbers: studies show that in the next ten years, the succession of companies will have to be regulated in about one million small and medium-sized family businesses that are crucial for the German economy. Even if the next generation shows a high level of willingness to take responsibility, the topic is still associated with many obstacles and pitfalls and often a great deal of effort. Accordingly, it will be understood that more emphasis will be placed on the entire range of topics.
The same applies to the issue of innovation. Here, too, numerous studies show that SMEs in particular can only guarantee their long-term success if they demonstrate a willingness to innovate and actively develop themselves and their offerings in a demand-oriented manner.
Businessmen advise each other
“Time and time again we test that company managers become aware of issues only when they are specifically affected by them,” explains Christian Koehler, Managing Director of Peer-to-Peer Management GmbH and lead partner at The Alternative Board. When it comes to issues like corporate succession, this can be a painful wake-up. On the other hand, active exchange between entrepreneurs increases awareness of topics even before they appear on their own agenda.”
The idea of ”eye-level counseling” originated more than three decades ago in the United States and is now active in 25 countries around the world. The concept is based on the assumption that no one understands the interests and needs of an entrepreneur better than other entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur councils have only existed in German-speaking countries for a few years – however they have really spread rapidly. Entrepreneurs currently consult about 180 Entrepreneur Councils in the DACH.
Despite the ongoing crisis, more than 75% of TAB members reported being happier than before thanks to regular mutual consultations at business meetings.
The Alternative Board (TAB) conducted the survey between December 2, 2021 and February 28, 2022 among members of the Entrepreneurship Boards. 192 heads of small and medium-sized businesses in Germany, Austria and Switzerland were surveyed.