Small and medium-sized enterprises are a critical engine for the global economy. Many countries have taken actions to help SMEs adopt new work processes, speed up digitalisation and find new markets. Such policies aim to address urgent short-term challenges but also contribute to strengthening the resilience of SMEs in a more structural way and support their further growth. In the wake of the pandemic, economic development professionals can take four actions to maximize the impact of existing support measures.
Ease SME access to support
To increase SMEs’ participation in response measures, officials should work directly with the entrepreneurs, helping them identify the right assistance programs, navigate application processes, and secure assistance whilst focusing on clear business outcomes. Countries that have successfully carried out such interventions have established a single, integrated point of contact for SMEs.
Orchestrate and focus the support ecosystem through an ‘SME nerve center’
SMEs now need comprehensive, hands-on support. To maximize the impact of government response measures, councils should create an ‘SME nerve center’ to serve as a single orchestrator, activate the full ecosystem, and work with companies to utilise the support to deliver short-term wins.
Sharpen focus on building sustainability and competitiveness
The speed of recovery will depend on the ability of SMEs to return to sustainable operations post crisis after current stimulus measures run out. Councils should direct their focus to delivering three foundational interventions that are of highest impact and relevance to SMEs: access to local demand (tendering), support for internationalization (OEM supply chain), and enhancement of productivity (digitization).
Replan for the next normal
Councils and SME associations could consider reassessing their existing strategies and adapting priorities to the current environment. Beyond the current stimulus response, councils could explore targeted support for specific sectors, exploit scale-up potential and accelerate the support for start-ups to mitigate the increasing level of lay-offs.
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