Governments throughout the world recognise the importance of the SME / SMB sector to their economies. And they do try to help with various initiatives aimed at making their SME / SMB sectors more competitive. But sadly, even after 50 years of proven net benefits for industry, Business Excellence is still not a high priority topic for the world’s politicians.

Australian Government Promoting Business Excellence? – Not enough scale or focus

Australia’s Federal Government has some special programs underway that are achieving great results for individual businesses – like the recent Leadership 21 Program sponsored by Enterprise Connect that included ‘How To’ techniques for practical implementation of Business Excellence. But even well structured programs like this are improving the performance of only 100-200 businesses per annum – far short of the 1.2 million SMEs in Australia.

Our Government naturally focuses on traditional business assistance initiatives such as simplifying Commonwealth-State relations, reducing taxation rates, accelerating tax depreciation schedules, improving industrial relations and minimising ‘red tape’ bureaucracy. These initiatives affect nearly all SMEs – and that, of course, is their attraction for government policy. The Government also provides a wide range of assistance measures available to individual SMEs, including millions of dollars annually in grants. These grants apply to many sub-components of Business Excellence (e.g. business planning; marketing), but none are aimed at SMEs regarding practical implementation of Business Excellence in a comprehensive, holistic manner.

Our elephant in the room

Surely it is time our government addressed our biggest economic handicap, namely the massive lack of penetration of comprehensive Business Excellence techniques in SMEs. If instead of the 1% market penetration in Australia we could reach say 10% penetration within a few years, the impact on our economy, budget deficit and balance of trade would be enormous. And we shouldn’t stop there. As a nation we should be aiming for 25% or more if we wish to be really competitive on the world stage. That would more than offset our relatively high wages structure and distance from major markets.

To be or not…

To that end, I believe a national awareness program advocating Business Excellence should be sponsored by the Federal Government to encourage large numbers (i.e. thousands) of SMEs to implement Business Excellence. An advocacy program on this scale would warrant the Federal Government partnering with our State Governments and industry associations.

The Government of Singapore is a role model amongst Asian countries for SME assistance programs of various types. Click here for further information about the Singaporean Business Excellence advocacy program in particular – aimed at raising the performance of 2,000 SMEs in that tiny but impressive country.

The focus of the Australian awareness program should be to highlight what SMEs are missing out on if they do NOT implement Business Excellence. However, the program should not exclusively advocate the traditional consulting-led model for delivery because we know this would severely limit the number of companies that can afford to take up the opportunity. Instead, the awareness program should encourage SMEs to explore the potential of disruptive, lower cost methods of delivery.

Of course it would be up to individual SMEs to decide whether or not they proceed to implementation.  No additional Government incentives / funding for individual SMEs would be required if the awareness program and the delivery mechanisms were good enough.