After my MBA, with no points for guessing it right, I joined a corporate to learn how they function before I could start my entrepreneurial venture. The first company I joined was a joint venture of an Indian and a Netherland based partner.
During my two years with that company, and the next 4 years in reputed corporate organizations, I worked as a sales trainer, as a manager in operations and across branches in various capacities. I was lucky beyond my dreams to have gotten such exposure and opportunities in just 6 years, to learn about all aspects of how big corporates operate. I consider the leadership lessons and financial acumen I gained the most valuable.
However, on the flip side, it also felt too structured and too ‘regulated’. I was at the vertex of my career having earned a reputation of a great manager, trainer, sales champion, process master and what not! That is the time I decided to quit and start my own business. I used this experience as a business coach, mentoring and consulting MSME business owners.
After having spent almost 8 years with MSME all across the country since then, I realized that MSMEs operate in a far more competitive landscape, their challenges are diverse and unique and most importantly, the way SMEs find solutions and tackle business challenges, there is a great deal to learn from them. Today I am sharing those experiences, corporate can and must learn from SMEs.
- In the corporates, employees are exposed to very little in terms of roles and the work they do. They only know or care about the job assigned to them. While in SME, there is too much learning involved and people get smarter at a faster pace. Corporate should learn to give more exposure to their employees – give them opportunities beyond the KRA/KPIs (it is a necessity in SMEs) so that talent can be developed and retained in the organization.
- In an SME set up, processes are made for people. In corporate, people are made for processes. While SMEs have been criticized for not following a process driven work culture, those that have or the ones I have trained have just enough processes to streamline work. There are processes introduced to improve delivery timelines and performance. However, in corporate there are just too many rules and processes, a lot of it is unnecessary. What I found in corporate is that they do not understand process formulation in the context of the requirement of the business. They have standardized templates which they push across departments/units/functions. This makes it difficult for employees to follow. Kaam karenge ya poora din process hi follow karte rahenge? In SMEs, it’s the other way round.
- In an SME set up, if an employee is not good enough, he/she is shown the door. Non-performance is not tolerated. In a corporate on the other hand, it’s easy to float around without contributing much for months and years. All the Performance Management Systems, PIP and counseling, buddy training etc are just on paper. It does not ensure that a non-performer will improve. Neither are they asked to leave. Corporate should be tough on non-performers.
- Corporate do not know how to best manage finance. Yes, they have the best brains and all the financial tools, cost-saving matrices and all that jazz for nuts. Work ina Gujarati or a Sindhi founder driven SME, you will know the value of money. In SME, it is all the hard-earned money of the promoter, so due diligence on spends is very efficient. Corporate should learn from SMEs on how curb wastage of resources.