Few people doubt that small / medium businesses are indeed the powerhouse of theUK economy and over 65% of the UK population work for one. They are also the source of many of the best innovators and entrepreneurs needed to generate future wealth and employment. It is indeed a sector that should be allowed to prosper, but to do that one has to actually understand their motivation, ethos and culture
Media headlines are now full of what must be done to help them during the current economic recession. The public sector in particular thinks that it has a valuable role to play in keeping them going with access to new procurement opportunities. In fact you have a huge choice of portals and sites where you can register for this tender or download the specification for that contract. Never been easier, indeed some lazy sales executives in bigger companies think that is all you need to succeed in selling to the public sector is a subscription to Tenders Electronic Daily!
The portal / registration approach may appeal to some small businesses, but for the majority that really matter it is at best a policy gesture or at worst a waste of time. At this point I will no doubt have portal managers scrambling to e-mail me details of their hits, downloads etc. So who are the ones that really matter? It is the multitude of companies that have great products, services and ideas that have given up trying to sell to the public sector as they have no inclination to spend hours filling in unproductive paper work. Over the years I have seen many such companies who for scores of reasons have been deterred from selling to the public sector. They have lost out in sales, but then so have public services which have been denied access to improved outcomes often at far less cost. Sadly, a lot of this nonsense is being inflicted on the 'third sector' (translates to 'voluntary organisations / charities' in English).
So what can, or should I say, needs to be done to resolve this? Well go back to my first paragraph. Purchasing departments and policy makers need to understand their 'motivation, ethos and culture' As a starter, why not a three month secondment into a small business before any one starts policy making on what they need to survive?