The biggest challenge faced by SMEs in Singapore can be summed up in the following statement: "How can I continue to grow my business and allow this growth to be sustainable?" Of course, for any business to echo this sentiment, it would have already reached a level of proven success in what they are doing and they want to move up a level, or at least, try to be at the same level of success and profitability.
The reality of business is this, if it does not move up, it will go down. Why is this so? The answer is simple - disruptions. We are living in the era of technological growths - of digital marketing and cryptocurrencies; of blockchains and augmented realities. These are grammars that did not exist just over a decade ago. These technological waves were supposed to enhance the livings of beings. They had also affected the norms of businesses. It begun simply with automations, replacing the human hands with machines and conveyor belts. Quality improved, quantities increased, sales boomed. Now all these are the norms for any products or food and profitability has decreased from dollars to cents. Then came the next wave of disruptions - private-hired cars that challenges the traditional taxi service; online websites that do the business matchings instead of having to do so via third parties; directly buying and selling eradicating the middleman, distributors, retailers, etc. This is only viewing the disruptions at a micro level. In a macro level, Singapore is also one of these "middlemen", considering that we don't have any natural resources and a huge portion of our GDP is based on enabling trades?
"Perhaps it is an instilled pride in them, having the ability to grow the business from scratch, but not acknowledging the inability to growth it beyond the threshold."
One thing for sure, despite all the disruptions, the physical flows of goods still have to take place. We are fortunate to be positioned in traditional sea trade routes and this will grant us more time to continue to re-invent Singapore Inc. How much more time, it is a crystal ball guess. Meanwhile, local companies who has enjoyed the historical crest of success should review their business and start changing beyond the norms. Changes are hard, but necessary. The "Lieutenants" of our local industries worked their ways from ground up. They do not necessary had the luxury of wealthy inheritances or scholarships. In fact, many of them gained their successes through good timing, good business acuteness and strokes of fortunates. Imagine the coffeeshops towkays who have done the business well and managing several hundred thousands of dollars worth of revenues. Or the smaller property developers that grew from building residential buildings to the commercial space, and raking in revenue of several hundred millions of dollars. As businesses grew, the mindsets remain unchanged. Many of these successful SMEs in Singapore are struggling because leaderships do not necessary have the ability to foresee changes, or it is unnerving to administer changes. Perhaps it is an instilled pride in them, having the ability to grow the business from scratch, but not acknowledging the inability to growth it beyond the threshold. Considering that SMEs employed about two-thirds of our Singapore workforce, their successes or failures will have direct impacts on the livelihoods of our fellow Singaporeans.
There is no straight answers to these issues. Although SMEs do have access to resources offered by the government to reach to their next level, changes has to start with the leadership, or at least, the bosses running the show. In comparison, Singapore does not have many global successes from our home-grown companies. If our local businesses want to be sustainable, they have to start investing and building in strong teams that will help the company plan ahead and look beyond the shores of the island. This will offer them a better chances of success and sustainability. It is not business as usual, anymore.