Forum details barriers faced by SMEs

Posted on  07/11/2012  |  Media Centre

Dr Peter Ting (L), Regional Vice President of Strategic Innovation and Market Creations, Azizah Ali (2nd L) Microsoft Brunei Country Manager, Benjamin Trinidad (2nd R) of SKSWood Sdn Bhd, and Delwin Keasberry (R), Asia Inc Forum’s Programme Manager during a dialogue session at the Local Business Development Forum at the Empire Hotel & Country Club yesterday. Picture: BT/Al-Haadi Abu Bakar

Al-Haadi Abu Bakar

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

POOR financial discipline, limited resources and the wrong mindset are among the barriers that prevent small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from growing and venturing overseas, industry experts at Asia Inc’s Local Business Development Forum said yesterday.

In a dialogue session that discussed how SMEs could grow beyond the safe borders of Brunei, three guest speakers discussed how these barriers limited SMEs’ growth overseas, and shared suggestions on how to tackle them.

Noting that finance was one of the most pressing challenges faced by entrepreneurs, Dr Peter Ting, one of the speakers during the session, said lack of financial discipline prevented many SMEs from growing and urged business leaders to manage their cash effectively.

Ting is the regional vice-president of Strategic Innovation and Market Creations, and a senior figure at the institute responsible for formulating the strategic blueprint and developing talents to pioneer the growth and expansion of Blue Ocean Strategy Consulting in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Often SMEs are good at selling but do not know how to conserve the cash. Their profit and loss account may look good, but their cash flow is a different story,” he said.

“My advice is start with your own personal finance. I always believe, if you can manage your own personal financial affairs, you can certainly manage your business,” he added.

Having limited resources is also a common issue faced by SMEs in Brunei, according to Azizah Ali, the country manager of Microsoft Brunei.

To address this, Azizah said Bruneian SMEs should find a way to “do more with less”.

“Find out a way that you can do more with less resources. Definitely application of technology is one of the key solutions to that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Trinidad, the management systems and quality assurance manager at SKSWood Sdn Bhd, said a discouraging mindset was one of the biggest issues SMEs needed to contend with.

“Based on my encounters with a number of SMEs in Brunei, they often think that new challenges such as overseas expansion are probably a position too big for their company to be in, and refuse to tackle it,” he said.

Held at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, the Local Business Development (LBD) Forum was aimed at nurturing the development of local SMEs by assisting them in growing their business through quality learning and the building of relationships with their peers in business and other relevant organisations.

The forum is the final part of Asia Inc Forum’s LBD Programme for 2012.

Delwin Keasberry, the programme manager of Asia Inc who moderated the dialogue session, asked the panel of speakers what they thought were the most pressing issues SMEs needed to look at.

The speakers said that capacity building and the implementation of technology were among the priorities.

Ting noted there was a huge gap between the top members of the organisation and the management team, adding that there was a need to bridge that gap.

Azizah, for her part, said the application of technology could help SMEs innovate in terms of business processes or customer approach.

Trinidad, meanwhile, said that while innovation and finding new opportunities through the Blue Ocean strategy was crucial for growth, businesses should also go back to basics. He said SMEs must be equipped with leadership skills and financial planning, while preparing solid business plans the foundations of running a business.

“There are a lot of these training programmes and schemes available in Brunei but unfortunately there are still not many SMEs that are taking advantage of this,” he said.

Anne Masri, managing director of Pro Ethica Training and Research, who was in the audience, asked the panel at what point in its lifecycle a business should decide to grow beyond its borders.

In response, Ting said the decision should have been made at the very beginning.

“Many successful CEOs in history start small but they already have a business empire in mind at the beginning,” he said.

Azizah also said businesses should start looking globally prior to starting up.

“At the end of the day, the market your business is pursuing is global anyway,” she said.

Dato Paduka Timothy Ong, chairman of Asia Inc Forum, said SMEs must first have imagination, spirit and the willingness to pursue overseas growth before waiting for opportunities to come knocking at their door.

“For most SMEs, there is no long-term plan to go abroad, but if they have the imagination and the desire to grow at the very beginning, they will look for opportunities both within the country and abroad,” he said.The Brunei Times