The importance of networks and communities for SMEs

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    20 July 2020

    Key Takeaways

    • A strong network and community are necessary for SMEs to get first-hand knowledge about developments within the industry, as the economy gradually restarts in phases
    • Private sector fostered networks, such as The FinLab, the Google and UOB SME Leadership Academy and UOB BusinessConnect, offer peer learning opportunities and access to additional resources including tech solutions, in a guided environment
    • UOB is spearheading various initiatives that can help SMEs bolster resilience during this crisis and be future-ready
    An opinion piece by Mr. Lawrence Loh, Head of Group Business Banking, UOB

    Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are regarded as the backbone of many economies, and the same is true of Singapore. According to the Department of Statistics, SMEs are responsible for 72 per cent of Singapore’s employment – making it imperative that they make it through the current challenging times.

    We all know that the more supportive the environment, the more likely businesses are to emerge successfully from this crisis. The various relief measures set out by the Singapore government’s recent four Budgets will go a long way towards supporting SMEs. But it bears remembering that a strong business network could be equally fundamental to the ability of an SME to survive and thrive.

     

    People and ideas: the value of networks and communities to
    SMEs' success

    In the business world, a single connection with the right person can make a big difference. Networking with like-minded people may provide you with future business opportunities. But beyond this, by being part of the right communities, SME owners can be exposed to a variety of ideas and insights from other business owners through peer learning.

    I have seen the value of peer learning as a mentor for The FinLab, a three-month accelerator programme that is a joint venture between UOB and the government-owned SGInnovate.

    By offering access to tech solutions in a guided environment, the FinLab not only helps local SMEs identify and define the problems in their business, it also equips them with the tools and knowledge they need to solve these problems.

    And this has led to some incredible breakthroughs where entrepreneurs develop new tactics and strategies to help take their business to the next level. Siam Coconut Pte Ltd, a local Thai ingredient and grocery distributor that also produces bottled coconut water, Cocoloco, participated in The FinLab programme as they wanted to digitalise their business.

    "One of the most valuable takeaways was being able to interact with mentors, and also having the opportunity to see what tech solutions are out there in the market." shared Mr Kelvin Ngian, founder of Cocoloco.

    The company’s experience demonstrates that peer learning and networking are truly invaluable tools in the journey to business success.

     

    How UOB can be a driving force to cultivate SMEs' success

    Through the UOB BusinessConnect community, members receive invites to exclusive industry-specific webinars held by experts, and get access to latest market trends and insights. In addition, members also get special offers from our extensive supplier network for their business needs.

    As the government continues to push businesses to adopt digital initiatives, SMEs will be seeking solutions that can help them reinvent themselves in the new digital economy. To learn how they can approach this, SMEs can turn to the SME Leadership Academy. A collaboration between UOB and Google, the free training programme is specifically aimed at helping upskill local SMEs’ competence in this new economy.

    Through the programme, SMEs gain knowledge in digital marketing strategies, enterprise software and tools, and receive hands-on experience in implementing data-driven business strategies.

    For example, at a recently concluded webinar series catering to SMEs in the retail sector, attendees received industry-tailored recommendations and guidance on building up their digital capabilities to transform their business through the use of online tools, campaign planning with Google Ads, and increasing their online presence on the Google platform.

    This has helped Sembawang Lighting House, a 23-year store retailing lighting fixtures and ceiling fans, digitalise and stand out in a competitive market.

    "The SME Leadership Academy opened up a world of possibilities for us with its introduction of Google My Business. The online business tool increased the ease of sharing updates regularly and also facilitated online to offline conversions." My Roy Chia, manager of Sembawang Lighting House.

    UOB is committed to helping SMEs get through these challenging times. Join our community and gain industry-specific insights and approaches that will help SMEs pivot their business models in order to capture new revenue streams and opportunities.

     

    References:
    1https://www.singstat.gov.sg/~/media/Files/visualising_data/infographics/economy/singapore-economy28032019.pdf

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