Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can be sources of employment and innovation in a national economy, yet conditions are not always favourable when these enterprises compete against larger competitors. The winner of Category 3 (Improving the Business Environment) at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) 2016, strives to create these conditions and an SME supportive environment. The Leader SME programme is a mechanism to qualify enterprises that aims to highlight the merits of the most successful national SMEs by creating conditions to strengthen their market reputation and fast-track access to funding. The goal is to promote growth strategies and consolidate their competitiveness.
How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?
We first heard about the competition through several public and private entities that promote and encourage participation in the competition throughout Portugal, and applied using our public/private partnership. We felt that our project was a good and strong example of what EEPA represents. Our results from previous years were also very successful, so we thought that our project had good replication potential and could serve as a European example.
How did you go about preparing your application?
The preparation of an EEPA application is quite “heavy” in terms of the work involved. We did not prepare something special for EEPA, but instead created a working group for the preparation of the application as soon as the period of application was announced.
What was it like to win the award?
It was a surprise, considering the quality of other applications. However, we felt that we had a very good chance in this competition, since we were strongly convinced of the quality of our application. Just being included in the shortlist gave as a sense of achievement! Winning the competition was very important to us, and it was an extraordinary feeling: a reward for the work done, and concrete proof that we are on the right track.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work and what kind of response did you receive?
Winning the award helped us not only externally, the increased visibility helped with publicity and will also help us in the future, but also internally. Internally the win helped to solidify our relationships with partners and make us a stronger network. It also resulted in overall better general knowledge of the objectives and better understanding of the technicalities of the project. The response was great and made us feel like we have an increased sense of responsibility, now we just have to maintain and increase the impact of the project. Whilst it was fantastic to represent our project, it was also very satisfying to be able to represent Portugal.
Can you already see a long-term impact or do you have any expectations?
Yes. Considering the results of the initiative, and the relevance of the award, we think that the partners will be able to approach companies more easily in order to tighten the network links and increase the impact of the SME Leader initiative.
Why should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?
It is important to evaluate whether a project has the following: quality, results, strong partnership, and replicability. Our advice would be that if your project has all of the above, then you should definitely compete! The preparation for EEPA stimulates evaluation, strengthens partnership, and gives visibility, all of which can only help strengthen your project.
What are your plans for the future?
Our project has the potential to increase the level and scope of impact on the companies, through a tightening of the network. We hope to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the companies considered to be SME Leaders, and disseminate their best practices to help others achieve the same leader status. Our whole project is about helping SMEs get access to finance, whether it be through creating the right conditions or helping them comply with requisites, in terms of the future we want to keep doing just that and increase the number of enterprises that we help and who can benefit.
As we prepare for SME Assembly 2017 in Tallinn, let us not forget about the success of the SME Assembly 2016 in Bratislava! The presentation from the SME Assembly 2016 is now available for you to look at here.
Want to have a look at some of the presentations from the SME Assembly 2016? Browse the list below to refresh your memory:
10 Years On
Ladislav Ambrovics (MINIT Slovakia)
Scale Up Lab
Pieter Waasdorp (NLGroeit)
Policy Session – Skills for SMEs
Rosanna Kurrer (Digital Leadership Institute)
Alberto Onetti (Mind the Bridge, SEP)
Masterclass – Crowdfunding: Yannig Roth (Marketing Director, WiSEED)
Policy Session – Single Market Lab
Stefan Vratny (EEN)
Policy Session – Creating a Collaborative Economy
Marco Torregrossa: Rethinking Work in the Collaborative Economy (Secretary General, European Forum of Independent Professionals Managing Director, European Sharing Economy Coalition)
Julia Rzepecka (VVA – Europe)
Policy Session – Accessing Alternative Finance
Pim de Bokx (Founder PIONEERZ Chairman DIA – Dutch Incubators & Accelerators)
Kristof de Buysere (Eucaps)
Philippe Gluntz (Business Angels Europe)
Policy Session – The Growth of Social Enterprise
Roger Spear (OU&RUC)
Nils Dreyer (Hilfswerft GmbH)
Joseba Sagastigordia (Mondragon corp.)
Ariane Rodert (EESC)
This year the SME Assembly 2017 will take place in Tallinn, Estonia! Keep up with all the latest information, preparations and exciting announcements right here on Promoting Enterprise and we hope to see you in Tallinn…
Are you an SME Week National Coordinator? Need some inspiration for your campaign? Look no further! Start your planning for European SME Week 2017!
Today we share the action plan developed by the Portuguese Coordinator for the European SME Week 2016 to present some ideas and best practices. The action plan covers various topics, from communication tips and communication strategies, to possible target groups, dissemination practices and how to reach the audience using social media.
The report, which you may find here, resulted in a total of 39 Portuguese organised events being posted on the SME Week Event Calendar. Use the calendar as a European platform to get international exposure for your events, get posting and see the results!
For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/support/sme-week_en
Have you had a chance to read the Annual report on European SMEs 2015/2016 yet? We recommend that you do!
Have a read of our quick report summary below:
The main themes of the report can be summarised as follows: employment and growth, performance and population and the second chance principle.
Employment and Growth
SMEs are a vital part of the EU28 economy, in 2015 they employed 90 million people (an employment increase of 1.5%), accounting for two thirds of EU28 employment. Many of these SMEs are micro enterprises, with less than 10 employees, which form around 93% of all enterprises in the non–financial business sector. SMEs have also continued to grow, showing steady growth in value added both in 2014 (3.8%) and 2015 (5.7%). Growth varied across Member States but was generally positive.
Figure 1: SME employment and value added growth in 2014 and 2015, EU28
Performance and Population
Overall EU28 SMEs have performed better than previously, indicating better macro-economic conditions in 2015. However there are differing trends across small (e.g. legal and accounting services, advertising and marketing research) and large sectors (e.g. retail trade, construction). Smaller sectors experienced over 5% growth in employment, contrasting with only 2% growth or less in the larger sectors.
Figure 2: EU SME value added annual growth by Member State, 2015
The second chance principle
The SME population is in constant fluctuation, as many new businesses are born and others cease to operate every year. New firm creation in the EU has caught up with USA rates, however the strengthening of second chance public policies to encourage startup dynamism after failure, would certainly counteract the barriers faced by those starting afresh for the second time. This would also ensure that potential entrepreneurs are not deterred by the prospects of bankruptcy or that existing entrepreneurs are not disheartened from trying again. This is where the SBA second chance principle could be every effective, not only for improving the environment and procedure for those businesses that do fail, but also by putting in place mechanisms to avoid businesses falling into such situations.
However, the latest SBA reviews highlight some areas for improvement:
- in only slightly more than half of Member States can the discharge from bankruptcy be achieved in 3 years or less;
- half of EU Member States treat re-starters on an equal footing with new start-ups; and,
- all the other SBA second chance policy measures are implemented in less than half of Member States. Moreover, the SBA second chance principle is the one showing the least progress since 2008.
Progress has been made but more can be done, especially on the SBA second chance principle, so that SMEs can continue to recover and thrive, in turn strengthening the EU28 economy.
Figure 3: Forecast growth of SME value added and employment from 2015 to 2017 in Member States
The SME Assembly is over, but the conversation continues
This month the focus is on the SME Assembly 2016, which took place from 23-25 November in Bratislava, Slovakia. With over 600 delegates and speakers from all over Europe and beyond, this year’s assembly was a great success and brought together a diverse audience committed to building an SME friendly Europe and sharing views on entrepreneurship, scale ups and startups.
The assembly played host to policy sessions, interactive open spaces, high-level roundtables, lectures, masterclasses and much more. The event also saw the crowning of this year’s prize-winning projects at the EEPA ceremony and gala dinner which took place on 24 November. Read the EEPA news section for more.
During the assembly we brought you live coverage from the event on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! Daily roundup posts from the three days (1, 2 and 3) are also available for you to read on Promoting Enterprise.
Now that SME Assembly 2016 in Bratislava has come to an end, we can begin to look forward to the SME Assembly 2017 which will take us to Tallinn in Estonia. The preparations are already under way, we hope to see you there! Read more >>
Petar Isirov an entrepreneur who formed part of the creation of Kartner-M, a privately held label printing company. They are based in Skopje in the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia and were founded in 2014. In this blog post, Petar talks about his motivation for starting a business and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
After talking with friends in the food and beverage industry, we realised that many local companies had problems with the quality of their labels. They couldn’t do marketing campaigns properly, and the quality of the labels made it difficult for them to export their products around the world. We saw an opportunity to bring something new to the printing industry in our country, something that would help many businesses.
We found the money we needed by pooling our resources and getting loans. We used it to buy the necessary machines and organise ourselves to work efficiently. Europe is a great place to be an entrepreneur because the business environment is always developing and improving. There are countless opportunities for entrepreneurs; all you need is the right idea. I believe Europe is very supportive of young entrepreneurs, which helps motivate young people to consider becoming entrepreneurs. However, more EU involvement in countries like FYR of Macedonia would benefit small and medium enterprises to develop their business more efficiently, and expand operations outside of their countries.
Persistence is essential for entrepreneurship because it’s difficult to succeed and even more so when you are a young, aspiring company. For me, a great leader is committed to a cause, outgoing and able to take responsibility and risks. They are able to motivate, have a vision for the company, have objectives and be aware of their surroundings.
For more information: www.kartner-m.mk
In his previous posts, Gerhard Dust talked about what motivated him to set up his business and discussed the personal challenges he has encountered and the issues his company has had to deal with as his business developed. In this, his final blog post, Gerhard talks about the human desire to leave a lasting legacy, and gives us his six golden rules of entrepreneurship.
This is my last blog for the time being and, frankly, I would have liked to talk more about PolyCare. How environmentally friendly our invention is; how we are able to finish houses in a few days; how it can be made using only desert sand; and how inexpensive this solution is. Of course you can still find all of this information on our website or on YouTube.
But today I want to talk about entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneur actually is. You see, I have often been asked a very direct question that goes something like this….
“Gerhard, at your age and time of life, why did you start this business?”
Some might find this quite rude, but actually it lies at the heart of what inventors and entrepreneurs are about. The simple answer is that every person dreams of doing and creating something that will stand the test of time – something great that will outlast them and benefit mankind.
Doesn’t every person with even a gram of compassion carry a dual responsibility: on the one hand towards his fellow human beings and, on the other, towards the generations to come? My partners and I founded PolyCare because we recognised that affordable housing world-wide is no longer achievable for more than a billion people through the use of traditional building technologies. We might be of retirement age, but that doesn’t mean we have lost the ability to dream and to wish for a better world. A world where an ordinary person can build their own home; where the money needed to do this doesn’t leak away into the coffers of the multinationals; and where a home is more than a shabby tent made of plastic.
Sometimes we joke and say that we are like the elderly people in the blockbuster RED. Our definition of RED is slightly different: Retired, Experienced and Dedicated. I admit that we are proud that our solution has been described as one of the most important inventions of recent times and that it could provide millions of people with quick and inexpensive housing worth living in. So far, for us this has meant endless work, many sleepless nights and often-severe worries about money, technical solutions and bureaucratic hurdles.
But we do not regret any of it. Many believe that we have transformed a good idea into reality and we have gained many supporters and friends in the process. So we are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still much to do.
You see, being an entrepreneur can often be its own reward and this is especially true when it is also economically successful. But an entrepreneur does not have to become rich to be happy. If we provide the means to make the world just a little bit better, then that will be reward enough. These old REDs will be able to approach the ultimate finishing line knowing that they have made a difference. What could be more motivational than that?
The last six years with PolyCare has certainly taught me some golden rules. These are my golden rules for entrepreneurship:
- Fairness – always treat employees and business partners how you would like to be treated. Friends are more valuable than enemies.
- Dreams – everyone has the right to change the world. Be brave and set yourself goals that are as big as your confidence will allow, but make sure that you are practical about what is achievable.
- Planning – don’t leave things to chance. Plan your steps carefully, review them constantly and always have a plan B.
- Develop the team and yourself – look beyond your horizons and learn from others. Invest time in networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the best people you can find.
- Commercialise – the best invention is useless unless you can sell it. Everything revolves around the benefits to your customers. Make sure it provides benefits for them.
- Team – if you need staff, get the best people, share your vision with them and continually motivate them.
I wish you all success on your entrepreneurial path. Follow your dreams with courage and confidence and don´t be put off by small setbacks.
And finally…..believe in yourself.
I am grateful that you have read my blog and I am grateful for the interest that you have shown in our solution. Now this technology must reach the people in need. I ask you with all my heart for your support… please spread the word about this invention to the world. Tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. Let UNHCR and others know that there is a cheaper more practical and ethical alternative to the use of containers in the desert for refugees and for worldwide affordable housing.
Your words might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right time, and that could change the lives of millions.
Best of luck to you all.
To read more about Polycare :
In his previous posts  , Gerhard Dust outlined the events that led him to his current career path and described some of the challenges he has encountered as his new business develops. In this third blog post, Gerhard deals with some of the main questions that his new technology has raised and explains some of the concepts involved.
In my previous blogs I have tried to convey the huge advantages that the PolyCare system offers when building structures of up to three or four stories. However, some of the responses I have received recently have led me to understand that some of you are still struggling to accept that much of this is actually possible. How can you have a building with no real foundations, and how is it possible to build with blocks that are not cemented together? What’s more, doesn’t capillary attraction mean you still get rising damp, and can completely unskilled people really do all the building work?
These and many more questions have been continually raised and, if you think about it, with good reason. For over 2000 years there has been a standard way of building and we all understand it fairly well. The problem is that when something totally new arrives our immediate reaction is to compare it to what we know and the standards we are familiar with. Unfortunately this doesn’t always give us a clear picture.
Below I explain the building process with pictures taken on-site when my colleague Ramon Gray constructed a small Quality Control building for TATA in New Delhi, India.
The start of a PolyCare build requires a flat, level base of wet sand. This is usually accomplished by making a small 150-200mm channel in the ground, filling it with sand and then levelling it carefully. In this first picture (left) this wasn’t possible as the construction was being carried out on an uneven concrete base. However, the building system is simple and it can be adapted to practically any situation. Here, instead of making a channel, our team used some waste materials (the granite strip on the left and the steel box section on the right) to form a flat and level frame for the wet sand base.
The picture on the right shows the start of the build itself. On the right you can see that base lates have been simply laid on the sand base and bolted together with small steel plates. These continue around the building and form the base level.
Steel connecting rods are then screwed into the bases and these run right through the blocks, once they are laid on top, and connect to a similar set of plates at the top of the building. Once the connecting rods are in place work can start on laying the blocks.
The laying of the blocks continues with the blocks being placed over the rods and with the rods themselves being extended using simple screw thread connectors. Gaps are left for windows, doors etc. When the blocks reach the top of the building the top plates are added and the rods are bolted to them, giving the whole structure immense strength.
There is no sticking, gluing or anything else involved; the blocks are simply laid on top of each other. This is why our system has often been called “big boys’ LEGO” – for obvious reasons. But I’m not sure that this is an accurate description… the LEGO most ten year olds do is much more complicated!
So let me explain some of the concepts.
In this system no foundation is generally used (see note) as the structure itself is many times stronger and more resistant to bending forces than a brick or cement concrete wall. This is due to a combination of the huge strength of the polymer concrete as well as the way that the blocks lock together. This strength is further enhanced by the tie bar system that produces a very strong box-like structure. But there are further considerations. This structure is completely resistant to water, so foundation frost and capillary attraction occurs without any consequence. The wet sand technique is a copy of the system the Egyptians used to build the pyramids. While it may seem somewhat crude and primitive, no one can say that it hasn’t stood the test of time.
So, lastly, let me provide some assurances for anyone looking at this system for the first time. The Bauhaus University is one of the most respected institutions worldwide for architecture, design and materials testing. They have been working with PolyCare now for over four years, testing and officially certifying practically every aspect of what we do. They are so confident in our system of building that one of their professors recently assisted PolyCare in presenting and discussing its merits at an international exhibition. The efficacy of the system is therefore not in doubt and it is currently undergoing full building type approval in Germany.
[Note: PolyCare fully understands that, in some circumstances, extremely weak or unstable soils will need some level of foundation, whether strip or corner piles, etc. Site testing will determine where this is necessary.]
Learn more about Polycare
Previous EEPA blog post on Polycare:
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is particularly true when seeking investment to grow your business. In this guest post, venture capitalist, Dr David Demetrius, sets out how to write a plan that will grab the attention, and the investment, of a potential backer.
Why do so many promising ventures never get the capital they need? In the vast majority of cases, it is due to the business plan not having made a good enough case for investment. So what does a good business plan entail? Here is what I would be looking for.
It should start with an executive summary, preferably of a single page, but certainly not more than two. This summary needs to grab the potential investor’s attention in the first five lines. Don’t start with background waffle. Make it immediately clear what the products or services of the business are, or are planned to be. Make the executive summary exactly that: a summary of the whole document including highlights of the market opportunity and the team and ending with a clear statement of what you are looking for and what you are offering in return. For example, “We are seeking an investment of 100.000 Euros in return for a 30% share of the company”.
After the executive summary, you can go into more detail on the venture. Excluding appendices, this should run to about 15 to 20 pages. You need to describe the products or services in some detail, but try not to get bogged down in technical jargon which at best will bore the investor and at worst will totally put him off. Of more importance is to show clearly what the market opportunity is and what competition exists or could appear in the near future.
You also need to give profiles of the team, their skills and their experience, and indicate what finances they are themselves investing in the venture. Be honest and point out what gaps there are in the team’s background and skills. Hopefully the investor will be able to help fill these gaps.
What investors will be very interested in is what they are likely to see as a return on their investment. For that you need to have detailed financial projections. However, there is no point in burying 30 pages of financial spreadsheets into the main body of the document. By all means have lots of detailed tables as an appendix, but in the main body simply have a page or two showing the key performance indicators (KPIs), such as graphs of projected cashflow, profitability and revenue growth. Then make it easy for the investors to find the detailed backup to this information, If they so wish, by guiding them to the relevant pages in the appendix.
It is also important that the summary pages on financials includes some “What if?” analysis (preferably displayed graphically). For example, it can be very reassuring to investors if they can see that, even if actual revenues achieved are only 80% of your projections, the company will nevertheless not run out of cash. This should not be achieved by simply asking for an overly high injection of funds, but rather by indicating savings in expenditure such as administration costs that would be made in the event of lower sales. Similarly show the optimistic growth figures for the venture if revenues significantly exceed your projections.
How far ahead should you forecast? In most cases, I would recommend three years with monthly figures, but in some industries a five-year forecast can be realistic. (In the oil industry, even 25 year plans are common). Basically you should only project revenue and costs as far forward as you can reasonably see. Don’t simply take ‘month 1’ and add x% per month to it for 36 months ahead. Any potential investor will realise that you have no real idea what is going to happen. Think it through carefully. For example, will there be months of the year when revenue will be lower due to holiday periods?
I am not saying that following my advice in this post will definitely get you the investment you seek, but I am fairly confident that ignoring these pointers will not improve your chances!
David Demetrius is the founder and President of Emadin and specialises in working with companies to achieve strategic growth. He has over 25 years experience in management of and consultancy to companies (from SMEs to large multinationals) throughout Europe, the United States, Middle East, Australia and Asia. With a colleague, he founded a group of companies specialising in management support and consultancy services for complex or large programmes and projects, building it to annual sales of over $ 100 million with approximately 500 professional staff by the time he sold his shareholding in the group.
In his previous blog post, Gerhard Dust described how an international humanitarian crisis caused him to re-evaluate his retirement plans and led him down a completely new career path. In this second post, Gerhard tells us about some of the issues his company encounters as his business develops.
You will have seen from my previous blog the huge advantages that our construction system can bring, and these were naturally of significant interest to our visitors from China. The Chinese delegation was keen to see if it would be possible to use waste residue from a gold mine as the main filler constituent in our polymer concrete and if the end product conformed to Chinese building standards. We demonstrated that not only could we use this waste material but that the resultant PolyCare polymer concrete was anything from 6 to 10 times stronger than required by their standard. This advantage was further enhanced when they discovered that just 1m3 of this material actually makes 3 to 4m3 of walling. Consequently, we have made significant progress with this important Chinese company and their delegation left acknowledging that our process could make a major contribution to meeting Chinese housing needs.
Working on the world stage with a breakthrough technology like ours doesn’t always attract such commercially aware and serious-minded approaches as that of the Chinese delegation. It can be frustrating at times, and sometimes quite amusing. Practically every week we are approached by individuals who claim to be close to, or related to, or a friend of, a king or queen, the president, the minister, etc. etc. In circumstances like these, naivety soon gives way to experience and the realisation that often these people only know someone who operates the lift in a building where someone else who works for the government lives. The bottom line is always that either they want something for nothing, or a payment in order to “oil the wheels.” On occasions, of course, our contacts are genuine, but there are also frustrations in what we do. This is almost an intrinsic part of the process. When you have something new, and especially when it is a disruptive technology, files seem to get left gathering dust on desks far too often.
For us, though, the world has so many bright imaginative people who are able to look to the future and can see what is needed. In July, I was invited to the Biennale Architettura 2016 in Venice. This is a biennial meeting of architects from across the world. In his keynote speech, the Director of the Biennale Alejandro Aravena described the current world situation in terms of the Urban Age. This term is used because the current generation will build more cities than all previous generations combined. By 2050, 70% of the entire world’s population will live in cities and globally there is a desperate need for housing. Alejandro quoted some startling figures from the US government, estimating that the world needs to build 1,000,000 houses a week at a cost of less than $10,000 (EUR 8,900) each and this needs to be achieved to prevent a further global security threat. In this regard Alejandro’s opinion was insightful, and possibly goes to the core of what it is that PolyCare is trying to achieve. He said that this rate of building could only be achieved by adopting new technologies that use new materials and new building methods.
This, of course, is where we at PolyCare started six years ago. At that time we were only looking at disaster reconstruction, but the same analysis was true for that situation as it is for global housing. We needed a new technology for slum development and to build low-cost refugee housing, which is precisely why we developed the PolyCare system.
We continue to work to improve the lives of the millions of people who are currently either homeless or living in wretched conditions and continue to work towards achieving the ambitious targets outlined by the US government and described by Alejandro Aravena.
To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0