At the start of 2012, there were an estimated 4.8 million UK private sector businesses, employing an estimated 23.9 million people and with an estimated combined annual turnover of £3,100 billion.
Almost all of these businesses (99.2 per cent) were small (0 to 49 employees). Only 30,000 (0.6 per cent) were medium-sized (50 to 249 employees) and 6,000 (0.1 per cent) were large (250 or more employees). These percentages have remained fairly stable since 2000 (the earliest point for which comparable data exists).
There were an estimated 4.8 million UK private sector SMEs at the start of 2012, employing an estimated 14.1 million people, and with an estimated combined annual turnover of £1,500 billion.
99.2% of all private sector businesses in the UK employ fewer than 50 people.
In his talk at the CIPD HR Dvelopment Conference this week, Andy Lancaster used this fact to help illustrate an all too common dilemma, ‘how do you develop talent in smaller, flatter organisations?’ Based on the numbers in the BIS research – this challenge matters to an awful lot of us. Even if you take the large numbers of micro businesses out of the equation – the SME marketplace is huge.
So why is it that when we go to conferences, the main ‘attractions’ are often mega brands? Come and listen to sexy companies like Google, Mercedes Benz, BBC, Marks and Spencer etc. I should state I’m not against these companies, I use three of the four I just mentioned on a regular basis. I just don’t particularly want to be like them, and I think that there is a danger that these companies are positioned as the way ahead, with little consideration given to the distorting effect of trying to compare a business employing 25,000 people, to one that employs 250.
At the risk of contradicting myself (I’m sometimes wrong, sometimes right, I rarely know which is which and I reserve the right to change my mind), I do think there are possibilities to learn from bigger companies, and based on what I’ve experienced directly this week, and heard from other sources I trust, those possibilities are being hampered. Hampered by the ‘Case Study Porn’ (CSP) effect.
I’m unsure whether the CSP effect starts when Sexy Mega Brand Incorporated puts themselves on a pedestal (or should that be a pole), or when we do. Either way, my Bullshit Detector (copyright Joe Strummer) went off the scale several times in a direct response to Sexy Mega Brand Incorporated this week.
This week I found I learned much more from smaller organisations, and ones that get useful stuff done (or at least try) in a fussless, humble kind of way, than from organisations like the BBC, Google and Chelsea Football Club, all of whom came across to me as a bit guarded, a bit arrogant, and too assumptive.
Maybe it’s just that Sexy Mega Brand Incorporated can afford better fluffers – but I think conference organisers need to think more carefully about their audience and what their needs and wants are, and less about Case Study Porn. How about you? What influences your decision to attend a conference? And what would encourage you to come back again next year?