Over half of SMEs struggling to be ‘future-ready’ and need more support

  • Small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) need to be future-ready to drive major sustainable and inclusive economic growth, finds new report from the World Economic Forum
  • The top challenges for SMEs currently include: attracting and retaining talent (52.5%), survival and expansion (43.8%) and building a strong culture and clear values (20%)
  • Companies need support to improve on the three core characteristics that future-ready companies share

30 November: A new World Economic Forum study, in collaboration with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, the University of Cambridge and the National University of Singapore, highlights the need to support companies in building ‘future-ready’ procedures and find new opportunities.

‘Future readiness’ is defined as a set of resources that allow companies to respond successfully to changes and challenges.  Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute to 90% of economic growth – and future-readiness allows them to continue driving economic success in the years to come, even when faced with disruption.

The research shows that future-ready companies exhibit three core positive characteristics:

  • Sustainable growth: they generate lasting financial strength thanks to their business models and products
  • Societal impact: their business model and the services they provide positively affect society
  • Adaptive capacity: they demonstrate resilience and agility to bounce back after disruption

SMEs have been overlooked in previous future readiness research. This new report highlights their contribution to the economy as well as the challenges they face.

“Carrie Santos, CEO of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, says: “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the need for businesses to prepare for and weather the challenges thrown their way. As an organization that exists to help business leaders achieve their full potential, we welcome this report’s focus on the challenges and opportunities for small and medium businesses. EO encourages all governments, organizations and NGOs to review this report to better understand how they can build environments where entrepreneurs can thrive now and in the future.”

Nine case studies were selected to take part in the research, because they fulfilled one or more criteria in the assessment of future readiness. One, EO member Carlos Marin, founder of ecotourism company Alltournative , says: “As the founder of a small business, my priority is ensuring that my company continues to thrive: being future-ready is not just helpful, it is essential. This is why we aim to combine business with creating a positive ecological and social impact - this will allow us to skillfully tackle potential disruptions while remaining relevant.”

Notes to editors

Read the report here

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a high-quality support network of 15,000+ like-minded leaders across 70 countries. EO helps entrepreneurs achieve their full potential through the power of life-enhancing connections, shared experiences, and collaborative learning. EO has been helping entrepreneurs achieve transformational growth since 1987 and its member network is committed to learning and helping each other succeed.

For more information, contact Dimitra Christopoulou, Director of External Relations, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, [email protected]

The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas

For more information, contact Samuel Werthmuller, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum, [email protected]

About the research

The report relies on robust research methods and combines rigorous primary and secondary research. The takeaways and conclusions presented in the research have been derived from an analysis of over 200 peer-reviewed articles and engagement of more than 300 chief executive officers and founders of SMEs through surveys.