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Business partnering in SMEs

Business partnering in SMEs

9 months ago by Jonathan Cant

​In a small company it’s vital that all of the members of the team embody a culture of business partnering, possibly more than in larger organizations. The need to work towards common goals is certainly more pronounced, and the responsibility of each employee to focus on such goals is perhaps therefore greater. 

I spoke to one of my business partners the other day about this very topic. A CEO of a small business  with just less than 50 people here in Tokyo, he needs clear interactions and collaboration between teams. Everyone should be on message and visibly working towards the company’s goals, and their activity must be consistent and focused. My client highlighted the need for excellent communication and knowledge of the business as the main core values for his team: whether you’re the CFO, an HR generalist, or a marketing manager, it’s important to represent those values. 

Another client, Head of Finance for Japan in a life sciences organization, has recently taken on IT responsibilities as she manages the implementation of a new ERP system. She also has legal responsibilities, owing to planned growth of the business here in Japan, as well as logistics and supply chain oversight as well. Asked about her team, she said that everyone has multifaceted roles and she needs candidates who are happy to wear multiple hats. 

This is a noticeable difference: more junior employees may have fewer opportunities to work in a cross functional role in big companies whereas in SMEs there is a tangible need for these people to learn about, understand and support the rest of the company. 

If you do work in a small to medium sized company, consider your duties and stakeholders. Think about how much you are growing your business partner skillset. Have you expanded your skills in any of these areas? If not, look for opportunities to do so. 

A key aspect of the business partner skillset is Business Acumen: how well do you understand the business you work for? Does your role put you in contact with the P&L or attend meetings with company leadership?

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What aboutCommunication skills? Who do you interact with? What sort of interactions do you have with those people? 

Are you putting yourlistening skillsto the test to listen and learn about the challenges the company faces? What aboutstorytelling? Are you expected to explain, illustrate, and describe what’s going on in the company to a smaller number of very important stakeholders. Can you lay out the details of sales forecasts, marketing budgets and other essential information in plain English toinfluencethem and get the right engagement from your business partners? 

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Chances are, for people in SMEs, you’re already being asked to carry out multiple duties.  

However, if you haven’t had the opportunity to use these areas of your skillset, what can you do? Take every chance you can get to learn about the business, or trends across your industry as a whole. Talk to your line manager and ask if you can perhaps participate in current projects like an ERP implementation or office move. Offer to help colleagues create presentations for key meetings.

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Whatever you do, these skills are very much in demand. If you do decide to look for a new opportunity, they can be just as much of a value add for you outside your current company as inside.