At a recent conference for SMBs in Singapore, an entrepreneur lamented that organizations in the island-state are unwilling to pay a premium for quality.
Jean-Louis Michelet, who is better known as the deputy chairman of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, noted that this mindset was particularly disturbing in the services industry.
Michelet pointed out that this challenge compounded by numerous problems facing SMBs, such as a small domestic market and lack of support from banks, made it difficult for them to survive, much less thrive.
It wasn't a griping session, to be fair. The message to SMBs was that they should venture overseas, and it was necessary to partner with MNCs as the bigger players can provide expertise and knowledge of international business practices.
Well, the solution to the mindset problem, Michelet offered, was that the government, MNCs and government-linked companies should take the lead to move away from this mindset. In particular, he argued that the government should start being a "decent customer" and not squeeze smaller vendors for the lowest possible price. That would be better than putting in place national schemes for SMBs, he said.
Interestingly, less than a week later, the government CIO, Wu Choy Peng, said the government is working towards greater standardization across agencies. The SOE project, for instance. Another example: using a common software for HR in all public sector agencies. This can give the government "greater bargaining power" over vendors, she noted.
What do I interpret from such a statement? Surely it is time that SMBs, or any organization for that matter, recognize that everyone, and the government included, wants the best at the cheapest. Best, however, is subjective.
SMBs cannot, and should not, wait for the big boys to take the lead to address the issue. Do your homework…convince your customers they need the best, and only you can provide the best.
Take for example PestBusters. Its services can be pricier than foreign players, but it's got 95 percent of the five-star hotels in Singapore as its clientele.
That's a good enough testimony for any SMB.