Small and medium enterprises


What constitutes a small business varies widely around the world. Small businesses are normally privately owned corporations, partnerships, or sole proprietorships. What constitutes “small” in terms of government support and tax policy varies by country and by industry, ranging from fewer than 15 employees under the Australian Fair Work Act 2009, 50 employees according to the definition used by the European Union, and fewer than 500 employees to qualify for many U.S. Small Business Administration programs, although in 2006 there were over 18,000 “small businesses” with over 500 employees that accounted for half of all the employees employed by all “small business “. Small businesses can also be classified according to other methods such as sales, assets, or net profits.
Small businesses are common in many countries, depending on the economic system in operation. Typical examples include: convenience stores, other small shops (such as a bakery or delicatessen), hairdressers, tradesmen, lawyers, accountants, restaurants, guest houses, photographers, small-scale manufacturing, and online business, such as web design and programming, etc.
Small and medium enterprise or small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs, small and medium-sized businesses, SMBs and variations thereof) are companies whose personnel numbers fall below certain limits. The abbreviation “SME” is used in the European Union and by international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In most economies, smaller enterprises outnumber large companies by a wide margin. SMEs are said to be responsible for driving innovation and competition in many economic sectors.
The Central Bank of Nigeria defines small and medium enterprises in Nigeria according to asset base and number of staff employed. The criteria are an asset base between N5 million and N500 million, and a staff strength between 11 and 300 employees.
The legal definition of “small” varies by country and by industry. In the United States the Small Business Administration establishes small business size standards on an industry-by-industry basis, but generally specifies a small business as having fewer than 500 employees for manufacturing businesses and less than $7 million in annual receipts for most non manufacturing businesses. The definition can vary by circumstance dash; for example, a small business having fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages below $50,000 qualifies for a tax credit under the health care reform bill Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The European Union generally defines a small business as one that has fewer than 50 employees. However, in Australia, a small business is defined by the Fair Work Act 2009 as one with fewer than 15 employees. By comparison, a medium sized business or mid-sized business has under 500 employees in the US, and fewer than 200 in Australia.
In addition to number of employees, other methods used to classify small companies include annual sales (turnover), value of assets and net profit (balance sheet), alone or in a mixed definition. These criteria are followed by the European Union, for instance (headcount, turnover and balance sheet totals). Small businesses are usually not dominant in their field of operation.
Advantages of small business
A small business can be started at a very low cost and on a part-time basis. Small business is also well suited to internet marketing because it can easily serve specialized niches, something that would have been more difficult prior to the internet revolution which began in the late 1990s. Adapting to change is crucial in business and particularly small business; not being tied to any bureaucratic inertia, it is typically easier to respond to the marketplace quickly. Small business proprietors tend to be intimate with their customers and clients which results in greater accountability and maturity.
Independence is another advantage of owning a small business. One survey of small business owners showed that 38% of those who left their jobs at other companies said their main reason for leaving was that they wanted to be their own bosses. Freedom to operate independently is a reward for small business owners. In addition, many people desire to make their own decisions, take their own risks, and reap the rewards of their efforts. Small business owners have the satisfaction of making their own decisions within the constraints imposed by economic and other environmental factors. However, entrepreneurs have to work for very long hours and understand that ultimately their customers are their bosses.
Several organizations, in the United States, also provide help for the small business sector, such as the Internal Revenue Service’s Small Business and Self-Employed One-Stop Resource.
Problems faced by small businesses
Small businesses often face a variety of problems related to their size. A frequent cause of bankruptcy is undercapitalization. This is often a result of poor planning rather than economic conditions – it is common rule of thumb that the entrepreneur should have access to a sum of money at least equal to the projected revenue for the first year of business in addition to his anticipated expenses. For example, if the prospective owner thinks that he will generate $100,000 in revenues in the first year with $150,000 in start-up expenses, then he should have not less than $250,000 available. Failure to provide this level of funding for the company could leave the owner liable for all of the company’s debt should he end up in bankruptcy court, under the theory of undercapitalization.
In addition to ensuring that the business has enough capital, the small business owner must also be mindful of contribution margin (sales minus variable costs). To break even, the business must be able to reach a level of sales where the contribution margin equals fixed costs. When they first start out, many small business owners underprice their products to a point where even at their maximum capacity, it would be impossible to break even. Cost controls or price increases often resolve this problem.
In the United States, some of the largest concerns of small business owners are insurance costs (such as liability and health), rising energy costs, taxes and tax compliance.[7] In the United Kingdom and Australia, small business owners tend to be more concerned with excessive governmental red tape.
Another problem for many small businesses is termed the ‘Entrepreneurial Myth’ or E-Myth. The mythic assumption is that an expert in a given technical field will also be expert at running that kind of business. Additional business management skills are needed to keep a business running smoothly.
Still another problem for many small businesses is the capacity of much larger businesses to influence or sometimes determine their chances for success.
Small business bankruptcy
When small business fails, the owner may file bankruptcy. In most cases this can be handled through a personal bankruptcy filing. Corporations can file bankruptcy, but if it is out of business and valuable corporate assets are likely to be repossessed by secured creditors there is little advantage to going to the expense of a corporate bankruptcy. Many states offer exemptions for small business assets so they can continue to operate during and after personal bankruptcy. However, corporate assets are normally not exempt, hence it may be more difficult to continue operating an incorporated business if the owner files bankruptcy.

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