At top-tier business schools, students learn about multinational companies in various industries via seminars, guest lectures, case studies, and company visits. But missing are efforts to help students learn about small and medium-sized companies. This is a gap that must be filled.
In the UK, for example, SMEs represent 99.9 per cent of businesses, and account for 60 per cent of private-sector employment and 51 per cent of private-sector turnover, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.
例如，英国小企业联合会(Federation of Small Businesses)的数据显示，在英国，中小企业占到所有企业的99.9%，贡献了60%的私人领域就业以及51%的私人领域营业额。
In France, the picture is similar: SMEs represent 99.9 per cent of all enterprises and provide about two in three jobs.
This data cannot be ignored. And while it is understandable that many students wish to work for a multinational — whether it be in banking or technology — or want to start their own businesses, they still must understand SMEs and their roles in economies.
Proportion of UK businesses that are SMEs. They account for 60 per cent of private-sector employment and 51 per cent of private-sector turnover
On the campus of any business school, there is much collective experience and wisdom to share. A limited study and an elitist approach to business is a missed opportunity.
SMEs face different problems to the large companies explored in the case studies on business school courses, and they have different goals. While large-scale marketing activities, for example, are discussed in the classroom, students should also learn that creativity can be fostered under constraints that small businesses face.
Smaller companies tend to have limited resources, with less capacity to invest in marketing, and other business problems than bigger companies. Creativity does not have to be costly, but it is easier to find a solution if resources are abundant. It is important that students realise that, on a smaller scale, problems tend to be amplified and it is important to prioritise.
Business schools and their students spend a lot of time discussing how to manage the social impact of business. Again, here they address matters on a large scale. They talk about supporting international activities, but often forget what is needed on their doorstep.
These are the two main obstacles that ESCP Europe experienced in organising the community project for its masters programme in marketing and creativity.
The project is designed to create a platform that bridges the lack of understanding between business school students and SMEs, where experiences and ideas can be exchanged.
For ESCP, the challenge was to help the students adapt their knowledge and skills to local business needs and to convince SMEs, such as local shops, that the students can offer value. Most did not even realise there is an international business school on their doorstep.
In the case of a clothing shop, the owner had a problem with customers who would buy a piece of clothing, wear it for an event and then return it with the tags still attached. A student suggested this problem could, in fact, be an opportunity to start a garment rental business.
A rental business would demand more resources than the shop owner had, but he did admit that he had not thought of looking at the problem as an opportunity.
It is not just about teaching SMEs growth strategies, but about creating a strong community to create growth together.