9 April 2021

Help to Grow Management Scheme for SMEs

Stirling Management School will support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of the Help to Grow Scheme, the Government’s flagship business recovery programme.

More details can be found here.

To book your place, visit the Help to Grow Management Programme website.

3 November 2020

Entrepreneur to Employer?

New research project seeks entrepreneurs to tell their stories

SMEs are vital contributors to economies around the world. A big part of this is in creating significant numbers of jobs. Governments, business support providers and academics know quite a bit about effective management practices in new and small enterprises and how these can contribute to business success. However, we know surprisingly little about just how an entrepreneur goes about becoming an employer. This is a significant gap in our knowledge about how small ventures develop and it forms the focus of a new research project being led by researchers at the University of Stirling Management School and the Haydn Green Institute at the University of Nottingham.

Thinking about taking on an employee can be stimulated by many business and personal factors. Reasons might include responding to increased business demand, seeking better work-life balance, pursuing other business projects, or accepting the brute fact of there being only 24 hours in a day!

Taking on the first employee often represents a critical juncture in the life of a business and the role of the entrepreneur as business owner. It is one of the largest steps into the unknown a company will ever make. The entrepreneur is faced with the legal responsibilities of hiring, being an employer, not to mention the practical tasks of managing an employee. Perhaps less obviously, the entrepreneur as an employer might feel added responsibilities such as generating enough business to sustain any jobs they have created.

Such an important step in the business is unlikely to be taken lightly and might reflect part of a wider process. Many considerations can come into play such as the business’s needs, the entrepreneur’s personal preferences and a range of further matters that might lead them to make that appointment. Equally, some entrepreneurs might decide, through their deliberation and consideration, to not progress to hire but find other solutions to the challenges they have identified.

It is important for policymakers and business support providers to understand the different strategies entrepreneurs adopt. Without clear understanding of these features, how can laws be framed effectively and appropriate support be put in place?

We are interested in understanding the processes of how an entrepreneur becomes an employer. To do this we are interested in speaking to business owners about this topic. You might have a clear plan in place or just be thinking broadly about it for the future. Perhaps you have recently gone through the process and could tell us about your experiences? Maybe you are using freelance workers having decided not to hire? Either way the team would love to hear from you and tell you more about the project.

Please contact Dr Oliver Mallett for further information.

Oliver.Mallett@stir.ac.uk

9 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the role of SMEs as innovators of sustainable inclusive employment

Ronald McQuaid and Aleksandra Webb
Stirling Management School, University of Stirling

The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world deeply. It remains a threat of unprecedented magnitude, putting even the strongest world economies into a state of emergency. The resulting economic crisis affects many sectors which particularly employ large numbers of SMEs and the self-employed (including restaurant, arts, entertainment and other leisure providers, transport such as taxis, accommodation, and real estate, and tourist operators among others). As a consequence, some SMEs will cease to exist and others will have their development and operations significantly restricted.

However, for some SMEs it may spark a period of reinvention and adaptation, through taking advantage of opportunities generated by the current crises, including activities of competitors and changes in supply chains and consumer behaviour. The management and worker flexibility of SMEs can allow quick responses by finding innovative solutions to existing or emerging problems and developing competitive advantages through niche organisational and strategic capabilities, leading to increasing innovation and productivity (Audretsch and Thurik, 2004).

The balance of the costs of the economic contraction due to the pandemic are unevenly spread between different types of employers, their employees, governments and the self-employed. In the UK, tax and welfare rules were already changed to support businesses and individuals through tax reliefs and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or furlough scheme (HM Revenue and Customs, 2020). Some 27% of the UK workforce and up to 80% in some industries are affected by the furlough (ONS, 2020).

Despite the difficulties this crisis imposes on SMEs, McQuaid and Webb (2020) suggest that it may also offer some opportunities for a more socially and environmentally sustainable (or “greener”) recovery, if investment in social and employment support systems, greener infrastructure and research is targeted suitably.

The reengineering of the economy should reflect on the employment practices that emphasise the benefits of flexibility over employment protections, work conditions and health and safety of the workers, but which tend to be widely utilised by employers in the competitive economy. The pandemic has highlighted long-term ebbs and flows of who takes the risk when the demand for workers changes suddenly. “Gig” or very short-term work has a long “unglamorous” history.  “Day labourers” in the last century where called “lump labour” because dock workers stood in a queue to be hired for a day at a time if they were needed. The historic struggles for job security seem to be repeated by “gig” workers who found themselves without security during the pandemic. On the one hand, given the uncertainty about present and future health and economic disruptions, there will be a greater desire for flexibility among employers (and potentially an aversion to taking on permanent staff). On the other hand, workers may seek more job and health security and a more effective unemployment safety net.

Major global economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic create a state of insecurity for many SMEs, forcing them to quickly find new ways of working while achieving inclusive employment. Due to their adaptability and fast decision-making, SMEs might be suited to lead change in this dynamically evolving context. However, economies and societies more widely will need to seek ways to provide greater employment and economic security for those particularly vulnerable to economic shocks, such as that caused by COVID-19. The resulting socio-economic reengineering may well lead to a changed balance between flexibility work security among SMEs, the self-employed and perhaps across the wider economy.

There may well be further shocks to the economy due to short or long-term financial, demographic, environmental and other similar epidemiological pressures. A more resilient and sustainable economy and society is needed to identify and respond to these future risks. SMEs, especially those with ability to scale up and innovate, should play a major role in re-shaping of the future fairer socio-economic system that champions the creation of greater “decent work” as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (ILO, 2018). Some of these issues are being discussed in a conference entitled: “The Importance of SMEs as Innovators of Sustainable Inclusive Employment in Times of Pandemic and Beyond” organised by the European Network of Regional Labour Market Monitoring (registration) on 17-18 September 2020.

References

Audretsch, D.B. and Thurik, R. (2004) A Model of the Entrepreneurial Economy, International Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, Vol. 2 (2), pp.143–166.

HM Revenue and Customs (2020), Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, available at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme [July 2020].

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2018) Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture. Available at https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_626831/lang–en/index.htm  [10 May 2020].

McQuaid, R. and A. Webb  (2020) ‘The Importance of SMEs as Innovators of Sustainable Inclusive Employment: Some Issues Resulting from Shocks to the Economy Imposed by the COVID-19 Pandemic’, in: Larsen, C., Kipper, J., Schmid, A., and M. Ricceri (eds) The Importance of SMEs as Innovators of Sustainable Inclusive Employment (Rainer Hampp Verlag, Muenchen) pp. 33-45. Available at http://hdl.handle.net/1893/31652 

Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2020), Furloughing of workers across UK businesses: 23 March 2020 to 5 April 2020, available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/furloughingofworkersacrossukbusinesses/23march2020to5april2020 [July 2020].


14 August 2020

Technology and Entrepreneurship

We are living in a technological world and most business connects through technology. Although the business environment and conditions continue to change, the critical role of technology for business creation has not changed. Given many businesses rely on technology, it is necessary to discuss the impact and contribution of technology for entrepreneurship. What has become increasingly important is the issue of timing.

We are increasingly dependent on our mobile device, even if we are technology-unfriendly people. We can see many businesses operating on our mobile device. Facebook, Google and YouTube are popular platforms able to create new aspects of business such as e-commerce, bit-coin and big data businesses. Many entrepreneurs are finding creative business being able to attract customers on those platforms because customers across the world are very familiar with the applications. These changing business trends mean that entrepreneurs have to understand technological transitions in order to achieve a successful business.

My recent study of high growth, high tech businesses in Korea provides an interesting example. One of the entrepreneurs I interviewed founded his company seventeen years ago and his company focused on security software for mobile devices. He studied software engineering, including a PhD at the best university in South Korea, and developed inspection software products able to capture errors of any software programmes. He was a first mover in South Korea, but it was not exactly the time for this business because most Korean companies did not feel the necessity of introducing this product for their software. This entrepreneur survived with government projects instead of private business. He said that ‘I suggested the car to my customers when they were satisfied with the carriage.’

Recently, during the COVID pandemic, we can see two rising business types based on home and online. We can see Zoom, which focused on the online conferencing platform. This business was not the main sector of software-based business however. Unprecedented business circumstances changed the business trend and thus Zoom exploited the business opportunity. The example of Zoom highlights the importance of timing in business to achieve a successful business.

Given the cases of the Korean entrepreneur and Zoom, the changes in the market and the development of recent technology can explain as the common efforts. Also, both companies found the resource of principal business from a software-based business environment. The time difference between both companies is about fifteen years, but their business technology focused on the platform and software. What do we see as the critical factor for business success?

Established entrepreneurs attempt to collect various market information, and new entrepreneurs attempt to understand their target markets. Their business performance can be dependent on owner-managers’ competence, including their networks and their tacit knowledge. Pre-entrepreneurs need to know about technological trends and established entrepreneurs need to have more information regarding the market and customers. Policymakers need to know about what entrepreneurs want to get from the policies designed to support these activities. Given the impact of technology and entrepreneurship trends, research on business scale-ups, as well as new firm creation, needs to focus on various factors enabling the growth of the company.

All of these process have to attend to the importance of timing. Timing in business, understanding technology, and predicting potential market trends are a clear cornerstone underpinning entrepreneurial success. Now, it is the time for preparing various research subjects based on understanding technology and industrial trends to contribute to the activation of entrepreneurship for our economic growth.

Chongryol Park
Doctoral Researcher 
Faculty of Management, Work & Organization
Stirling Management School

20 May 2020

The Working@Home team at Stirling Management School (University of Stirling, UK) is looking for research participants to support a study looking at the experience of homeworking as a response to the COVID19 outbreak. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council with the aim of feeding  back to policy makers and organisations about the state of the nation in terms of coping with homeworking and help provide recommendations for the future.

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced companies and individuals to embrace home-based working (HBW) at such speed, that they have had little opportunity to consider the impact. The press has suggested that this revolution “might also offer an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility …many are already starting to question why they had to go into the office in the first place” (The Guardian, 13/02/20). However, there are real concerns regarding HBW, including poor work-life balance and enhanced domestic tensions.

The current situation, which involves the whole household being based at home, is an unprecedented challenge which may be an intermittent fixture, for the next eighteen months (BBC Futures, 25/03/20). We wish to understand individual experiences of this radical shift in working arrangements and how it impacts on lives and wellbeing.

We are looking for volunteers who are willing to be interviewed every three months over the next year for 1-1.5 hours and discuss how their working lives and the balance between work and home has changed an evolved. Each participant will be thanked with a £30 supermarket voucher after every interview. All interviews will be confidential and any data fully anonymised.

If you are interested in participating please get in touch: workingathome@stir.ac.uk

21 February 2020

Exploring growth in Korean high-tech companies

As a PhD student at Stirling Management School, I am seeking to gain various perspectives of business stakeholders about the growth of high-tech SMEs in my study. The attributes of business stakeholders can be changed by their present responsibilities and previous experiences.  Also, their contexts are able to be affected by organisational culture and national identity. These social characteristics could make the business study to consider various facets reflecting the relationship between social actors.

One of the rising business studies, the growth of SMEs have been treated across the world. Indeed, many countries want to foster their industrial competitiveness to promote not just job creation but also national economic growth. In many prior studies of commentators, the contributions of entrepreneurs for job creation were referred to as the critical factor. In particular, high-tech SMEs have been contributing exceptionally for their national economy across the world. Therefore, the way of fostering entrepreneurs in high-tech industries is one of the important issues in OECD countries. Indeed, the importance of high-tech industries has been proved through examples of rapidly-developed countries such as Germany, Japan, and South Korea. These countries have similar retrospective records in the way of growing the national economy. They are all the manufacturing-oriented countries, as well as exporting-intensified countries. From various practical examples, we can confirm that the contributions of high-tech SMEs to the economy are relatively high. However, previous studies have been examined more about organisational members’ characteristics and behaviour rather than the critical factors fostering high-tech SMEs. Also, there was a lack of investigation in the perspectives of various business stakeholders’ views for the growth of high-tech SMEs. Therefore, before exploring influential factors to the growth of high-tech SMEs, we need to know who are in relatively close position affecting the growth of high-tech SMEs, and which industries are more high-tech industries than others.

In particular, high-tech industries are identified differently by the industrial contexts of each country. For instance, Japan was ranked as the top of electronics-related manufacturers during the last several decades. Germany has a strong power in the industry of precision mechanics, and South Korea has competitive advantages in the industries of semiconductor and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) manufacturing. These different contexts make various growth patterns and SME owner-managers of these industries tend to focus on the technology acquisition rather than other business factors. Despite biased to the technology-oriented business approach, there are many examples of successful business and these examples make a question about how they achieved successful business growth. 

Given the influential high-tech industries, this study focused on the example of South Korea to explore the rising ICT industries, which is perceived as one of the leading industries to lead the development of OECD countries. Therefore, this research focused on the ICT SMEs which have been growing continuously for more than over seven years since inception. Consequently, the owner-managers of these sample companies, who are founders, and their employees were taken as key research targets to investigate their retrospective stories regarding their successful business. Also, national support to these specific industries stimulates to achieve their business growth. Thus, the role of policy-makers is also a considerable element to find influential factors for the growth of high-tech SMEs and thus, I asked several bureaucrats to participate in this research.  

On the other side, these three groups are involved in their specific organisations and each organisation has its own corporate governance structure which is able to be affected by the organisational aims. That is, the business purposes of the private sector and the political purposes of the public sector could be associated with the corporate governance structure. Therefore, the corporate governance structure of sample groups can be considered as one of the considerable factors influencing the growth of high-tech SMEs.

My PhD study has been progressing and I have done a pilot study to explore the growth of technology-oriented SMEs in South Korea as part of this ongoing doctoral research. This pilot study has published with the title “The impact of job retention on continuous growth of Engineering and Informational Technology SMEs in South Korea”. This pilot study was aimed to explore what factors are critically associated with job retention in Engineering and Information Technology small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in South Korea, and how employers think about staff retention policy in relation to business growth. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were carried out face to face with founder Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). These five SMEs had records of continuos growth and their job retention policy was focused on fostering a collaborative organisational culture to motivate employees’ voluntary efforts. They identified that job retention is directly associated with the growth of the company. In terms of the findings, this study found that long-term working employees became organisational culture-makers and team leaders. Employers’ efforts to retain people also caused to increase in the number of skilled people of the company. As a result, the productivity of the company has been improved and these companies have achieved continuous growth.

I expanded the research coverage in my doctoral research compared to the pilot study, and my doctoral research has been considering various stakeholders’ perspectives to confirm other stakeholders’ views altogether.  The article of this pilot study can download from the access below.

Park, C., McQuaid, R., Lee, J., Kim, S. and Lee, I., 2019. The Impact of Job Retention on Continuous Growth of Engineering and Informational Technology SMEs in South Korea. Sustainability, 11(18), p.5005.https://doi.org/10.3390/su11185005

Chongryol Park
Doctoral Researcher 
Faculty of Management, Work & Organization
Stirling Management School

5 February 2020

What is it like to be self-employed and have caring responsibilities?

Self-employment and unpaid caring responsibilities are rising internationally. Unpaid caregivers are increasingly turning to self-employment to generate an income and gain the flexibility needed to manage their dual responsibilities. As a result, self-employment and unpaid care work are now increasingly intersecting. The often challenging realities facing unpaid caregivers who are self-employed are in urgent need of attention.

Informal caregiving is often a long-term responsibility with both physical and mental challenges for the person providing the care. Self-employed individuals with caring responsibilities face a unique set of pressures and challenges in combining their dual roles. Emerging research is showing that unpaid caregivers suffer from high poverty levels, precarious working conditions, bad health and increasingly resorting to time triaging in efforts to balance their dual responsibilities.

It is also important to note that the caring relationship itself may change over time – in terms of time needed and intensity of care provided, and this will ultimately affect how it intersects with income generation. One consistently cited area of dissatisfaction cited by self-employed individuals is that of economic security. Large proportions of the self-employed are not included in social security systems which are designed for employed people, and while some may be partially covered by any statutory systems in place, others are not. Self-employed individuals are free to choose if they want to insure themselves against any social risk such as illness, shortfall in income, disability lack of orders with more. However, unpaid caregivers who already report having little disposable income may find it difficult to set up a safety net for themselves, further perpetuating the cycle of economic insecurity that many already find themselves in. 

Current social care systems rely heavily on unpaid caregivers at both a government and societal levels. This poses particular dangers as forecasting research shows that the demand for unpaid caregivers will continue to rise while the supply will diminish. This will result in a deficiency of human resources to deal with the rising social care needs in the care economy.

Despite this, there is a clear discrepancy between the reality that unpaid caregivers from both genders face and the policies that are brought in at government level to support them; for example, no remuneration is available to unpaid caregivers and they are essentially left with a double working burden. While research to date has focused on unpaid caregivers in paid employment, studies specifically examining the intersection of unpaid care work and self-employment as a source of income are disparate.

The growth in the self-employed individual is a pronounced feature of economies worldwide, and an upward trend that does not show any signs of slowing down. As self-employment will continue to rise, alongside individualised responsibilities for providing unpaid care, it is important for researchers and policymakers alike to understand how self-employment and unpaid care work intersect. More importantly, it is essential to gain insights into what this intersection means in practical terms. For this reason, my PhD research at the University of Stirling is seeking to deepen our understanding of this important intersection of self-employment and unpaid care work and gain valuable insights into the lived experience of this, often forgotten, group of individuals. 

If you are a self-employed person who also has an unpaid care role (e.g. caring for a relative) and interested in participating in this important piece of research, then please contact me using the details below. 

Contact details:

Nazila Wilson
Doctoral Researcher 
Faculty of Management, Work & Organization
Stirling Management School
University of Stirling

Email:  nazila.wilson@stir.ac.uk
Profile:  www.stir.ac.uk/people/1017463 
Twitter: @wnaz37

28 October 2019

This past week has reinforced the perilous nature of human migration, whether for economic or political reasons or even for one’s very survival. For those individuals forced to migrate to flee conflict, there are particular challenges to face in addition to the often traumatic migration process. Not only must individuals say goodbye to their family, friends and home, they must often say goodbye to their professional identity, sense of self and understanding of their place in the world.

Despite acknowledging that refugees and forced migrants face particular challenges in terms of integrating into their ‘host’ country economically and socially, there has been little attention paid to the role of identity within integration and how different forms of work enable or constrain the (re)construction of identity. Dr Suzanne Mawson, working with Dr Laila Kasem from the University of Worcester, has been exploring the role that entrepreneurship plays in identity construction amongst refugees from Syria in the UK. Some indicative findings were recently presented at the “Narratives of Forced Migration in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries” conference held in Stirling in September. Whilst the project is still ongoing, the data indicate that self-employment is an important way for many refugees to hold on to their past identities (professional or personal), whilst also allowing them to learn about their new environment.

Despite its importance from identity and integration perspectives, starting a business can present refugees with specific challenges. Language skills can be limited, as can knowledge about the legal requirements for doing business as well as specific local market considerations. Whilst business support for refugees is becoming more accessible (for instance the excellent programmes available through The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network http://www.wearetern.org/), there is still a need for interventions to take into account more “holistic” views of refugees and consider their own specific identity issues and needs. There is also a need for further access to business education and training. 

Theme by the University of Stirling

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