We all use it without really thinking and assume we know what it means.
The acronym SME provokes puzzlement in some quarters and ire in others, according to Daily Telegraph business writer Michael Hayman, who quotes King of Shaves founder Will King: “Get rid of this casual piece of profanity…It needs to be removed from the Oxford English Dictionary.”
So what is the problem?
SME is short for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and that, according to CBI director general John Cridland, means the M in the middle is a “forgotten army”, the middle-sized businesses on which the economy is relying for growth.
But it’s actually a bit more complicated than that since no-one agrees on the definition of small.
The UK and the EU use the same definitions for businesses, based on number of employees and turnover – Micro, Small and Medium – which actually would give us the acronym MSME!
Micro Businesses are those with fewer than 10 employees and turnover under £2 million, Small Businesses consists of fewer than 50 employees / turnover under £10 million and a Medium Business has fewer than 250 employees / turnover under £50 million.
It is argued that 95% of UK companies qualify as Micro Businesses. This has led to the setting up of a parliamentary group, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Micro Businesses, chaired by Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot.
The CBI has calculated that middle-sized companies contain between £20billion and £50billion of unrealised economic output, and are best placed, unlike their smaller brethren, to take advantage of export opportunities in the emerging markets of the world.
The argument is that by lumping them all together the M, Medium, businesses in SMEs are neglected and don’t get the support they deserve. Equally the other M, Micro Businesses, lose out by being lumped in with Small but actually can’t take advantage of government support aimed at the Small.
What do you think? Do you see yourself as Micro, Small or Medium? Do you feel neglected? And should we replace SME with MSME?