The year was sometime in the late 1990s. I met 2 business oufits from the UK. They are not your usual large companies, but had less than 10 people with presence both in Europe and Asia.
Mr. James Park, is the founder of design powerhouse called JPA Design. They started as a husband and wife team. Despite their size they managed to win a contract to design SIA’s first class and business class seats in the late 1990s.
My next client and friend is Jim James. A serial entreprenuer who before the “dot.com” era was a first mover in raising millions through venture capitalists for his events platform called Go-Events.com. This was a time even before Singapore even knew what the word venture capitalist meant. Jim was in my view, entreprenuer par extraodinaire. He managed and built his companies single handedly. In spite of the various businesses in Singapore, he has now even brought the iconic Morgan car brand into China.
Why are these British micro businesses able to expand their businesses out of Britian and our local SMEs are still belly aching at home?
Small Is Beautiful
According to statistics by the Creative Industries Federation in the UK, https://www.creativeindustriesfederation.com/statistics, almost 95% of the creative businesses in the UK are micro-businesses (ie less than 10 employees). Yet, and in 2017 they contributed GBP 101.5bn gross value added to the UK economy.
My experience working with these small powerhouses have taught me that compared to large buearcractic companies, these small nimble companies are far better suited for these highly creative and motivated people.
There are no layers of approvals to slow them down. The owners and staff work in tight units. They trust each other and each one of them know their roles and responsibilities to the team. As such, ideas which are sound and reasonable are usually executed almost instantly. There is no such thing as “talk and talk till the deal is dead” syndrome.
The value of knowledge management
My other observation is that incompetent beings cannot work in these companies. As the company is so small, there is no way to hide. Incompetence shows up under the spotlight for everyone to see.
The role of the founder, which I observed was to harness all that talent under him and organise it in a sensible way so as to keep it in the company.
Knowledge management was not just amassing knowledge, there was a deliberate manner in the way they did it. The type of information, data or knowledge that needs to be collected is determined by a clear business objective.
Exploitation of knowledge outside of their territories
There is something very satisfying to see my clients being able to convert their knowledge or idea into something which can be marketed and sold. Trademarks are symbols of origin of a goods or services. It also indicates a quality. Copyrights are expressions of works. Patents are novel ideas made into something unique. Designs are things which are unique and of value.
The trading of these “intellectual goods” are now made easier and cheaper than ever before. There is no issue of shipping, transport or customs.
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