How can SMEs close the leadership skills gap on innovation? » SMEInsider

How can SMEs close the leadership skills gap on innovation?

There is no doubt that SMEs have had to navigate a difficult economic terrain in recent years. However, the advantage SMEs have is their ability to be agile and to think differently.

Such is the potential for economic growth through innovation that the European Commission established the biggest EU Research & Innovation programme ever in Horizon 2020, which provides support for new business ideas and smoothes the way from testing to market.

But what about those who work in or lead SMEs? How can they be encouraged to embrace innovation across all business functions, and realise their full potential in conjunction with the potential of the company?

The SME Group at WMG, University of Warwick, already has a successful history in assisting small and medium-sized companies by providing them with access to technology and networks. Working together with colleagues in WMG’s Professional and Executive Education arm, SME support has now been expanded into leadership and management, and the first delegates have recently completed the Innovation Business Leadership Programme (IBL).

IBL is designed specifically for managers in SMEs who want to improve the overall competitiveness of their business. Delivered in short three-day modules, meaning less time away from the business, the programme teaches delegates the latest theory and practical tools for: strategy and innovation, leading and managing talent, operational efficiency, financial and commercial awareness, and sales, marketing and reputation management.

Theresa Williams, finance director at Brandauer, told us: “If you’d have asked me before the course, ‘are you an innovative and creative person?’ I’d have said ‘absolutely not’. But by the end I was thinking ‘was that me, did I do that?’ It’s a fun environment to learn in and you’re putting things into practice and having a go. I’ve been able to bring some of the activities back into the work place and we’ve already had some really good outputs from that, particularly around strategy. It’s been a really valuable experience.” 

Mark Stevenson, operations director of Black Pepper Software Ltd, said: “If I were to pick one module, finance was the most valuable for me. I expected it to be dry but it was very engaging!”

Mark Llewellyn, MD of Revive! Auto Innovations Ltd, says: “The IBL course has been excellent. It has really helped me identify key issues for growth of my business and has offered a number of innovative and interesting ways for me to move forward.”