Background - 25.10.2021 - 00:00 

SME Day: a majority would like a new era

What does everyday life look like after the pandemic? Have we now reached the right point in time to set a new course? Or does the way point rather in the direction of the old normality again? These questions were discussed by the 2021 Swiss SME Day. Approx. 1,000 participants from business, politics and culture met in OLMA Hall 9 after one year’s interruption.

25 October 2021. “SMEs and surprises – at a moment’s notice” was the title of the Swiss SME Day. Tobi Wolf, research associate at the KMU-HSG, who hosted the event, opened the series of addresses with the presentation of the SME Day survey, which is always conducted among SME executives in the run-up to the conference. The questionnaire revealed, inter alia, that a high degree of uncertainty is perceived by all the industries. In comparison with the preceding year, the increase was not just slight, but distinct. “In what areas do you expect the greatest sources of uncertainty for your company in the medium and long term?” was one of the questions of the SME study. Skills shortages, cyber incidents and problems with supply chains and material procurement were indicated most frequently.

The world is changing rapidly

In his address, Tobi Wolf named three areas which had been changed particularly conspicuously by the pandemic: the working world with the conversion to working from home and digital meetings, consumer behaviour with the increase in contactless payment and digital shopping, and the emergence of solidarity activities such as helping with the shopping in the neighbourhood and an increased trend towards regionality. In this environment, new opportunities for business models and innovation had emerged.

The big question now was in which direction the SME world would develop, Tobi Wolf explained further. The SME study showed that a majority would like to see a departure into a new era. Just under 60% were of the opinion that now was the right time for a turnaround. About 26% indicated that they would take things as they came, and roughly 15% wanted a return to the old normality. The research associate at the KME-HSG was convinced that in order to be able to continually adapt to a complex, turbulent and uncertain environment, it would take agility, curiosity and a welcoming attitude towards new things.

Sufficient liquidity, equity and reserves

The address given by Konrad Hummler, former private banker, was entitled “New robustness – reality or simply a wish?” In the case of unforeseen incidents, the so-called Titanic problem often played an inglorious role, he explained. Carelessness and arrogance, a lack of intelligence, a shortage of lifeboats and fruitless attempts at containment had made the disaster easier to happen. By way of protective measures against disasters, he recommended sufficient liquidity, equity and reserves. With short-time work, Switzerland also had a very good instrument for bridging difficult times.

Entrepreneurs were well advised to be aware that we also need friends and family in life. Asked about the turbulences at his private bank Wegelin in those days, Hummler explained that at the time, serious health problems had made themselves felt, which had put the business crisis into perspective. “At that time, I became very much aware of what friends and family mean in life.”

Unexpectedly elected mayor

Actor, musician and cultural mediator Christian Jott Jenny told with a great deal of humour how he was unexpectedly elected mayor of St.Moritz as from January 2019. On the basis of the model of Glarus, he championed a merger with the neighbouring municipalities of Silvaplana and Sils. This would most probably lose him re-election since this idea was earning him very little glory, he emphasised. Nonetheless he was convinced that a merger would bring a wide variety of advantages for the valley and the individual places.

Lutz Jäncke, Professor of Neuropsychology at Universität Zurich University, raised the question as to whether our brain was rational. He explained in an entertaining way how the brain influenced our thinking and that this had sometimes only marginally to do with reason. Even so, it was still an incredibly impressive thinking organ. In December 2019, Gabi Schenkel crossed the Atlantic in a rowing boat on her own. In her address entitled “Always keeping your eyes on the horizon”, she talked about the highs and lows which she had experienced during the more than two months on the high seas.

The SME Day was offered and run by the Swiss Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (KMU-HSG) and the alea iacta ag agency. The Patronage Committee, which is chaired by Urs Fueglistaller, Director at the KMU-HSG, consists of members of the Swiss Small Business Association, economiesuisse, the St.Gallen-Appenzell Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Cantonal Small Business Association. The conference was moderated by Steffi Buchli, sports editor of Blick.

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