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Research - 27.10.2020 - 00:00

Study reveals: uncertainty in Switzerland’s SME landscape is on the increase

Uncertainty in markets and industries has strongly increased in the last few years. Although Swiss SMEs still feel that their position is stable and good to very good, an increase in uncertainty has a negative impact on corporate success, as a topical survey conducted by the Swiss Research Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of St.Gallen (KMU-HSG) shows.

27. Oktober 2020. According to the survey, 52% of the interviewees think that a great deal of action is required to make their companies (more) agile. Indications of instability with regard to economic policy have become more frequent in recent years. Political surprises have happened at ever shorter intervals, which causes uncertainty. The most recent three large-scale events alone are confronting many SMEs with existential challenges: the abolition of the minimum exchange rate level by the Swiss National Bank, the Brexit decision in the UK and, above all, the corona pandemic. Thus 54% of the interviewees indicate that uncertainty is higher or significantly higher than five years ago. The impact of the corona pandemic has naturally also caught SMEs on the wrong foot. More than 60% of the interviewees judge the effects of Covid-19 to be negative or even very negative for their company. Also, just under 10% of the interviewees consider the likelihood that they will find themselves in financial straits in the coming twelve months to be high to very high.

High degree of resilience and confidence

The results also show, however, that SMEs have a high degree of resilience and are able to stand their ground in times of crisis, too. In comparison with big corporations in Switzerland, SMEs rate distinctly higher in terms of flexibility, agility, adaptability and the willingness to change. In spite of all the uncertainties and surprises, 87% of SMEs regard their competitive position as good to very good. 44% of companies continue to focus on growth and intend to further expand their market shares. 30% of the interviewees even want to penetrate new markets and business segments.

Pandemic drives digitalisation

The present pandemic does not solely leave behind negative traces in Swiss SMEs. Thus many SME executives praise their employees’ motivation and solidarity. The pandemic appears to have triggered a new we-feeling in many SMEs. In addition, many interviewees perceive a positive influence on digitalisation in their company. Another frequent indication is the statement that the crisis has resulted in processes and structures being called into question and being (more) consistently aligned to customer requirements.

The Swiss Research Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (KMU-HSG) conducts the SME Day study annually on the occasion of the Swiss SME Day. Participants in this year’s SME Day study numbered more than 200 executives.

Picture: Photocase/ Davide Pereira

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