Small is Beautiful
Today is National Small Business Day in the United States. Depending on how you classify a small business, as many as 99% of US companies may come into that category. 60% of new American jobs are generated by these smaller enterprises, and their contribution to the economy is mirrored, country by country, across most of the world.
In the UK, for example, there were a total of 6 million businesses operating at the beginning of 2020 – pre-COVID – and 5.94 million of them were classed as small. That’s 99.3%. If we took away the hard work, entrepreneurial skill and strength of character of the people who fight hard and often lonely battles for growth and custom every day, then we wouldn’t have much choice left, and we wouldn’t have much of an economy either. Many of these companies have been forced to temporarily close their doors, given one set of restrictions after another and left wondering what the future holds for them. But they’re still fighting, and in many cases, they’re fighting to preserve our physical health as well as their own commercial health. An agile, innovative approach to the development of drugs and medical devices has delivered protective equipment and vaccines to millions of us over the past year. Today seems like a good day to thank the entrepreneurs responsible.
Some of the challenges of building a business have been made less daunting by advances in communications technology, of course. Entrepreneurs with a smart approach to website development and social media management can reach an audience that would previously have been unimaginable. Those who take a far-sighted view of multilingual communication can move forward even faster. Translation into just ten languages opens the door to over 5 billion speakers, and 3.5 billion of them are internet users. When business leaders take the further step of investing in cutting-edge language technology, the marriage of artificial intelligence and human ingenuity can send their prospects soaring. Starting and building a business will never be easy, but taking full advantage of the technology at our fingertips can make it a whole lot less difficult.
Many leading figures in the medical sector are calling for the spirit of entrepreneurship that’s helped us combat COVID to continue, and the medical device industry shows us what can be achieved when swift, lean innovation spurs competition and growth.
Although 40% of the global medical device industry is in the hands of the top 10 companies, small company innovation still drives it forward. Four out of every five medical device companies have less than 50 employees. It’s a $500 billion industry that always has room for the gifted innovator.
So while we applaud Siemens Healthineers’ development in Imaging Diagnostics, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s advances in Analytical Instruments and Medtronic’s pioneering work in Patient Monitoring, we also recognise the smaller players whose talent and ambition are making a difference.
Pre-COVID, the one-year survival rate for new businesses in developed countries was 80%. About half of them last five years or longer, and about one-third make it to ten years or more. They make it by fighting for every penny and every customer. So here’s to the people who get up every morning and try their hardest to give us something distinctive and life-enhancing, and in some cases, life-saving. Small is beautiful? Innovation is beautiful. Advances in artificial intelligence, communications technology and medical science are beautiful. Let’s celebrate them today!