Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO of the International Council for Small Business;
Deputy Chair of the George Washington University School of Business, Department of Management
Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises Established as the Core Engine for Growth and Optimism throughout the Global Economy
The dawn of 2023 finds the world in new tensions and uncertainties with a significant war, high energy costs, and new Covid-19 variants. These tensions and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been un-relentless and catastrophic. Governments are looking to each other and the private sector to forge new solutions to problems facing us. Resilience and frugality have continued to be the most popular themes since 2022.
Although the past 12 months have challenged us, we still believe that MSMEs and Humane Entrepreneurship provide the best framework for an effective and comprehensive recovery. MSMEs are deeply integrated and in touch with their local communities, allowing them to extend further the principles of frugal innovation and the possibility of complete recovery.
Although the pandemic and current war have altered much of our previous expectations for 2022, there are still many positives and plenty of opportunities for businesses to take advantage of. Looking forward to 2023, numerous trends offer glimpses of solutions for those bold and innovative enough to seize them. Here are ICSB’s top trends for 2023.
In 2022, we declared that entrepreneurs are going alone. But, even if they continue to do so, there is the other side of the coin; MSMEs are looking to scale. Can you have both? The answer is, of course, Yes.
Many governments have launched scale-up programs that help medium-sized businesses unlock their potential and grow faster. MSMEs can contribute to productivity, but they need help. Within the same sector or countries of similar size, the productivity gap between large companies and MSMEs can vary by a factor of two or more.
Improving the productivity of MSMEs is, therefore, a worthwhile endeavor. Specifically, they should focus on promoting a healthy and well-performing MSME ecosystem.
A famous 1958 author Jane Jacobs titled “Downtown is for People,” proclaimed there is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” Before the pandemic, ninety-five (95) percent of offices were occupied. Today that number is closer to forty-seven (47)percent. Yet, even two and a half years later, most city downtowns are not back to where they were pre-pandemic.
Despite the forced embrace of a hybrid model, most small businesses have yet to scratch the surface regarding flexibility within future work environments and employee policies. This past year has adopted various models that promoted working from home, hybrid modalities, and family-focused employee structures to aid the quick transition the world shared. However, this flexibility must be balanced with the subsequent feelings of anxiety. To ensure the sustainability of pandemic-style productivity, MSMEs should address these new challenges through creative solutions that innovate past the “previous norm.”
A new term is evolving called “innovation districts.” How unique it is can be for debate, but the issue remains. We need to innovate our workplace, or they rot.
How relevant are business school programs in today’s world? This question has begun to generate a lot of attention from public and private sector agencies. Yet, in all the reports that have been published, one observation stands out: the programs offered by many business schools should be better adapted to the requirements of today’s world and organizations.
So, are business schools on the wrong track? For many years, business schools enjoyed rising enrollments, positive media attention, and growing prestige in the business world. However, due to the disruption of Covid-19, many previously ignored issues relating to MBA programs resurfaced. As a result, MBA programs now face lower enrollments and intense criticism for being decent in preparing future business leaders and ignoring essential topics like ethics, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion.
This new trend raises the relevance and content of business school curricula and to what extent their research and training orientations can be made more purposeful to society. This contributes to this debate by providing a rich plethora of ideas, experiences, and studies that address the renewal process of business schools.
Women have consistently met challenges with creativity and quick thinking while often prioritizing sustainable, community-driven solutions. These are the values and experiences businesses need to build on and grow. Simply put, women-run enterprises are one of the top growing economies in an ecosystem looking for new growth opportunities. Therefore, all women must have access to solutions that increase and support their participation.
Women make up the bulk of small business employees and have succeeded at creating a robust, innovative, and crucial small business ecosystem despite historical and current challenges to their participation in the business world.
Women have consistently dared to pursue creative and lasting solutions to their community’s problems, and they have done so with virtually no support or investment from traditional sources. Imagine the impact women in our communities could accomplish with adequate support and resources.
Before the pandemic, roughly twenty (20) percent of adults in the U.S. dealt with mental health disorders. However, the Covid-19 crisis appears to have exacerbated the problem of poor mental health among small business owners. We still do not know the full impact of COVID-19 on mental health, but we do know that it has taken a toll on business owners, especially as they face financial uncertainty amidst lockdowns and closures.
ICSB has been connecting with a significant number of global partners from around the world, discussing this issue and how it is critical to address it at all levels. Running your own business Can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners, having sole responsibility for the company’s success or failure can take its toll physically and mentally.
A national and international meeting is needed to discuss this issue further and propose supporting guidelines.
With the advent of new open source Artificial intelligence (AI) technology such as ChatGPT, Small businesses can be the first to master this new technology and apply it to their everyday workflow.
AI can potentially help small businesses in several ways, including
1. Automation: AI can automate various business processes, such as data entry, customer service, and marketing. This can help small businesses save time and reduce the need for manual labor.
2. Data analysis: AI algorithms can analyze large amounts of data and identify trends and patterns that may not immediately appear to humans. This can help small businesses make better-informed decisions about pricing, marketing, and product development.
3. Predictive modeling: AI can be used to build predictive models that can help small businesses forecast demand for their products or services, allowing them to better plan for the future.
4. Personalization: AI can deliver personalized customer experiences, such as product recommendations or targeted marketing campaigns.
5. Improved efficiency: By automating specific tasks and processes, AI can help small businesses operate more efficiently and reduce the risk of errors.
It is important to note that AI is still developing and may only be suitable for some small businesses. Therefore, small business owners should consider AI’s potential benefits and drawbacks before implementing it.
The pandemic influenced the world’s collective attitude to emphasize sympathy and empathy. This attitude has been expressed in our daily lives, professions, and purchasing power. Small businesses bring the best for empowerment in the workplace.
Coaching and mentoring can benefit organizations of all sizes, including micro businesses. Coaching and mentoring programs give employees new ways to connect, learn, and grow within their career paths when conducted efficiently and productively. Although the importance of mentoring in an organization can often be overlooked as the benefits are not easily quantifiable, mentoring increases job satisfaction, workforce engagement, and profits.
Humane Entrepreneurship is about putting the human first and then building from there.
In an increasingly global society, things like travel, tourism, and sports seem a given. Four billion people just watched the World Cup in Qatar. After the past two years of lockdown, we are seeing a grand re-emergence of tourism and global sporting events worldwide.
Sustainability in tourism makes responsible traveling accessible and obligatory. Those traveling can enjoy a trip without the guilt of environmental degradation while appreciating the larger natural world more intimately. Additionally, responsible tourism policies could support the current efforts of small businesses globally, especially those micro-businesses situated on islands and in coastal regions already affected by the consequences of a changing climate.
Sustainable development has been listed as a priority by the United Nations since the early 2000s. Its progress, however, must accelerate to keep up with our worsening climate crisis. We must move more quickly and with more partners and stakeholders. Innovation is needed.
It has been a rapid, relentless, and unyielding succession of newness. A succession in which you can either try to keep up with all these innovations and comprehend them or become a dinosaur.
Conventional wisdom and many media outlets say that globalization has stalled. But although the trade of global goods has flattened and cross-border capital flows have declined sharply, globalization is not heading in reverse. Instead, it will enter a new phase defined by soaring data and an information tsunami. Eighty-five (85) percent of people around the globe who are connected online send and receive emails, and sixty-two (62) percent communicate through social networking sites≥, f/ .
We live in a digital world, but what is exciting is that analog is coming back. The reason is that people still put enormous value into the human touch, feel, and experience of physical meetings. A small glimpse of what is coming back is that vinyl record sales recently surpassed total CD sales. As a result, MSMEs are taking prompt notice and smiling.
Russian, Ukrainian entrepreneurs, and small business owners feel the steep effects of a wartime economy. While the rest of the world sees skyrocketing natural gas prices and dwindling supplies of staples like wheat, the Russian and Ukrainian experiences with both are intensified.
In 2016, ICSB, through Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, formulated a proposal for a United Nations Day for MSMEs; he intended to see a day in which all countries, stakeholders, and companies of all sizes might celebrate the importance of MSMEs as the core units of modern society. The proposal was when all wars end, the first to open again are micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises. It was understood that they are vital to rebuilding economies. MSMEs Day, and the day of the 27th of June 27th, was intentionally and symbolically chosen, marking it one day after the U.N. Charter was signed initially (June 26, 1945). The message was clear; it reminded all countries worldwide that MSMEs are necessary and crucial to solve global challenges. Furthermore, it demonstrates the importance of MSMEs as indicators of a peaceful society.
MSMEs Day was created as a platform for the global community to build ideas, synergies, and initiatives to help MSMEs prosper and grow while turning international attention towards achieving the SDGs through them. Finally, MSMEs Day was the chance to choose empathy over judgment, equity over greed, enablement over denial, and empowerment over restriction.
In days of the war, the future might not seem as if it is being guided towards prosperity, but take a moment and look around. The world is standing up and fighting to honor humanity. So when companies pivot their creative solutions to aid those suffering in war, it is the correct way forward.
MSMEs must continue to endure but with an eye for innovation and fast action. The Argentinians best say it. “AGUANTE” – The power or ability to bear or to last.
Top Trends Written by:
Dr. Ayman ElTarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management