The Umbrella Concept. Results of the SME and Start-up Survey Prof. Dr. R.-Dieter Reineke Andrew Mpeqa, MSc, MA Michael Sitte, MSc, MA

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1 The Umbrella Concept Results of the SME and Start-up Survey 2012 Prof. Dr. R.-Dieter Reineke Andrew Mpeqa, MSc, MA Michael Sitte, MSc, MA Institut für Unternehmensführung Olten, November 2012

2 Agenda THE UMBRELLA CONCEPT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ABOUT THE UMBRELLA CONCEPT THE RESEARCH PROJECT CTI AND OSEC RESEARCH METHODOLOGY THE ONLINE SURVEYS SAMPLING Sampling in the SME survey Sampling in the start up survey SURVEY RESULTS ON THE UMBRELLA CONCEPT (SMES AND START UPS) Capabilities for internationalisation Need for external assistance Need for consultation and support services The Umbrella Concept Services offered by the Umbrella Concept Perception of the Umbrella Concept advantages Corporate Responsibility Additional results from the start up survey CONCLUSION The Umbrella Concept /19

3 1. Executive Summary Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups perform a critical role in the Swiss economy. The question of the market entry mode is of great interest in the current situation as the strong Swiss franc demands a shift particularly into the fast-growing markets (e.g. emerging markets). Therefore, this study focuses on the opportunities for Swiss SMEs and start-ups in emerging markets and the need for stimulating effective and rapid business support for such companies when accessing these markets. In particular, the research project examines the conceptualisation and testing of a new innovative Umbrella Concept. This so called Umbrella Concept is based on the founding of Umbrella Companies developed by United Machinery with partners in target countries that are acting as virtual subsidiaries for SMEs and start-ups in the target country. This market entry innovation thus offers the advantages of a local subsidiary at the risk of indirect export activities and has proved to decrease the market entry costs by 40 to 70% in comparison to other conventional internationalisation concepts. It also accelerates the realisation of export by 6 to 12 months with significantly reduced risks. In the context of a CTI-Project, the research was conducted by the Institute of Management of the School of Business FHNW and was supported by the Swiss Export Promotion Agency OSEC. The main objectives of the study are to analyse the framework and dynamics of the Umbrella Concept and to examine options to better adapt and align the concept in new emerging markets. The study looks in particular at the support that could be provided to Swiss SMEs and start-ups in relation to four key selected target markets: Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition, the research was designed to examine if modern management concepts (corporate responsibility, sustainable management) can be considered at an earlier stage using the Umbrella System Concept in comparison to traditional internationalisation strategies used by Swiss SMEs and startups. In order to achieve this, the internationalisation behaviour of Swiss SMEs and startups were analysed in order to offer concrete support measures and needs that can be adapted to make them more successful in foreign markets. In the last phase of the project, the transferability of the results was tested for other countries and conclusions for strategies and instruments of export promotion were developed. In general the results showed that SMEs and start-ups from diverse industries in Switzerland are aware of the merits of internationalisation. Clear benefits for exporting are recognised including enhanced skills, foreign market intelligence and increased profitability and turnover. The extent to which these enterprises are active in international markets seems to largely depend on the sector and market intelligence. The study affirmed The Umbrella Concept /19

4 that there is a compelling need for external assistance mainly required for finding and setting up of local representation and for conducting market / country analysis. As such, the results indicate that there is a significant lack of key capabilities including foreign market intelligence and export regulations and bureaucracy knowledge which undermines internationalisation and export activities for Swiss enterprises. The types of business support from which Swiss enterprises expect most effect for internationalisation generally relate to: assistance with identifying business partners in these countries; providing adequate information on market opportunities; and providing adequate information on rules and regulations. Furthermore, the survey showed large responses for the difficulty to overcome administrative hurdles (red tape) and export regulations and political environmental factors. The merits of the Umbrella Concept were generally applauded by Swiss SMEs and start-ups. A main finding from the surveys is that the Umbrella Concept offers a broad scope of valuable services. Moreover, services such as environmental factors analysis, human resource services and establishment of strategic alliances were highlighted to be of greater value when compared to others. Amongst others, higher market entry success, substantial reduction in market entry and development costs and rapid establishment of the sales and distribution function were considered to be of significant value for Swiss enterprises. Although the Umbrella Concept was perceived to cover broad and valuable services, some suggestions were put forward for the improvement of the concept. These included tendering procedure intelligence, evaluation of potential partners abroad, risk insurance support and local marketing expertise. Moreover, corporate responsibility was considered to be a crucial integral prerequisite for companies planning to operate in foreign markets and or those already operating in these markets by Swiss enterprises. The Umbrella Concept /19

5 2. About the Umbrella Concept Developed by the United Machinery AG with partners in targeted countries and tested in collaboration with OSEC, the Umbrella Concept has been in the market development for over a period of 12 years in Moscow (Russian Federation). References of companies that have benefited from this concept include Bystronic, Netstal, Oerlikon, Optrel, Zehnder, Bircher / Reglomat etc. The Umbrella Concept is a fully-fledged virtual subsidiary that offers the development and implementation of cost-effective and pragmatic internationalisation solutions for Swiss export companies. The concept provides an infrastructure with the competence to deal with human resources, sales and distribution functions, local administration and authorities in selected markets. As a result, the local companies are relieved of the administrative stress and uncertainty of internationalisation allowing them to focus on their core competencies. Combined experience gained over the years has shown outstanding benefits associated with a fast entry, low risk, cost effective and results-orientated approach when entering new markets. With the carefully selected and diverse local network, the Umbrella Concept offers an unparalleled value for companies of varying sizes across all industries. Amongst other competences that distinguish the Umbrella Concept is the outstanding track record in developing and implementing international expansion while ensuring the right form of market entry. Hence, the cognitive interest of the Swiss Export Promotion Agency OSEC in the concept in order to assist Swiss SMEs and start-ups to gain access to emerging markets and to offer professional support and guidance for business support. The Umbrella Concept /19

6 3. The Research Project Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups perform a critical role in the Swiss economy. The question of the market entry mode is of great interest in the current situation as the strong Swiss franc demands a shift particularly into the fast-growing markets (e.g. emerging markets). Therefore, this study focuses on the opportunities for Swiss SMEs and start-ups in emerging markets and the need for effective and rapid business support for such companies when accessing these markets. Overall the study has the key objective: To investigate the framework and dynamics of the Umbrella Concept and to examine options on how to better adapt and align the concept in four key targets emerging markets. The Umbrella Concept /19

7 4. CTI and OSEC This study was prepared with financial assistance from the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). Given the broad mandate to support R&D projects, entrepreneurial activities as well as the development of start-up companies, CTI helps to optimise knowledge and technology transfer through the use of thematic and regional networks and platforms in Switzerland. In the context of a CTI-Project, the research was conducted by the Institute of Management of the School of Business FHNW and was supported by the Swiss Export Promotion Agency OSEC. With the mandate to provide business support to Swiss enterprises to enable them to benefit from growth in foreign markets, OSEC constantly seeks innovative ways to improve access to international markets. This study was initiated in this context to identify how a concept that has been developed for another country and has proved itself, needs to be adapted to the specific conditions and environment of the four selected key target countries. Another aspect was to find out if modern management concepts (corporate responsibility, sustainable management) can be considered at an earlier stage using the umbrella system in comparison to traditional internationalisation strategies used by SMEs and start-ups. OSEC consistently strives to effectively and efficiently support Swiss enterprises better to succeed in dynamic international markets. Therefore, exploring the potential benefits of the Umbrella Concept was considered to be of vital importance by OSEC to successfully guide and support the Swiss enterprises in foreign markets. It is anticipated that the research results will suggest ways in which the existing concept of the Umbrella Company may be modified to enable Swiss SMEs and start-ups rapid international expansion with a corresponding increase in revenues. The Umbrella Concept /19

8 5. Research Methodology Three research methods have been implemented to meet the requirements of this study. The first phase included the desk research where the research team acquired valuable theoretical insights. Subsequently, the results of the empirical studies framed the creation of the online survey that was undertaken between May and June 2012 (second phase). Moreover, the information gained from the survey was used to further conduct qualitative semi-structured focus interviews (third phase). As this shows, the three methods are highly interdependent in order to derive rigorous findings. The provided information in this report therefore includes the findings from the first and the second phase. In particular, the data collected from the desk research and the surveys were jointly evaluated and utilised for the focus interviews. The Umbrella Concept /19

9 6. The Online Surveys Two different online surveys have been conducted. On one hand, the first survey was explicitly constructed to fit the needs of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). On the other hand, the second survey was created for the needs of the start-ups. The link with the invitation to participate in the survey has been sent out on the 23 May 2012 for the SME survey and on the 31 May for the start-up survey. OSEC, as a cooperation partner in this research project, allowed us to send the survey out to about 900 of their registered members. For the start-up survey, companies have been invited to participate, who have been listed in an internal data basis of the Competence Centre Entrepreneurship within the Institute of Management FHNW. Here about 500 start-ups have been invited. After several days, the participants received a reminder. The online surveys were then both closed on 20 June. Corner dates for the two surveys. The response rates of the two surveys have been noted as being comparably low. In the SME survey only 69 questionnaires were completed - what equals a response rate of about 7.7% while in the start-up survey only 44 questionnaires were completed - what equals a response rate of about 8.8%. Response rates of the two surveys. These two online surveys were only a part of the empirical investigation within this project. The result gained from the two surveys formed the basis for the qualitative semistructured interviews for both the SMEs and start-ups. These surveys provided a comprehensive understanding of the potential needs and desires of the surveyed organisations. Accordingly, the results provided an orientation of how the Umbrella Concept may be better adapted in order to meet the needs of the Swiss enterprises. The Umbrella Concept /19

10 6.1. Sampling Sampling in the SME survey From inception, it was important to make a distinction between the two surveys and to ensure that the two sampled populations are clearly differentiated as one represented SMEs while the other represented start-ups. In the following graph, it can be seen that the surveyed SMEs are all older than 5 years. The majority were established more than 10 years ago. The surveyed SMEs represented a relatively wide range of employee sizes. While only one third of them have less than 20 employees, the majority employs between 21 and 250 people. Therefore it can be stated that the intended SME target group with organisations mostly older than 10 years and more than 5 employees has been hit. During the survey, the participating organisations have also been asked to provide information about the industries where they are operating in. From the exhibit below, it can be established that the Machinery Building industry is dominantly represented. This is due to the OSEC database of SMEs, as they provided the contacts of the surveyed organisations. Nonetheless, manufacturers of consumer goods, processing and other products were significantly represented. The Umbrella Concept /19

11 Regarding the degree of international orientation, it can be stated that about 70% of the companies gain more than half of their revenue from international activities. This makes them an interesting target group of this survey. As nearly 90% of the organisations gain more than 25% of their revenue from international activities, it can be stated that the targeted sample that also includes advanced experience in international business has been achieved Sampling in the start-up survey Similar to SMEs, the start-up survey hit the targeted audience. More than 90% of the surveyed organisations were established during the last 10 years and therefore fit the criteria. In addition, the size of the organisations in terms of the employee size also meets the requirements. About half of the start-ups employ 5 or less people. Nearly 85% employ less than 20 people (for details please see the exhibit below). The Umbrella Concept /19

12 The surveyed start-ups are engaged in various different industries. As many start-ups are founded in the information technology (IT) sector, it is not surprising that this industry is also dominantly represented here. Overall, the survey covered a comparably wide range of industries considering that 45 organisations have answered this question, 16 different industries have been named. In general, it can be said that the study surveyed the intended organisations. However, due to the comparably low response rate, the gained results involve a high sampling error. This means that the results that are presented in the following chapter cannot be generalised. Nevertheless, the presented results provide a potentially valuable insight into the organisations and therefore offer interesting information on the Umbrella Concept. The Umbrella Concept /19

13 6.2 Survey Results on the Umbrella Concept (SMEs and start-ups) In the framework of understanding the dynamics of the Umbrella Concept and to examine options to better adapt and align this concept in new emerging markets. The study looks in particular at the support that could be provided to Swiss SMEs and start-ups in relation to four key selected target markets: Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition, the research was designed to examine if modern management concepts (corporate responsibility, sustainable management) can be considered at an earlier stage using the umbrella system concept in comparison to traditional internationalisation strategies used by Swiss SMEs and start-ups. In order to achieve this, the internationalisation behaviour of Swiss SMEs and start-ups were analysed in order to offer concrete support measures and needs that can be adapted to make them more successful in foreign markets Capabilities for internationalisation The survey examined the most important capabilities for internationalisation. According to the survey results, the combination of both the SMEs and start-ups considered the following four key aspects as being the most important capabilities when going into international markets: knowledge about foreign markets (112), knowledge about export regulations and bureaucracy (70), knowledge about potential risks (68) and access to international networks (57) Need for external assistance With regards to the question of the need for external assistance when going into international markets, both the SMEs and start-ups indicated the main requirements with their respectful responded rate as being: Finding and setting up of local representation (72), The Umbrella Concept /19

14 market / country analysis (64), meeting local import requirements and regulations (46), setting up sales function (32). Furthermore, 63% of the start-ups indicated a specific need for being in contact with local associations, entrepreneurs and universities in their assistance for being successful in the foreign markets Need for consultation and support services In terms of the need for consultation and support services that were seen as lacking when going into foreign markets, the following hurdles were considered to be the most crucial: overcoming administrative hurdles (red tape) (39), provision of knowledge about export regulations and political environment (38), provision of knowledge about geographical sales distribution (34), and safeguard against intellectual property and unethical business practices (30). The Umbrella Concept /19

15 6.2.4 The Umbrella Concept In the following, the survey introduced the respondents to the Umbrella Concept and asked several questions regarding the concept. These particular questions gave an opportunity to challenge the existing concept by the respondents while at the same time gaining valuable feedback to potentially improve the concept Services offered by the Umbrella Concept All of the services offered by the Umbrella Concept are considered at least as average important" by the respondents. Most important to them are the following services: analysis of relevant environmental factors (market, target audience, distribution structure, competitors), human resource aspects (efficient recruitment of managers, sales staff and professionals, employee training and development), and definition and establishment of strategic alliances and definition of corporate agency contracts Perception of the Umbrella Concept advantages All named advantages of the Umbrella Concept are considered as being important by the respondents. The ones perceived as being the most important include: A higher chance of success when entering new markets, substantial reduction in market entry and development costs, and rapid establishment of the sales and distribution function. The Umbrella Concept /19

16 Additionally, 95% of the surveyed start-ups contemplate that nothing needs to be added to the Umbrella Concept. The only mentioned suggestions include: knowledge about local (governmental) tendering procedures, evaluation of potential partners, support in risk insurance, and help with local marketing Corporate Responsibility The respondents have also been asked if corporate responsibility/sustainability aspects could be an issue for them during the early stages of entering new markets. They were asked to rate the importance of the 7 issues as shown below. Answers on Corporate Responsibilities from the surveyed SMEs The Umbrella Concept /19

17 Answers on Corporate Responsibilities from the surveyed Start-ups The results show that corporate responsibility/sustainability aspects are considered vital by all surveyed organisations. All categories of the introduced are classified as relevant or very relevant by at least 50% of the surveyed organisations (only community involvement was classified with 37%). It needs to be highlighted that 74% of the respondents classify fair operation practices as relevant or very relevant. Those clear results provide a signal that corporate responsibility is at the core of Swiss enterprises Additional results from the start-up survey This subchapter shows some additional findings from questions that were only relevant to the participating start-ups. Although they cannot be compared to findings from the SME survey, they also allow specific valuable insights into the nature and situation of the surveyed Start-ups. The presented findings show that Swiss Start-ups are significantly open for international activities or are already highly engaged internationally. The study has shown that awareness of public support programmes among start-ups is comparably low (1.96%). Start-ups are generally not well aware of the existence of public support programmes for internationalisation that could be used by their company. Half of the surveyed start-ups already gain 50% or more revenue from international activities. Internationalisation was already a central aspect to 84% of the start-ups when they were founded (10% saw it as an option). Most of the surveyed start-ups have initially externally been pushed to go international (e.g. contacted by potential foreign customers). The Umbrella Concept /19

18 At the beginning they mostly need assistance with market analyses, finding and setting up local representations, and meeting local import requirements and regulations. Those are all services that the Umbrella Concept provides. Currently the surveyed start-ups mainly use distributers (26), end user (18), sales representatives (15) and agents (13) as distribution channel. 44% of the surveyed start-ups estimated that they would want to start selling on a new market within 6 to 15 months of time. 45% of the start-ups who are not doing business internationally yet, would consider 15 months or more. 6.3 Conclusion During the two surveys we have been able to generate interesting data that provides an insight into the situation of Swiss SMEs and start-ups regarding internationalisation. Overall it can be said that the Umbrella Concept is seen as a valuable and promising concept that is very interesting for the participants of the two surveys. As a result, 55 of the participating companies explicitly provided us with their addresses to get further information on the Umbrella Concept. When summarising the findings regarding the services that are provided by the Umbrella Concept, it can be said that they meet the needs of the surveyed companies and provide a comparably high value. The survey provides evidence that after having been informed and equipped for a new market nationally, the companies have better chances on the new market when the initial advice of OSEC is followed by an engagement with the Umbrella Concept. In a nutshell it can be concluded that the export promotion through the Umbrella Company offers a valuable continuation of the OSEC services. The Umbrella Concept /19

19 Contact: Prof. Dr. R.-Dieter Reineke Michael Sitte, MSc, MA Andrew Mpeqa, MSc, MA Riggenbachstrasse Olten/Switzerland Dr. Urs-Peter Wepfer UMI ASIA AG Augustinergasse Zürich/Switzerland The Umbrella Concept /19

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