What if your company had at its disposal several external experts offering their insights on how the company can achieve its planned growth for free? This unique Runway to Growth method, developed at University of Jyväskylä by Marko Seppä, a Professor of Business Growth, has been used by the leading Finnish SMEs development and growth ecosystem platform and a nationwide business sparring programme, Kasvu Open to accelerate companies’ growth for over 10 years.
Runway to Growth
Every year any company, regardless of their turnover or field, yet interested in growth can apply for the Runway to Growth Sparring Programme (Kasvupolku®). If selected, the company undertakes a series of sparring sessions with external experts in areas such as marketing, financing, internationalisation, and foreign business over a period of six months. The Runway to Growth Sparring Programme culminates in a nationwide open event for participating companies called Kasvu Open Karnevaali where the growth companies of the year are selected. Engineering and manufacturing SMEs are represented in the programme every year.
Manufacturing SMEs’ challenges of growth
When it comes to the manufacturing sector in Finland there are few specific challenges to growth. Manufacturing is not a very popular field of study, therefore very few people apply to study it. Raising the profile of the sector would be beneficial, especially since one industrial workplace produces an average 2.5 workplaces elsewhere (such as in various service and maintenance companies). Also, engineering SMEs experience a considerable gap between export know-how on one hand and export need on the other hand. This is caused by the fact that in Finland large, strong flag ship companies use engineering SMEs as their subcontractors. Consequently, these SMEs did not have to think about international growth because the flagship company is a reliable partner that provides a safe way to grow.
Key success factors for SME growth
According to the CEO of Kasvu Open, Jaana Seppälä in the Finnish context SMEs usually grow organically – moderately and using cash flow, at least up to the turning point such as the change of key personnel begins or other external factors (such as pandemics). Based on Kasvu Open’s poll conducted among 219 Finnish companies in spring 2021, companies aim to grow by acquiring new customers, recruitment, investing in sales and marketing or by undertaking various development measures to find new business partners. Seppälä pinpoints that the key success factors are listening to the customer’s needs instead of product development solely, being open to feedback and assistance and using networks actively. Also, if a company creates added value from adapting their business model to global megatrends (such as digital business, circular economy, energy saving, or environmental issues), it has a strong opportunity to grow.