Recently I spent a morning listening to presentations at the Small & Medium Enterprise Initiative
's 1st Annual Conference on Entrepreneurship and SME Development
, co-hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund
Having sat through plenty of entrepreneurship discussions, panels,
roundtables, and conferences, I thought I knew what I was in for. So, I
grabbed a cup of coffee, found a seat, and prepared myself for the same
presentations I've heard so many times before.
Prof Antoinette Schoar of MIT Sloan opened the discussion with a
presentation on SMEs and Development, focusing on the differences
between subsistence entrepreneurs and transformative entrepreneurs. Now,
we've all heard this before, and we all know that some entrepreneurs
are in business out of necessity and others start up businesses because
they see an opening in the market. But this presentation put a
different spin on the topic.
Prof Schoar made the point that entrepreneurs are not all on the same
continuum starting with a nascent idea leading all the way to the next
Microsoft. There are those entrepreneurs that have no intention of
growing into a large multinational corporation, in fact the majority of
entrepreneurs don't even want to hire additional staff! So no matter how
many resources are poured into those businesses, they simply won't grow
for lack of vision and desire. Not very optimistic for a room full of
development people focused on supporting SMEs. However, she went on to
say that if you take those same resources and target the small percent
of entrepreneurs who want to become the next Google, the "gazelles,"
your bang for the buck will skyrocket. The question is, how do we find
the gazelles and support them?
With this question in the back of my mind, I listened to the next few
presentations, which focused on the impact of management on firm growth
and productivity. The predominant intervention used in the research
was management consulting. Many of studies showed positive results
(although not all of them) and it got me thinking about the question we
ask ourselves all the time here at GBSN; How can we better strengthen
management education to have an impact on development? If improved
management leads to improved business outcomes, what can we do to ensure
that schools are providing the skills and knowledge that managers need?
GBSN was founded on the belief that improved management would lead to
improved development. We've always done our best to evaluate our own
work and measure our impact. With our results so far, we think we're on
to something. But GBSN’s work alone won’t answer this question. We
need many more minds thinking about this, and more importantly, many
more hands collecting data from around the world in order to answer the
question: How can management education really impact development?
Nora Brown is GBSN's Chief Operating Officer.