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18 Apr 2019 Updated 03 Jan 2020

SME Centres

5 Tips for a Productive Business Advisory Session

Syed Saleem Ali Shah, Manager, Business Advisory, SME Centre@SICCI

Business advisors at SME Centres are here to help. But are you ready to work with them to grow your business?

You want to improve and transform your business. You need business strategies to move forward. But you are tied down by operational matters, leaving you with little to no time for long-term planning.

If this sounds familiar, how about speaking to the business advisors at the SME Centres? They can help you identify business challenges and opportunities for expansion.

For a more productive discussion, here are five tips to maximise your first or next business advisory session:

5 tips for a productive advisory session at sme centres

1. Understand the SME Centre’s role

The SME Centre is a non-profit business-accelerating agency which is not restricted to any trade or ethnic group. It acts as a bridge between businesses and public agencies exploring public-private partnerships.

Business advisors at the SME Centres are like your business partners. They offer business advisory sessions, conduct capability workshops, implement group-based upgrading projects and may direct you to relevant programmes. The main role of business advisors is to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) like yours identify problems, overcome them and grow the business.

Therefore, it’s best to approach the meeting with a collaborative mind-set and be open to ideas to improve your business.

2. Be an entrepreneur, not “grant-repreneur”

Often, SME owners approach the SME Centre with the intention of identifying the greatest amount of support, via grants, that they can tap for their business. Rather than asking a business advisor, “What are the grants available for my business”, why not start by asking, “How can I improve my business?” You will gain more mileage out of the assistance programmes if you view them as a means to grow or transform your business, and not just solutions to a short-term operational problem.

See SME Centres as catalysts to help you or your business, and bear in mind that you are seeking for solutions to improve business operations, increase revenue and lower costs.

3. Identify your business’ strengths and weaknesses

Do your homework first for a more productive meeting so that you can gather key takeaways and strategies to implement immediately.

Before the first meeting, try to conduct an internal study on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) for your business; identify the top three problems to address or new growth areas to explore. And if you have a business plan, do share with the business advisors. Doing so helps the business advisor to assess how your company is performing in relation to where you want to be, and the steps needed to reach your goal.

There are also business toolkits on the Enterprise Singapore’s website to help you conduct self-assessments on different business operations. Don’t worry if you are really at a loss on what to do, the business advisors can be a neutral sounding board to support your strategic planning.

4. Build a meaningful relationship with the experts

Business advisors come from different industries, and have different professional certifications, and experience. They are also trained by Enterprise Singapore, other government agencies, and appointed consultants, in different areas of business. All these equips them with the necessary tools and knowledge to operate as business enablers, connectors and accelerators.

Business advisors are here to work hand-in-hand, on a continuing basis, to help uplift your business through various forms of assistance. It is important to be open in sharing to receive the best value-added advice from the team of experts. Be assured that the business advisors will act as your pillar of support throughout the entrepreneurship journey.

5. Draw plans and set milestones

As the saying goes, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Companies that have successfully embarked on capability upgrading, research & development projects or overseas expansion all have clear project management plans. It is an important tool to help all parties involved visualise the goals, identify key milestones for deliverables and remind team members of deadlines.

Consider using a project management tool to help with the communication and coordination of your project. At the end of each meeting, always set a timeline and arrange for follow-up appointments with your business advisor to keep track of your progress.

Fix an appointment with our business advisors for a friendly chat. Use these five tips and be off to a more fruitful session at your next visit to the SME Centre!

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