Despite the effects of the pandemic, 65% of greek small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that participated in the “Advice for Small Businesses” program of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) recorded an increase in turnover and employees, one year after its completion, while one in two (50%) also reported an increase in its exports.
Dimitra Papandreou, principal manager of the programme, who will continue at least until 2024, with the support of its financiers, that is the EU – through the European Investment Advisory Hub of the European Investment Bank (EIB) – the Hellenic Republic and the EBRD itself, pointed out the above, speaking to AMNA.
“We are very happy that since the beginning of the implementation of the program in Greece in 2018 and until today, we have managed to support approximately 130 greek SMEs, offering personalized consulting services. Also, more than 500 representatives of the business ecosystem have been supported through business workshops in areas such as olive oil and modern technologies, through technical seminars, with emphasis on exports and through their interconnection with other businesses abroad”, pointed out Mrs. Papandreou and announced that EBRD’s aim, from the very beginning, has been to cover businesses from all over Greece “and we have managed to date two thirds of them to be located outside Attica, with 32% based in Northern Greece”.
The office of EBRD in Thessaloniki closes this year two years of operation. How many northern greek companies were supported in total in the two years? “Businesses in Northern Greece have shown great interest since the beginning of the programme.The strong demand and the increased production and industrial activity in the wider region led us to the decision to open the office in Thessaloniki in 2019. In the last two years and with the local presence of our team, we have implemented a total of 30 projects and we continue”, noted Mrs. Papandreou and clarified that businesses in Northern Greece have mainly received consulting services in the fields of sales and marketing, with a very large percentage related to export support. There has also been a great deal of demand in the fields of business strategy and operations.
The example of a furniture company
According to the principal manager of the program, during the pandemic, the support of businesses in the fields they needed most was performed, both through consulting services, “and by adapting our operation, so that we can operate completely remotely and offer additional services, such as free training seminars for SMEs on crisis management issues”.
Regarding the consulting services, she mentioned indicatively the example of the furniture company “Letto” from Thessaloniki: “Initially we cooperated with Letto by providing it with consulting services related to market analysis, the strategic decisions it had to make in order to become more competitive, to achieve its goals and to plan the next steps.
During the pandemic, at the request of the company to support it in its planning against the effects of the crisis, we implemented a second project in the field of sales, where the consultant selected by the company helped it define its strong competitive advantage and draw up a strategy for the development of a sales network throughout Greece. Through the support of the program and in the midst of a pandemic, the family business has managed not only to maintain, but increase its turnover as well as market share and evolve further.”
What services have businesses requested in the midst of a pandemic?
Regarding the basic needs of greek businesses for consulting services in the midst of the pandemic, “a very large percentage of customers are family businesses driven by the vision of their owner.In order to evolve, they need further specialized knowledge. Therefore, a basic need from the beginning of the program was the creation of a strategic plan, a field that continued to be a very large part of the demand and in the midst of a pandemic where customers were looking for new ways to evolve.
Subsequently, marketing and sales development became sectors with high demand, with a particular interest in extroversion and opening up to foreign markets, in order to mitigate the losses from the limited local market. Moreover, we have implemented projects related to operation, cost reduction and efficiency enhancement as well as technological upgrading”, explained Dimitra Papandreou.
It is recalled that private small and medium-sized enterprises with more than two years of operation, with an annual turnover of up to 50 million euros, can be included in the programme or with a balance sheet of up to 43 million, with a number of employees up to 250 people, and with the majority of the owners being Greeks. Businesses from the gaming, military and weapons sector, as well as “heavy” alcohol, tobacco, financial and insurance services are excuded from the program. “Our goal is to cover the needs of the market, be next to SMEs and therefore as long as there are needs, we will seek resources to cover them”, she concluded.