The figures show that, in the SME sector, business coalitions are effectively deployed instruments to make companies fit for the future. Today alliances hold even greater relevance than mergers and acquisitions. In particular, the significant advantages of alliances include lower financial commitments, risk sharing and are relatively easy to dismantle.
Collaborations often occur in core areas
The study also addresses the preconception that alliances are only suitable for the entrepreneurial periphery. Quite the contrary: The SME sector’s collaborative priorities lie in purchasing (19 per cent), research and development (17 per cent), manufacturing (17 per cent) and distribution (15 per cent).
Yet alliances are not only popular, they are usually crowned with success as well. 65 per cent of SMEs surveyed rated the alliances they had joined heretofore positively and attest to the measurable impact these alliances have had on corporate growth. Conversely, however, this means that one-third of SMEs did not achieve the objectives and expectations they had set. The reasons for this often lie in their implementation. Only a small portion (12 per cent) of these companies follow clearly defined process steps. Yet it is structured, thorough implementation that forms the basis for a successful alliance. This is especially true with respect to the legal arrangements. A well drafted contract can be crucial to a successful alliance formation for all parties involved, and can prevent conflicts and ensure success in the long term.
Select partners carefully
In any case, the study shows that an alliance is not a sure-fire success. Indeed, there are numerous hurdles to overcome in terms of their implementation. The greatest obstacle, however, is different corporate cultures. In addition, partnerships often fail as a result of competing claims to leadership, a lack of consensus in terms of objectives and strategy, and inadequate communication. These points demonstrate just how important the choice of partners is. Nevertheless, opportunities are often missed. 37 per cent of respondents are looking for the right team player amongst their current business contacts. However, they rarely turn to other external resources, such as associations, events, private networks or consultant contacts. The probability of finding a company perfectly suited to an alliance in terms of their expertise, strategy, objectives and corporate culture is therefore much lower.
Despite all of the difficulties involved in their implementation, strategic alliances have taken hold amongst small and medium-sized enterprises. Nine out of ten study participants are planning to join forces with other companies in the future as well. A majority of those will even go beyond alliances. In the coming years, partners from abroad will be under increasing demand. For example, 29 per cent of SMEs hope to collaborate with businesses in another EU country; nearly the same percentage is also looking for a partner outside of the EU.
All of the study’s findings are available in the special edition of the customer magazine FORECAST.