Last week I had the pleasure of being involved in the “SMEs Finance Day” industry event in Königswinter, from which I was able to come away with some very exciting ideas.

My personal highlight was participation in the podium discussion “SMEs: From tradition to innovation”. It’s a very exciting topic, on which we joined a lively discussion moderated by Katrin Terpitz (Businesses & Markets desk, Handelsblatt) and also involving Sarna Röser (Federal Chairwoman of DIE JUNGEN UNTERNEHMER [association of young entrepreneurs]) and Dr. Michael Groß (Olympic medalist, entrepreneur and author).

SMEs, which represent the engine of the German economy, are clearly losing some of their innovative power. Reasons given for this include the ever more complex social and economic conditions in an increasingly digitalized world – new values and priorities among the generations Y and Z, new business models (e.g. RB&B, Uber), and new competitors, such as China with its huge financial power for innovation, but also a lack of specialist staff and SMEs’ frequent lack of attractiveness to “digital frontrunner” specialists.

The young successor generation is tackling these challenges and attempting to develop its own approaches to solutions. This implies new methods, new ways of working, and new mindsets, which can lead to conflicts with the “older” generation, particularly within SMEs.

Thanks go to Sarna Röser, entrepreneur and Federal Chairwoman of DIE JUNGEN UNTERNEHMER, for this expanded hierarchy of needs according to Maslow, which offers a charming way of explaining generations Y and Z:

Essentially, it’s all about connecting the two “worlds”, maintaining active exchange with each party taking away the best from it, remaining open, and taking people forward to the digital future together – be they babyboomers or generations X, Y or Z. The participants in the discussion all agreed that if you utilize available potential, a great deal of innovation can emerge from tradition.

Furthermore, I was delighted to talk about the challenges faced in the area of finance by many of the managers present and to get some valuable insights into the current talking points among SMEs. My colleagues and I were even able to give participants one or two quick wins to take home with them. We look forward to staying in contact with you.

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