SMEs -- Can Sales Drive Your Business Down?

April 4, 2014
What is the right amount of customers?

Sure it can and in many ways. One good way to kill your business is having too few customers for too long.

This issue is often overlooked by many SMEs or it is fully acknowledged, however not much is done about it.

While Bellevue SME Advisors advices SMEs in Europe, we always emphasize that the entrepreneur has to spread the revenue risk by relentlessly acquiring new customers.

Recently this has come up again with several SMEs, who just before succession planning are failing to show moderate growth or in the worst case show a clear decline in sales due to customers stopping orders.

There are so many things that can happen to your customer, and you have zero influence on these:

  • Customer is planning to outsource parts or its whole production and your purchasing contact didn’t even care to inform you in advance! Well, he didn’t know probably either.
  • Purchasing manager has moved on to tackle new challenges. The new one, doesn’t know you and couldn’t care less about SMEs. He wants to buy from his pal (oh, yeah, this does happen regardless of compliance procedures)
  • The client is taken over by another company (probably a larger one) and the buying CEO wants to implement his synergy plans – guess what -- you are not part of this plan!
  • A consultant is running couple of SCM improvement projects in the client company and they already know the results before they have begun. Did you have a relationship to this consultant before they got the mandate from your client. You didn’t, how could you, because this was and is clients internal matters

These examples, real life, show that there are many “walls to hit and really with high speed”.

The only way avoiding hitting the wall is to spread the risk early enough.

Urge your salespeople to bring you new buying customers and fast. Make it clear to the whole organization that this is vital for survival.

About the Author

R. Paul Vuolle Blog | CEO

R. Paul Vuolle's blog "The SME's Guide to European Manufacturing," has moved. You'll find his latest ideas and commentary on SME European Manufacturing on IndustryWeek's IdeaXchange. 

You'll find more articles written by Paul at

R. Paul Vuolle, CEO of Bellevue SME Advisors GmbH in Switzerland and Germany, works actively with small and medium (SME) size manufacturing companies in Europe in SCM/Outsourcing, logistics, turnaround and restructuring, market expansion, as well as succession planning and financing. He also frequently supports technology start- ups in building up their business. 

Paul has over 20 years operational industry experience in engineering, electronics, industrial automation, building automation, investment goods like electrical drives, automatic test & measurement systems, HV Transformer production systems. During his career he has worked in manufacturing industries in supply chain management, outsourcing, logistics, production, R&D and successfully selling to international large key accounts. Paul has also run a sizeable amount of M&A transactions in numerous countries around the world.

He has built up his experience working in various leadership positions and functions in large corporations, such as ABB, and having executive positions in medium-size family companies and as a technology entrepreneur.

Paul is MSc. E.E. from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich as well as BSc.E.E. from Helsinki Institute of Technology.

Paul is a long time member of IEEE and of its Industrial Applications Society.

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